Fear and Loathing in the Gaza Strip

by Cygnus

The Israeli state is now responding obediently to the rabid colonist chants of ‘Death to the Arabs’ and to the graffiti around al-Quds that in English and Hebrew reads ‘Gas the Arabs’. In a backdrop of systematic starvation, a ground invasion of tanks, assisted by the deployment of toxic gas has begun this week, with homes and hospitals being destroyed and entire families being wiped out.

As expected, the corporate media have buried any mention of the Palestinian experience of colonisation: the ongoing Nakba remains absent, resistance is terrorism, and the Israeli state is merely ‘responding’ to rockets from Palestinians who break ceasefires they didn’t even hear about. Thankfully, Palestinians in Gaza have challenged the imperial and colonial narratives by using social media, such as Twitter, and writing on news/analysis sites, such as Electronic Intifada. Without this, many people in the world would remain lost in the undignified and distorted world of the Zionist narrative.

Sadly, there one notably unsavoury character who has modelled himself as a promoter and defender of the ‘Palestinian perspective’, while in reality expertly fashioning himself into an institution. Harry Fear is a beneficiary of Palestinians being denied – as Edward Said termed it with clinical accuracy – “permission to narrate”. He has carved out an orientalist niche somewhere between the unabashed, self-congratulatory rich kid talking about his gap year volun-tourism shit with ‘the poor’, and the embedded war-reporter who pretends to give a fuck about the whirlwind of carnage prop that makes his 5-minute report for the evening news so “oh, dear” inducing for his audience.

He made this niche during the Zionist slaughter of Gaza in November 2012, and subsequently went on a world tour to talk about Gaza. At the outset, many of us watching his reports thought he was a welcome alternative to the corporate media coverage. This was quickly proved false. He describes himself as a “documentary maker & activist” – a slightly ambiguous description of someone who simply actively documents his white male self amid a colonial ethnic cleansing campaign of Arab people.

Look at his website. It is exhaustingly hard to believe that this site is about anything other than him. Gaza is the background to his show. No links to activist groups. No reblogging of or reference to works by Palestinians (or any other people, for that matter). No reference to Palestinian organisations or individuals working with him. There are two different links take you to the same page – his blog. Five different tabs on the left, with his smug, pasty face looking back at you from the right side of the page. He’s even got his own fucking logo – an ‘H’ next to an ‘F’, because these are the initials of his name. Harry Fear. HF

Harry got invited to do a TEDx talk in Copenhagen. The theme was ‘challenging realities, the mainstream media & you’ – because he is the alternative to mainstream, remember? He does not come across as a passionate activist or documentarian. He is self-indulgent, and well warmed and nurtured by his white, male, upper-class privilege. His body language and speaking style convey an absurd degree of self-satisfaction, with his annoying pursing of lips, and sharp intake of breath to punctuate points, like a 1960s BBC reporter, doing a piece on the monarchy, and trying to make it seem acceptable to the proles. If viewed for the first time, having never heard of him, in the context of a pub, for example, he’s what you’d call a wanker.

Indicating the point where he left Gaza for an extended trip up his own arse, Harry makes a video entitled ‘Harassed in Gaza: Internationals Under Threat’. Basically, it’s 2 minutes 47 seconds of him walking up to an Israeli state controlled border and getting warning shots fired at him. He stoically concludes “all in a day’s work for an international journalist.” Harry has the luxury of entering and leaving Gaza when he wants. A “day’s work” is choosing to use the IOF to show how dangerous Gaza can be for ‘Internationals’ (ie. Harry) in an unnecessary provocation of Zionists (who, admittedly, shouldn’t be there anyway).

