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Covering up Gaza
The state of Israel, fearful of the truth, continues to control media coverage of its brutal occupation, writes Jonathan Cook*
One early and easy victory for Israel in Gaza has been in its battle to manage the news. Israel's invasion is a very private war against Gaza's population, to which only invited guests -- the representatives of our major media outlets -- are being given access.
In the last Iraq war, America set a precedent by requiring Western reporters to "embed" with its forces before they were let near the battlefield. Israel is following suit, adopting similar measures to control the flow of bad news from Gaza.
The restrictions on who can report and what they can tell us explain in part why more than a fortnight after an Israeli soldier was captured, almost every Western reporter is still referring to him as "kidnapped"; why the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure such as Gaza's only power plant is described as "pressure" rather than what it is -- collective punishment, a violation of international law and a war crime; and why the deaths of large numbers of Palestinians, civilians and militants, in the current attacks are receiving far less coverage than the deaths of the two soldiers enforcing the occupation that gave Israel the pretext to launch its invasion.
Gaza -- a giant open-air prison -- could not offer a more perfect environment for an occupier wanting to manage the news. Israel controls the borders and can decide who is allowed in and who is refused access. Freedom of the press is meaningless on these terms.
Israel developed its own "embedding" strategy during the disengagement from Gaza last year. Only journalists from the big news organisations were allowed into the Strip, on special army buses that drove straight to the settlements. Those without accreditation from the main media organisations, and those who had upset Israel with their previous reports, had little hope of gaining entry. Disfavoured journalists were doubtless supposed to take note for next time, and change the tone of their coverage.