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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Unbiased reporters in flotilla?

YNet has an op-ed by Yosef Federman, the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel:
The Foreign Press Association in Israel was happy to see the Israeli government rescinding its threat to expel and even boycott journalists who cover the Gaza flotilla. It’s important to understand that the decision was illogical to begin with. For some reason, the government attempted to apply the same attitude to journalists doing their job and to pro-Palestinian activists on board the ships. Yet that was never the case.

Journalists from different countries wish to cover the flotilla because it is a legitimate news story. Following the bloodshed in last year’s flotilla, people worldwide want to know what will happen this time around. An attempt to prevent journalists from joining the current flotilla would not have prevented coverage of this event.

Instead, it would have simply forced legitimate news organizations to violate the law and risk grave punishment, or rely on the activists on board the vessels for information.

It is fully in the public’s interest to allow professional and objective journalists – who are not a party to the affair and therefore are not biased – to present the story to the whole world. The coverage of a news event, legitimate or not, does not turn the journalist into an active side in the story.
I am glad that the government changed its mind about reporters covering the flotilla, but for him to characterize them as objective is a joke.

One of the prominent Israeli reporters covering the flotilla is Mya Guarnieri, who is churning out a series of fawning pieces on the flotilla participants. She also put together this "backgrounder" about how Israel has been oppressing Gazans since 1991. Here's part of her "reporting":
Sari Bashi is the founder and director of Gisha, an Israeli NGO that advocates for Palestinian freedom of movement. She says that the gradual closure of Gaza began in 1991, when Israel canceled the general exit permit that allowed most Palestinians to move freely through Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Non-Jewish residents of Gaza and the West Bank were required to obtain individual permits.

This was during the First Intifada. While the mere mention of the word invokes the image of suicide bombers in the Western imagination, it’s important to bear in mind that the First Intifada was, by and large, a non-violent uprising comprised of civil disobedience, strikes, and boycotts of Israeli goods.
During the first intifada some 100 Israeli civilians were murdered and 60 IDF soldiers were killed. Yet to Guarnieri, this is the definition of non-violence, and Israeli moves to protect itself is by definition illegitimate.

Of course, Gaza was not free under Egyptian rule at all - Gazans were heavily restricted in their movement and ability to get jobs in Egypt. Israel poured tens of millions of dollars into Gaza, successfully improving its infrastructure and the health and well-being of its citizens that were ignored and abused by Egypt. But why mention that in a backgrounder on Gaza? 1967 is irrelevant ancient history, but 1991 is current events.

Another "objective" reporter covering the flotilla is the execrable Amira Hass for Ha'aretz, who is also publishing her special brand of uncritical journalism when the subject is her pet anti-Israel activists.

Other reporters who are there are no better.

So, yes, reporters should be free to cover the flotilla - but they need to be at least as critical of the anti-Israel activists as they are of Israel. That's what reporters do. And it is possible, as we saw yesterday with the report from the clearly sympathetic Radio Netherlands reporter who nonetheless exposed the lies of the Dutch flotilla leaders.