Harry’s suspect motivations and ideology have already been identified by Palestinians and other (decent) international activists. Last year, he put up a list of books on his facebook page about Palestine that he recommends people to read, because he is an authority on the matter, after all. This list of books included one Palestinian and no women. Comments on his page highlighted this but he deleted whole lot. Fortunately, some comments were saved here: https://o.twimg.com/2/proxy.jpg?t=HBgpaHR0cHM6Ly90d2l0cGljLmNvbS9zaG93L2xhcmdlL2NuMGljZS5qcGcU-AgUrgoAFgASAA&s=mLosYlbJ0EadOdVNiu6oat7M0Dhi2YnAx75GcNUjpI0 (copy & paste into address bar to read). Speaking at the Islamic University of Gaza, he is challenged by a young woman about this. He responds with the usual condescending style, chiding the woman, saying, “firstly, I want to say that I don’t appreciate the confrontational tone.” He then goes on to expound a bit of orientalist theory with: “I do not believe in freedom of speech 100%… and judging by the hijab on your body, you probably also don’t, because neither does Islam.” Muslim women: Harry can identify your political ideology just by gazing at your head.

A succinct summary of the deeply problematic nature of Harry’s comments, approach and behaviour is given by Maha Rezeq here. “As Palestinians,” she writes, “many of us are extremely offended by his inaccurate accounts and exaggeration, presumably to simply boost careers potentials.” Despite these very serious problems, expressed by Palestinians, Harry continues to gain media coverage. In its coverage of the recent spate of massacres in Gaza, Russia Today has been praised by activists for its anti-Zionist angle. However, they invited the self-promoting, one-man-institution for an interview, as they have done many times before. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, but they choose the white upper-class Englishman.

It has been established that the corporate media values an Israeli life over a Palestinian life. Looking at the comments on Harry Fear’s videos, it would seem that for some people, a privileged white voice is of more value than a Palestinian voice. Comments on his videos regularly feature gushing praise and sycophantic compliments, from people of all backgrounds. What really is the appeal here? Harry is offering nothing in terms of news and analysis that Palestinians in Gaza cannot. Is it perhaps that people, realising the very real danger the Zionists pose to Gaza, find some sort of muted amusement in the fact a white posh kid with a comically over-inflated ego is actually in the besieged enclave? Or, perhaps more likely to western viewers, the boy deserves kudos for ‘reporting’ (read: vlogging on himself) in Gaza while being more ‘like them’ than a Palestinian?

Those who identify as activists no longer have any excuses for behaving like a Harry Fear (not that he qualifies as an activist). A good start for those who are still lost would be Ramallah Bantustan blog by Mariam Barghouti. Written with such clarity, empathy and political nous, one article methodically works through the various political and cultural problems and issues that have emerged with westerners becoming involved in Palestine solidarity activism. Harry Fear epitomises virtually all the negatives enumerated by Mariam.

Harry is back in Palestine again. Zionist oppression of Palestinians is again another few lines on a curriculum vitae. There are many activists and international ‘journalists’* who have in fact heeded the guidance of Palestinians. They see them as intellectual and moral equals, and respond to their demands accordingly. They do not need to do a world tour and they do not need a logo. The work for the liberation of Palestine as a secondary, complementary element of the struggle, led by Palestinians themselves.

*In Palestine, code for any white person with a camera, ability to use a word-processing document, and internet access.

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27 comments

  1. Some background searching also reveals that prior to November 2012, Harry had only spent 6 weeks in Palestine, which he somehow felt was sufficient to name himself the voice of Palestine. Searches also revealed no formal training as a journalist or previous work experience, outside of work as a self-employed “internet presence consultant”. He had this “position” listed from 2003 to present day. Note that he was about 14 years old in 2003.

      1. His previous work experience was on his LinkedIn page, which has since been revamped. Regarding his time spent in Gaza, the details were on a crowdfunding page that he had created to fund his second trip to Gaza, which took place during November 2012

  2. He should also be accountable for allegedly very large donations that were given to him as the Voice of Palestine, his self appointed title. Very little of these funds ever reached the people of Gaza who helped him produce the reports…and as far as I am concerned anyone putting themselves out there as the “peoples journalist” should be accountable to those he “serves” primarily Gaza and Palestine as a whole (his mandate claim) and then the “people” (quite who those people are, not entirely sure) who have paid his passage to stardom.

