Thanks to McClatchy’s Dion Nissenbaum for informing all readers of the specifics of the restrictions imposed on all Israel-based reporters covering the conflict with Gaza.
Of course it is a nearly universal practice of parties to an armed conflict to restrict media coverage of many aspects of the conflict. But it is very useful for readers/consumers of the reporting that results to remain aware that there are several significant aspects of the events that we are prevented from seeing or reading about.
For example, in Dion’s list, #2 is perhaps especially important for readers to be aware of:
- 2. The IDF Censor will not authorize reports of rocket hits at IDF bases and/or strategic installations.
This, in line with the Israeli authorities’ long-sustained practice of trying to describe the rocket attacks launched against it by Hamas and other groups in Gaza as being “targeted”– inasmuch as they are targeted at all– only against civilian neighborhoods.
When I was in the recent panel discussion with Daniel Levy on Capitol Hill, one of the notable things he said was that his information from Israel was that Hamas’s rockets attacks had clearly been targeted at military installations, while it was the non-Hamas organizations that had sent rockets (whether “targeted”, or more randomly, was unclear) into civilian neighborhoods.
We can note the precedent of the way the hits inside Israel from Hizbullah’s rockets were reported by the Israel-based media in the 33-day war of 2006. There, too, the reporting was overwhelmingly of civilian casualties, though I do recall some reporting of military casualties, most particularly of the numerous IDF soldiers killed while mustering in Kfar Darom. I believe the IDF censor’s rules have been tightened since then.
Regarding Hizbullah’s targeting practices in 2006, we should also note the report on this topic released last November by the Nazareth (Israel) -based Arab Association for Human Rights.
The AAHR report was based on “the testimonies of 80 Arab residents interviewed by the HRA, documenting 20 Arab communities that were hit by an estimated total of some 660 rockets, killing 14 civilians directly.” The AAHR researchers found that:
- the Arab towns and villages that suffered the most intensive attacks during the war were ones that were surrounded by military installations, either on a permanent basis or temporarily during the course of the war. These installations are located at a distance of just 0.5 – 2 kilometers by air from the civilian community; in some cases, the installations are located inside the town or village. Such short distances are within the margin of error of the rockets fired by Hizbullah. During the war, artillery fire was launched at Lebanon from many of these installations, and particularly from the temporary installations.
The investigation also found that communities that were not surrounded by military installations, including villages close to Israel’s northern border, were not hit by rockets, or suffered a lesser degree of damage. Conversely, communities that were surrounded by military installations were hit by rockets, even when these communities were further removed from the Israeli-Lebanese border.
During the war, Hizbullah declared on several occasions that it was targeting its rockets primarily at military installations inside Israel. Given the findings of the investigation undertaken by the HRA, there is no reason to doubt that the Arab towns and villages were hit due to their proximity to the adjacent military installations. At the very least, it may be assumed that the fact that Israel located certain military installations in or close to Arab civilian centers significantly increased the danger to which the residents of these communities were exposed; in some cases, this danger may have been realized in practice.
In the present conflict, if no Israel-based journos are allowed to report any hits on Israeli military installations, then the myth of all the Gaza Palestinian groups “targeting civilians” can be maintained.
At the very least, Israel-based journos should persistently be asking the IDF’s military briefers to give broad figures about the proportion of Palestinian rockets that fall within, say, one kilometer of a military installation, even if the censorship precludes them from reporting on any details of these hits.
If they do not do this, then surely they are simply colluding in the work of the Israeli hasbaristas in packaging the Palestinian rocketeers as being irreparably evil and inhumane. (A number of western journalists used to collude with with Israel’s hasbara efforts for many years. The phenomenon is probably less widespread now than it once was.)