This would be hilarious, if it weren’t so serious: Dion Nissenbaum wrote on his blog yesterday that “When the head of the Israeli Government Press Office tells The Jerusalem Post that there was no ban on journalists entering Gaza during the recent military operation, the appropriate response would be to laugh … One can argue about why there was a ban, but there is no denying that Israel barred journalists from entering Gaza during the war. It is harder to disprove claims that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy than to demonstrate that Israel imposed a ban on journalists entering Gaza … [And] if there was no ban on reporters entering Gaza, then Israel’s high court spent a lot of time and energy debating an illusion. The wisest legal scholars in Israel must be demented to have actually issued a ruling tossing out the non-existent ban”.
Dion dumps on the JPost, and then takes on Danny Seaman, saying that he has “every right to argue that reporters are Hamas sympathizers” (though Danny Seaman did not make that argument, as far as I have seen — nor does the fact that a couple of American news organizations that Dion named, including his own, might be looking into a Hamas crackdown on Fatah rivals disprove it, contrary to Dion’s suggestion). Dion says that “Danny Seaman also can’t be blamed for trying to belittle reporters now in Gaza as ‘spoiled crybabies’ who are a ‘disgrace to the profession’. If he thinks that’s the best way to approach his job, that’s the Israeli government’s prerogative” …
Coming to one of the main points, Dion tackles what we questioned in our earlier post here, when we wrote that Danny “really should be asked to explain exactly where and how he thought more-intrepid journalists could have entered the Gaza Strip, which has been practically hermetically sealed by the IDF since Israel’s unilateral ‘disengagement’ in 2005“.
Dion writes: “Danny Seaman argues that any reporters who were willing to put in ‘a little effort’ could have gotten into Gaza. But, so far as I can tell, the only way for reporters to get into Gaza for most of the war would have been to use one of the smuggler tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. And, considering that Israel was repeatedly bombing the tunnels during the war, they probably were not the most reliable route into Gaza. (Though one can guess that Danny Seaman probably would not have shed many tears for Fig Leaf Reporters buried alive by Israeli bombers.) Reporters were repeatedly prevented from entering Gaza through any of the Israeli land borders. An Israeli Naval boat rammed one boat from Larnaca carrying reporters trying to get into Gaza. Then Israeli ships fired warning shots to prevent a second boat full of journalists from breaking the Israeli Naval blockade. Egypt did not let any reporters into Gaza until the final days of the war. And that came only after journalists had jumped through a series of bureaucratic hoops in Cairo. The Israeli military brought a few selected reporters into Gaza for a few hours to see things from their perspective. It is true that no reporters tried to parachute into Gaza. Nor did any journalist I know explore the possibility of taking a hang glider into Gaza … In this regard, the journalistic community of ‘spoiled crybabies’ was indeed negligent. Perhaps, with a little more effort, reporters could have catapulted into Gaza”. Dion’s blog post on Danny Seaman’s remarks and the JPost coverage of them can be viewed in full here.
Dion also mentions, as we did earlier, the case of Amira Hass, who entered Gaza from the sea, on board the second Free Gaza expedition from Cyprus, writing: “And if, as Danny Seaman told The Jerusalem Post, Israel never arrested anyone for entering Gaza, that will come as welcome relief to Amira Hass, the Israeli journalist who was arrested for entering Gaza”. A comment made on Dion’s blog post, from “Bob” — who actually sounds rather a lot like Danny Seaman — says: “Dion, Amira entered illegally and is barred by a law which prohibits Israeli citizens from entering Gaza due to the danger of abduction – and she fled Gaza because she was threatened by Hamas just to prove the point. No foreigner has been arrested for entering Gaza. But this is very typical of your reporting to forget such ‘minor’ details that completely disprove your opinion. Maybe that is why even fewer people read your blog than the JP [JPost]… Why am I reading this?”
As Danny Seaman told me earlier, when I was preparing my story, if Amira were to be kidnapped while in Gaza, “that’s the last thing we need — she’s an Israeli, and the Government of Israel would have to negotiate for her release”.
This comes after a Brigade Commander was reported in the Israeli media to have instructed his troops to fall on a grenade if they were about to be kidnapped — death is preferable, and maybe some of the adversaries would be killed too, the Commander said — to avoid becoming another Gilad Shalit (who, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly said earlier tonight, is still alive, despite the three-week Israeli military offensive in Gaza).
And, meanwhile, Amira Hass — no “spoiled crybaby” — is back in Gaza, she told me when I called her this afternoon. How did she get there? “I have my ways”, she giggled…