      1. I can confirm that I, along with several other people (primarily in the US, UK, and Australia), have given donations to him in the past. He has never followed up with me regarding where the funds had ultimately ended up, and I assume he hasn’t with any of the other funders.
        I’ve also noticed he has a tendency to have “emergencies” that require immediate funding (stolen phone, broken laptop, etc.). Donations were given with the assumption that he was being truthful, but these “emergencies” were never verified.

      2. I worked with Harry when we first went into Gaza together just before Op Pillar of Cloud..I fairly quickly disassociated myself from him when I realised many things including his self serving agenda and his disrespect for the Gazan people who helped him. Regarding the donations, Harry has made no secret of his crowd funding activity..it is public knowledge. The “hearsay” if you like is from Gazan professionals who worked with Harry and were never paid for their efforts and those who have spoken out against him or questioned his activity/role are systematically blocked by him on all social media (myself included). Dissent it appears is not permissible even from those he purports to represent. I have personally witnessed many things that he did that are neither honourable nor helpful to the cause. My sadness is that he has tarnished the image of international activists, I only pray it is not permanent.

    1. me too I “quickly disassociated myself from him”. Working with him is a nightmare. He quickly discarded me as if I’d never been there. I’m sure you have experienced his controlling behaviour and raging when people call him out on his behaviour

  3. One last point. Harry crowdfunded to pay for his “indispensable” presence in the Gaza strip to report on the situation there. The report on the death of Hamid Abu Dagga for example was only finally produced about 6 months after we all left Gaza in December 2012 after the incident that took place on the 8th November 2012. This is the quote from HF page.

    “On the winter world talking tour that followed the 8-day war, in every talk and in most media interviews, I would invoke Hamid’s story. Now I present the full investigative documentary that looks at his tragedy.”

    Where i feel angry is that the Abu Dagga family were hoping to screen the film in Gaza before Harry left in Dec 2012. For them it would have been a final farewell and tribute to their son. I know for a fact, the editing that remained to be done was not a massive task yet Harry chose to produce the film of himself getting shot at by the IOF at the borders..(putting the Palestinians with him at risk and further inflaming an already fragile ceasefire) which shot him to fame as the brave International. We can then see that the Hamid story was used during his Gaza tour..better titled the HF tour…yet the family, still grieving the loss of their son, had to wait a further 5 months before the release of the film that they had worked hard to produce in collaboration with HF. You will see that my name is in the credits of the film so you will know that i speak as someone actively involved in this recording of the tragic death of this beautiful little boy.

    If we look at the alleged sum of donations in ratio to work produced..it is a very simple sum and it is not adding up. The work HF does for RT and the like will be paid for (although that was another lie, as he told fixers working with him that he was not paid and could not pay them) and therefore does not use any of the donation money. Broken laptops and stolen phones should surely be covered by insurance??? not by benefactors.

    If there is no corruption, then why will HF not answer any of the questions and justifiable demands for accountability. His response is to block and gag dissenters.

    The more I think about it, the angrier I feel. So many of us do all we can at our own expense both financial and time..and this is given willingly and without desire for recompense…the Palestinian people for us are way more than our intellectual equals..we are not there to “save them”. They can save themselves, we are there simply as representatives of our countries, standing in solidarity with their cause in defiance of our governments who have abandoned them. We should never put ourselves before that cause or allow our egos to be massaged by the attention we receive by being associated with the cause. No human being is superior to another..and the priority is to raise awareness, never to be the “voice” of any oppressed country…they have a voice already!

    1. He seemed to have some kind of a vague excuse for everything that he needed funding for. Examples: his insurance policy on his phone wouldn’t cover him because of “political” reasons, the warranty on his laptop had expired because it was over 5 years old (why someone would bring an unreliable laptop with no backup if their career depended on it is a mystery to me). The total amount he received for the laptop was over £1000, not a small sum, that could probably have been put to better use by well-intentioned donors. He has a private group on Facebook with all of his funders where he goes first before publicly crowdfunding. There’s little transparency in this group since unlike a crowdfunding platform, the donations are given privately and there is no way to keep track of exactly how much money he is receiving except based on Harry’s word. So, it is very possibly that he’s received larger sums of money than he had let on.

