Israel’s long-standing ban on foreign journalists entering the Gaza Strip has made accurate and up-to-date reporting on the now week-long war among the most difficult propositions in the modern era. Most stories rely on official reports from Hamas, the United Nations, and the Israeli government.
The Foreign Press Association (FPA) has engaged in a protracted battle in the Israeli Supreme Court to get the ban lifted, and seemingly won a limited victory on Wednesday, when the court ordered the Israeli government to allow a handful of reporters into the strip for the purposes of covering the ongoing air strikes. Ultimately the Israeli Justice Ministry pared down the list, saying it was ok with eight foreign journalists entering the strip.
But even that appears to have been wishful thinking as the Israeli military and foreign ministry engage in an unprecedented level of information control, as it is being reported today that though the crossings were briefly opened to allow foreigners to flee from the strip, they still wouldn’t let any journalists in.
The Israeli Government Press Office seems to prefer it that way, as director Danny Seaman says the government is unhappy with the way foreign press have historically conducted themselves in Gaza, and allowing them in would only give credibility to reports from Hamas.
As Israeli officials continue to publicly condemn the media for broadcasting images from the Gaza Strip, it seems to prefer that the only footage coming out of the strip does so by way of Israeli military’s carefully censored YouTube feed. But even that isn’t free of contention, as Haaretz reports that the footage of a truck carrying “dozens of rockets” was actually a welder’s truck.
If everything is, as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “completely as it should be” in the Gaza Strip. the decision to bar journalists not just from the strip, but from getting anywhere near the strip, would send an even more troubling message about the Israeli government’s almost crazed obsession with restricting the media. That, or it is simply worried about letting the world see what Minister Livni’s view of Gaza as it should be actually looks like.