There has been a lot of talk on the Media Wars in Gaza between the Palestinians and Israel. Both sides have kept a careful lip on what gets transmitted out to the public. Below I’ve tried to give a snapshot of the “media war” and how Israel and Palestinians go about controlling their message to the world.
Israel claims that opening their borders for journalist would put those in the terminals in danger. The government has long banned Israeli journalist from entering Gaza because of the concerns for their safety. However they had allowed foreign reporters to enter. Thus without access, the media has no reliable source or information.
“What would America do if Mexico was launching rockets at Texas everyday?”
Drawing on mistakes made during the Lebanese conflict in 2006, Israel has carefully tidied up it’s information operation and processes. In Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah, Israel garnered great PR damage due to leaks found from cell phone conversations by soldiers and officers who were uncertain of their mission and and a lack of preparedness. “I don’t even have a helmet”. Pretty damaging information. In this conflict, cell phones were taken away and as mentioned before journalists were not allowed into the Gaza strip.
Israel had created the National Information Directorate to coordinate the media activities of the government, army, embassies and other non-government organizations. They always present a unified message while making sure random information does not leak out to the public.
One very interesting analogy often used by government officials and military officer is the question “What would America do if Mexico was launching rockets at Texas everyday?” But as reporters hear such unified messages from different sources it becomes very clear that these sources are being fed a unified message.
“Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2,000 so far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times greater than the casualties incurred by Israelis,” wrote three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader in an open letter to Bush, five days into the Israeli onslaught.
The Israeli media continues to send messages throughout the Arab world in the hopes to capitalize on what they consider a “growing divide between Hamas and the Palestinian street”, says Mark Regev the Israeli government spokesman. Mark Regev and Maj. Avital Leibovich has been daily fixtures on the Al Jazeera satellite TV networks since the conflict began. The media assault has included youtube videos sent by the Israeli Army, pro Israeli bloggers discussing the situation and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter posting updates on every missile hitting Israel.
The Foreign Press Association appealed the ban of journalists in the Gaza strip to the Supreme Court. So far the Court has suggested a compromise of sending in a a small group of reporters that can share their reports with other foregin media. “We want to honor that decision,” army spokesman Doron Spielman said, but he added it would be done only in a way that would not compromise military operations or endanger journalists.
Below is an example of how the media continues to battle out what picture is shown to the foreign public.
Take the appalling loss of life at the UN run school in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. 43 people, including many children, died when an Israeli tank shell struck the school which had been a shelter for people fleeing the fighting.
It provoked outrage across the world and seemed a serious blow to Israel’s efforts to get world public opinion on its side.
I phoned the Israeli defence forces media centre a few hours after the news broke. I was told that the army’s preliminary investigations had revealed that the school had, in fact, been used by Hamas to fire mortars at Israeli troops in the area, and rockets into southern Israel.
The spokesman even named two alleged Hamas operatives who had been found among the dead at the school. For the next 24 hours Israel heaped odium on Hamas for using civilians as a shield.
Then UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, issued a statement saying it was 99.9% sure that Hamas militants were NOT at the school.
How about the Palestinian Arab Media?
On the other end, the Palestinians continue to send out pictures and videos of civilian casualties to turn public opinion against Israel’s strikes. Hamas runs a TV network called Al Aqsa television and utilizes the footage shot by the network to control what gets outputted to the public.
For the moment the horrific images of ambulances ferrying the dead and injured to the Shifa hospital in Gaza, or of fathers crying over their dead children are all provided by a handful of mostly Palestinian and Arabic camera crews still working in Gaza.
Arab television shows a starkly different viewpoint than of the Israelites. The constantly broadcast images of children with blood on their faces being taken to hospitals. They interview parents who lost families especially those who lost children. In response to Israel saying that the Hamas and the Palestinian people were divided, they make sure to message that the all people were unified against the “barbarism” of the Israelites. News anchors call the Israeli army as the army of occupation while news on television flash statements such as the ones below.
“Millions around the world protest to demand an end of Israeli operations in Gaza.”
“Urgent: children and women among the victims of the Israeli invasion.”
“An invasion from several fronts…. Gaza under the threat of a holocaust.”
Hopefully this post gives you a snapshot on the media war that is occurring during this Gaza conflict. it is always important to know who you are getting the information from and what bias are involved especially if the information is coming from a foreign country that do not have a free press. In the same way, I really hope many would take this clear blatant example of controlling messages and manipulating perceptions and recognize that this is done all the time in the every day shows and movies we watch. The messages we take in and the worldviews that are formed are endless in our daily intake of media.
Thoughts? Leave a Comment!
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