  4. He does not credit when he uses content that isn’t his. The football boys on the beach, first, he was not there. Instead of standing aside and letting the many journalists who were there tell their first hand accounts he used one of their pictures on Twitter and labelled it source unknown (same pic was used many times in newspapers and credited). He would have known the source, or at least could easily have found out. He added information like the boys were killed next to where he had breakfast which only he thinks relevant. What he thought was more important than the actual news in his video report for RT. He has done the same thing with his latest video report for RT. He has used the video filmed by the International Solidarity Movement in Shijaiyah of a Palestinian said to be shot by Israeli sniper fire and cut it into his own report as if he filmed it. No credit. I think it has been syndicated too by AP. It actually makes his report confusing. His report is about first responders. It would be interesting to ask him why he included the ISM footage uncredited in a repoirt about first responders. He does not understand news, he makes news boring but worst is he uses others’ material without credit.

    1. Does anyone else find the circumstances of his arrival in Gaza during this latest operation to be questionable? He seemed to be intentionally dodging questions on twitter regarding his location and tweeting information as though he were there (a visit to his facebook page would reveal that he was in London 1-2 days prior, so highly unlikely that he would have been able to get to Gaza practically overnight), and then all of a sudden he announces that he’s back in Gaza with no further details. He may feel that it’s no one’s right to ask him these details, but he assigned himself the role of a public figure and needs to be honest with his followers who chose to go to him for information.

    2. Those boys were killed on the strip between Adam hotel and Roots. As far as I’m aware its not a place where rockets are routinely fired by Hamas which was what he used as an excuse on his tweets

  5. Thanks very much for your detailed replies regarding the moral and financial corruption of Harry Fear. This is becoming increasingly useful for guiding activism.

    His deception is clearly one which relies and depends upon international support, but exploits the Palestinian people as a whole. People working with him are not paid, researchers, (genuine professional) journalists and activists not credited for their work, and his circumstances of report dubious.

    About his recent activity: Yes, this post was written in part because he seemed to be reporting just as Gazans were undergoing ethnic cleansing again. The timing was typically and suspiciously perfect. Some activists have suggested that his tweets in the past 2 weeks have been giving away positions of the resistance. This obviously shifts the analysis from one of accepting him as a careerist parasite to one of presenting him as a collaborator.

    Any views on this would be appreciated.

    1. yes there were complaints about him not paying the staff who translated for him. Not even minimum expenses. Even suggestions from some people that he took a percentage of hotel money when people went on the convoy. .

  6. Well said. Harry fear is extremely difficult. I wont go into too many details because I’m on his ever growing banned list for speaking up against him having met him personally. When he left last year he was “pretending” to be in Gaza even though he’d been asked to leave and still taking donations from people on his private page which had mostly pictures of himself so he could get comments from his adoring female fans. What journalist needs to have narcissistic pictures of themselves in order to get a fan base ?
    I’ve heard on the grape vine that he received large donations under the guise of helping Palestinians and that none of that money has ever gone to help them. There’s more financial shenanigans the he’s never been made accountable for.
    His whole persona smacks of someone who is not working for the Palestinians but who is more interested in using them as a way to further his career.

    1. Thanks for that. Hopefully more comes out about the circumstances of the expulsion. And let’s hope he doesn’t try to go on a world tour.

      Please post here any updates you might find.

  7. No longer interested in an agreement with #Hamas, #Israel now says, “we will decide ourselves when to withdraw from #Gaza.” HF tweet today, 2nd August 2014. He does not give his source which is likely to be copied from reports by haaretz.com

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.608426

    Says a lot that he does not consider it necessary to credit sources.

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