November 26, 2008

The press mess, mcgirk quirk and the nissenbaum shuffle

I really could do without the sanctimony. Dion Nissenbaum writes about Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip to reporters.

This week, after filing a letter of protest, the Foreign Press Association (of which Mc Clatchy Newspapers is a par t) took the matter to Israel's Supreme Court and asked the judges t o overturn the ban.

"This blackout of the Gaza Strip is hurting Israel's image in the eyes of the world and undermines its standing as the only democracy in the Middle East," the FPA argues in the petition. "The defendants policies, in addition to being illegal and insufferable, hurt Israel and endanger its political nature. To put it plainly, one bad decision is worse than ten potential stories that may not be supportive."

I understand that there are reasons for Israel to open Gaza to reporters, but this false concern for Israel's image from a press association strikes me as utter hypocrisy. Nissenbaum's protests are particularly irksome. If I were convinced of his good faith as a reporter, maybe I'd feel differently, but Nissenbaum himself enjoyed an afternoon in the company of an unrepentant killer - and even apologized for that killer and insists - despite an investigation and readily available evidence to the contrary - that the Israeli army deliberately targeted a reporter.

Or consider Time's Tim McGirk on the recent unraveling of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Rocket fire from Gaza had largely stopped during a five-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt, but that unraveled on Nov. 4, when Israel raided Gaza to destroy a tunnel it accused Hamas of digging to conduct cross-border raids. Since then, dozens of rockets have been fired at Israel, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have responded with land and air attacks and by halting supplies that were to enter Gaza. Israel has hoped to tighten the screws on Hamas by blocking all but a trickle of aid from reaching Gaza's 1.5 million stricken inhabitants, leading to what U.N. officials describe as a humanitarian crisis. For the past two weeks, the Israeli military has barred foreign journalists from entering the Palestinian territory to report on the siege.

Now I can tell that in August, Israel suffered at least 11 Qassam strikes and 3 mortar attacks. I don't believe that I'd call 14 attacks in one month to fit "largely stopped." Israel's forbearance is quite a story, one that McGirk is unwilling to consider. And, of course, the description of Gaza in crisis is hardly new.

Nissenbaum and McGirk, of course, aren't the only reporters in Israel. And it's possible that their record is worse than most, but Nissenbaum's complaint is more than a little phony when the job he's doing is less reporter than propagandist.

And as far as the crisis in concerned it's interesting to note this:

Over the past few months of relative quiet rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel as a sporadic reminder of the threat and possible test of the truce. Our Gaza colleagues offered a different take: that those rogue firings were less about the resistance than the burgeoning underground economy. When a rocket is fired, Israel closes the cargo crossing which pushes up demand for smuggled supplies and therefore smuggling profits. Gaza has been known to work in curious ways.

"[B]urgeouning is not exactly how I'd describe an area in a state of "crisis." And the story raises the question of how strict the Israeli closure is if Janis Mackey Frayer got into Gaza to do this report. Did she go through Egypt?

Even going through Yahoo! News, I see a few items reported from Gaza, so it's not like there's a total absence of reporters in Gaza right now.

Like I wrote above, perhaps there is a case to be made for Israel allowing reporters in. But the lack of more reporters traveling to Gaza is hardly a crisis. And the FPA's and Nissenbaum's sanctimony is less than convincing. Maybe if more reporters tried actual reporting instead of propagandizing, Israel would be more sensitive to their mission to inform public's right to know.

UPDATE: Backspin and Elder of Ziyon follow up. The latter writes about the foreign media based in Gaza:

They censor themselves more than the Gaza reporters who live there! After all, who reported on the stories I listed above? Certainly not the foreign media!

I'd add that you should also check out this post from the Elder. Yesterday he blogged about Hamas having secret jails in Gaza, Hamas/Fatah clashes at a Gaza university and Israel's decision to send more goods into Gaza despite more missiles being shot into Israel. Then re-read Nissenbaum's complaint. Nissenbaum (and I suspect most of the rest of the foreign media) wouldn't report on these incidents. They only want to be in Gaza in order to write about Israeli mistakes, not about what goes on every day. That's why their concern for Israel's image is so hypocritical.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Posted by SoccerDad at November 26, 2008 6:21 AM
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