Why Israel Is Smart Keeping the Media Out of Gaza

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.

William Tecumseh Sherman

As the fighting rages in Gaza, the world's media is engaged in a battle of its own with Israeli officials and the IDF, who are refusing to let journalists into the territory to report on the conflict. It appears that if reporters are allowed into the Strip at all in the coming days it will be a small group, under the close supervision of the military.

Ostensibly the IDF cites concerns over the safety of journalists as the reason for restricting media access, and it has a point: monitoring and protecting journalists is a distraction the army can do without in the middle of intense urban combat.

Of course, the self-appointed heroes of the international press corps will respond that they don't need looking after, and are happy to risk life and limb in pursuit of the news. But should a reporter be injured or killed, their colleagues are sure to lay the blame squarely on Israel, whatever the circumstances.

Then there's the risk of journalists being kidnapped by terrorists -- sorry, militants -- although given the cozy relationship between Palestinian terrorists and the media (see, for example, the Alan Johnston episode) I'm not sure how much of a worry that is for journalists. Most would probably view spending a month as guests of Hamas before being released in a "goodwill gesture" as a useful career move -- you're a shoo-in for any number of industry awards, and you get to lose a little weight in the bargain.

A more pressing concern for the Israeli military, although they rarely admit as much openly, is that the international media can't be relied upon to report events in Gaza impartially.