Why Palestinian Journalists Are Right to Boycott Shimon Peres

It’s nothing personal against Israel’s president, Shimon Peres.

Four journalists from the Jerusalem-based Al Quds refused to submit to a strip search by Israeli security guards outside the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem, where Hillary Clinton met with Salam Fayyad. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate’s response: boycotting a meeting with Peres.

The blowback was inevitable.

Overzealous security guards have strip searched (or sought to strip search) journalists like Al Jazeera’s Simri Diab, AFP’s Sara Hussein, CNN’ Kevin Flower, an Al-Jazeera cameraman, NY Times photographer Lynsey Addario, and more recently, an EPA photographer.

Media credentials are supposed to streamline both the invitation list and reasonable security measures at the venue. To get a press pass, reporters (and bloggers) are already vetted by the Government Press Office and Israeli security services. Nobody deserves to be stripped unless there’s a credible evidence of a specific threat. Otherwise, it’s demeaning and unprofessional. Period.

The relationship between the Israeli government and the press corps is a two way street. Israel needs the journalists to help get its message out. And reporters need access to the newsmakers. A 2011 media event displaying weapons seized from the Victoria arms ship — bloggers were invited too — was ruined by overzealous security guards. Some 30 journos left in disgust.

Nobody benefitted from that walkout.

I want to see Israel make its case to the world. But going overboard on security is counterproductive.

Again, this isn’t about Peres personally. By dint of schedule, it could just as easily have been any other Israeli official.

I occasionally get invitations to these press events too, but I wouldn’t drop trou for Israel either.