It’s time for a ballistics lesson north of the Gaza Strip. An Israeli policeman tells a group of foreign journalists about the dangers of the Palestinian rockets.
“We are the interface with the press,” says Michael Oren, an Israeli army spokesman. “We explain what the army does, what its objectives are. We also talk about the difficulties that the army faces and try to keep you informed about the situation inside Gaza as well as we can.”
There are dozens of foreign journalists around him. They’re still waiting to enter the Palestinian enclave on the other side of the hill.
Without the army’s permission, they will only be able to hear the news from Gaza as reported by the various spokespeople who crisscross the Gaza perimeter.
Lesson drawn from the Second Lebanon War
A few kilometers from there, the Israeli government opened a press centre for foreign journalists with internet access, phones and coffee stands. Spokespeople fluent in several languages are on hand to answer questions from he press.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman explains to journalists why they’re barred from Gaza. “Among the lessons we learned from the second Lebanon war – the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict – we found out that we had to bar completely journalists from covering that conflict in the Gaza Strip,” Oren says. “They would give details about troop positions, moves and other tactic details without meaning to,” he said.
A ban that is not in Israel’s interests
For some journalists, this explanation is not enough. Moreover, it contradicts Israel’s interests.
“It’s a shame for Israel’s reputation because we still get some Gaza news through the footage shot by Palestinian cameramen,” says Claudio Pagliara, a RAI correspondent in Jerusalem.
Claudio’s wishes may come true. The Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that a small number of foreign journalists should be allowed to enter Gaza.
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