A debate is raging in Israel over letting cameramen into war zones. Some contend that the pictures taken of Israeli actions in Palestinian towns hurt Israel’s international standing. Others proudly argue that unflattering coverage is the price democracies pay for freedom of the press.
The American war effort in Afghanistan is relatively “press-free,” with Pentagon press handouts and occasional pool arrangements for covering the front. Belatedly, the press uncovers stories of “collateral damage” — innocent civilians wounded and killed by errant bombs. After air strikes against Tora Bora, major news agencies reported that civilians may have been killed. However, in attempting to secure Ikonos commercial satellite photos of Afghani battlefields, news agencies discovered that the Pentagon had already purchased all rights to the pictures, thereby denying others access to the photos.
If the American war effort is “press-free,” then in Israel’s case, the “press costs.”
Advocacy journalists, Palestinian stringers, emotive photo-ops, pack journalists, and maladroit Israeli press relations all combine to cost Israel in international public opinion.
This week, two news agencies — Time Magazine and BBC — had unusual access to Israeli military operations. Time abused the privilege; BBC used it to (finally) present a fair shake to Israel.
===== TIME’S PHOTO MISREPRESENTATION =====
Time’s website published a “photo essay” entitled, “Eyeball to Eyeball in the West Bank,” where photographer Menahem Kahana joined an Israeli patrol on a house-to-house sweep through the Tulkarem refugee camp. Kahana’s photos depicted Israeli soldiers breaking in a door, and numerous scenes of cowering Palestinian civilians.
Kahana’s essay, however, showed none of the Palestinian gunmen or the illegal weaponry they accumulated. Ironically, Kahana was able to safely photograph only because he was accompanied by Israeli soldiers. As an Israeli, he would risk being killed or lynched by Palestinians on the other side of the frontline.
The images Time presents are skewed and do not show the Palestinian aggression. And the accompanying text is equally one-sided against Israel.
===== PRELIMINARY PRAISE FOR BBC =====
This week, BBC Television broadcast the first segment of “The Dirty War: Israel Undercover.” BBC’s own schedule describes the two-part documentary as “examining the military tactics, intelligence-gathering methods and the thinking of the Israelis and the Palestinians in the conflict in the Middle East.”
HonestReporting members who saw the broadcast report that BBC cameramen and reporters spent the night with an Israeli infantry patrol trying to intercept terrorists attempting to attack a Jewish community. They also accompanied Israeli helicopter pilots and commandos targeting known Palestinian terrorists.
Israeli officers explained the intelligence-gathering and meticulous care behind every such attack. According to Israeli officers interviewed, an attack is authorized only if there is no way of capturing the terrorist alive. The attack must be carried out with precision to avoid hitting innocent bystanders. The commander of the Israeli Air Force explained that helicopter-fired missiles are the most accurate means for the mission. The explosive charge on the missile is also small and less likely to cause “collateral damage.”
Unfortunately, HonestReporting found scant reference to the documentary on BBC’s website. This documentary deserves viewing, and we encourage you to write to BBC requesting that a transcript and/or video segments be posted online.
Contact BBC at:
===== EXTRA NOTES =====
This week, Palestinian vigilantes shot and killed a number of “suspected collaborators.” The dead bodies were then dragged by a pickup truck through the streets of Bethlehem, and hung up for public display in the town square.
Did your local media report this horrific breach of human rights in the PA-ruled areas?