If your only source for news regarding the war in Gaza has been through the western media, then no doubt you’ve noticed that correspondents have been reporting from Israel and not from Gaza. The reason? Israel has had a ban on foreign journalists from reporting from the Gaza Strip for two months now. Long before these latest air strikes, Israel didn’t want correspondents covering the effects of its devastating blockade on Gazans. But of course, the Israeli reason for the ban was to protect journalists from Palestinian attacks.
Yesterday the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the government must allow journalists to enter Gaza to cover the conflict. The Court proposed a pool of twelve journalists to be admitted into the Gaza Strip. TheTel-Aviv based Foreign Press Association deemed that number “insufficient.” However, according to the Jerusalem Post today, the Justice Ministry said they would allow only 8 foreign journalists to enter Gaza. The Executive Secretary of the Foreign Press Association, Glenys Sugarman, said that 12 journalists would’ve been the minimum to accommodate journalists of various media from television, radio, print and photographers. Simon McGregror-Wood, the Middle East Correspondent for ABC News, said “We don’t think that the number that the state came back with has any logic” and said that 12 journalists was “insufficient” and the 8 proposed by the Justice Ministry was both “arbitrary” and “unreasonable.”
Israel has been working hard to manage their propaganda campaign because they feel the reporting from Gaza has been one-sided. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make sense then to have foreign journalists cover the events as they see them on the ground? But Israel is taking no chances. They want to avoid the scrutiny they received during the Lebanon war in 2006. Although, facts don’t lie and the scrutiny was well deserved. This is what The Independent reported yesterday on Israel’s vast public relations effort:
Correspondents and reporters based in Israel are receiving dozens of SMS messages offering briefings, interviews, facility trips. One team has even been established to concentrate on bloggers.
Meanwhile, foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who as the Kadima party’s candidate will run against Mr Netanyahu in the forthcoming elections briefed more than 80 international representatives at a media centre set up by the government at Sderot, a town which had become totemic after receiving daily Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.
Ms Livni also undertook a telephone marathon stating the Israeli justification for the Gaza attacks to Condoleeza Rice, David Milliband, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France and Germany, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Foreign ambassadors to Israel had been taken on a guided tour near the Gaza borders and Israel’s own diplomats, serving and retired, are being pressed into service. Ms Livni declared: “many voices are making themselves heard throughout the world today in English, French and Arabic, and in a clear, strong voice. We are telling them all the truth that is not broadcast on television in the Arab world – and this is the truth that needs to be voiced from this podium to the entire world.”
Some of the interviews with Israeli politicians and officials for the international media have been organised by pro-Israeli think tanks such as BICOM (British Israeli Communications & Research Centre) based in the UK and the Israel Project with its HQ in America.
Mark Regev, the urbane spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, has been one of the most prominent advocates for Israel in the world’s media. Earlier this week the Israel Project gathered 600 journalists for a telephone interview with him.
Israel is supposedly a democracy and therefore should allow freedom of the press. There’s no excuse for the ban on foreign journalists. No matter how Israel tries to control what is reported on in Gaza, the death and destruction created by the IDF, just like the death and destruction during the war in Lebanon, speaks for itself; no amount of resources and spin can change it. As always, the truth will come out.