Israel Threatens Foreign Journalists Covering the Flotilla2 *updated*

[see update below]

This story really speaks for itself. I’ll just say that the international community, and international law, generally frown on efforts to limit press freedoms. It’s also very unusual for a democratic country to threaten and harass the media in such a blatant way.

Naturally, this comes from Haaretz because the U.S. media must be busy covering something else:

Israel’s Government Press Office issued a letter Sunday to foreign journalists, warning them that participating in the upcoming flotilla sailing to Gaza is illegal under Israeli law, and could result in anyone who joins the convoy being barred from Israel for up to 10 years.

The letter, signed by GPO director Oren Helman, states that the flotilla “is a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas.”

[emphasis added]

Ok, that last bit is why I was so disappointed in the statements about the Flotilla by the State Department last week. It seems as though the U.S. government has appropriated, in toto, the propaganda talking points of the Israeli government. Totally inappropriate, particularly when press freedom and American citizens are involved.

Furthermore, the letter says, “participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”

Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass will be joining the flotilla, along with several dozen other journalists and several hundred activists from some 20 countries. Also joining the flotilla will be American writer Alice Walker, despite an American advisory that doing so could be a violation of U.S. law.

There’s a disturbing aspect to all of this. According to Joseph Dana who is a journalist on the American ship Audacity of Hope, there are very few foreign journalists (read, American or European) covering the Flotilla. He believes this is due to the extraordinary pressure exerted upon news organizations by the Israeli and U.S. governments. I would just add that it also may be because the US media is in the tank for Israel and has no interest in covering the Flotilla. Dana has also expressed some concern that the warnings issued by the State Dept. and Israeli government set up a situation where those journalists who opted to cover the Flotilla, will be fair game if an attack takes place or if they are imprisoned later.

Keep in mind that laws barring journalists from covering certain controversial events are usually frowned upon by democratic countries and international law. For example, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia make it illegal for foreign journalists to enter the country and cover events- they face imprisonment or worse. However, when journalists who enter those countries end up being arrested, the U.S. makes no bones about calling for their immediate release. In other words, we generally don’t give a damn that the particular country has accused said journalists of breaking the law. Given that, I find it strange that two democratic countries, the U.S. and Israel, seem to be threatening journalists.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: By involving itself in Israel’s propaganda efforts to malign and threaten not only the Flotilla participants but also the journalists covering it, the U.S. government has opened itself to charges of hypocrisy. Worse still, as I have said before, the State Dept. and Obama administration is widely perceived at this point of green-lighting an Israeli attack on the Flotilla. Lets hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, there will be a lot of unpleasant questions for the U.S. to answer.

For general information on press freedom throughout the world, see Reporters Without Borders.

UPDATE: The Foreign Press Association has condemned Israeli’s threats against journalists:

The Foreign Press Association on Sunday urged the government to reverse its threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla, saying that the move “sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press.”

The statement added, “Journalists covering a legitimate news event should be allowed to do their jobs without threats and intimidation,” calling on the government to “reverse its decision immediately.”

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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5 Comments on “Israel Threatens Foreign Journalists Covering the Flotilla2 *updated*”

  1. thainjacobs Says:

    I have a little bit of a boy-crush on Joseph Dana. Is that wrong? I find myself checking every 5 minutes to see if he’s tweeting anything. I was doing laundry and then stopped and ran to the computer to check and see if he’s updated. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.

    Now he’s reporting that Israel has announced that IDF will not differentiate between passengers and journalists and that…

    It has also stated that equipment will be impounded and additional fines could be levied against any journalists on board. Israel has said that it will ‘embed’ members of the press on Israeli navy ships sent to intercept the boats. Army commandos are also being equipped with advanced recording devices to film any raids that take place aboard the flotilla ships. Israel has not released any footage collected by activists– it has confiscated all footage and has subsequently ‘lost’ all of the footage collected– on last year’s flotilla.

    So the Israeli military will have journalists on board, but it’s illegal for them to be on the Flotilla. I see.


    • Stacy Says:

      Thain said:

      I have a little bit of a boy-crush on Joseph Dana. Is that wrong? I find myself checking every 5 minutes to see if he’s tweeting anything. I was doing laundry and then stopped and ran to the computer to check and see if he’s updated. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.

      No, I don’t think it’s wrong nor do I think you are losing your mind. I also have a boy-crush on Joseph. He seems like a very honest, sincere guy and I also eagerly await his tweets. His willingness to not just talk the talk but walk the walk is admirable.


  2. seamus6 Says:

    Joseph Dana is a handsome bloke.

    Did you see this Thain, it’s a an interview J. Dana did today I think for Al Jazeera:

    Not sure what’s going on with his eyebrows though 🙂


  3. discourseincsharpminor Says:

    … organized by western and Islamic extremist elements…

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but how does that make any sense? Isn’t one of the biggest issues the Islamic extremists have the pervasiveness of Western influence on muslim countries? How would the two groups see eye to eye on things long enough to organize anything. Is it really so hard for these people to believe the these might be some people who are appalled by the fact that things like building materials are banned in a place Israel bombs every so often and other this like that.

    Beyond that, threatening journalists for covering international news made in international waters is very concerning. Any other nation would be called out by our State Department. Just goes to show how nice it is to have very vocal friends in high places.


  4. JasonF Says:

    The idea that these people are Islamic radicals is silly but it’s classic Israeli hasbara. Alice Walker a terrorist? If this were any country but Israel the people making these claims would be laughed out of the room.

    Remember the while Arab world is watching what the US & Israel are doing.

    So far the US and Israel have managed to get over half a dozen ships sidelined- that’s half the number of ships originally due to set sail.

    I know why doesn’t the US send a drone over to bomb all the remaining ships in the Greek harbor? Since those people are terrorists and all.


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