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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

In the next war, perhaps Hamas should reconsider its ban on Israeli reporters

Yonit Levi and Udi Segal look at the difference between what the world saw on television during Operation Protective Edge and what Israelis saw. They seem to believe that if Hamas would only allow Israeli reporters into Gaza, we too would sympathize more with the civilians Hamas uses as human shields than with our own people seeking shelter from Hamas' rockets. And they worry that after what Israelis saw this summer, most of us will not be foolish enough to support another 'withdrawal.'

During the 50 days of the war in Gaza, Israelis, and the rest of the world were watching two completely different wars. In Israel, the country was under attack and it was all happening on live television: The camera leaped between different cities being targeted—showing the rocket’s trajectory from the Gazan border, the subsequent sirens, and civilians taking shelter in Israel and, often, the rocket’s interception by the Iron Dome anti-missile system several minutes later—moments of deep anxiety, followed by relief, over and over, throughout the day. Israeli networks co-operating with the IDF’s Home Front Command aired banners clearly stating which region was under attack, and in some areas where the sirens weren’t loud enough, this turned out to be life-saving information.
It might be difficult for an outsider to understand, but when your child is spending their summer vacation running to find shelter—with merely a 15-second warning in the south, 90 seconds in Tel Aviv—one has limited emotional capacity to see what is happening to the children on the other side. When you add to that the fact Hamas controlled all data and information coming from Gaza—and banned Israeli reporters—you see the juxtaposition emerging. The world showed the war in Gaza, and its effect on Gazans, while on Israeli television Gaza was a sidebar.
Thus, while the world castigated Israel for using excessive force, on Israeli television the prime minister was upbraided for not doing enough—lengthy studio discussions brought forth the opinions of former generals and, astonishingly, sitting cabinet ministers, saying more could and should be done. Indeed, television was the only place the phrase “we should reconquer Gaza” was stated over and over again, while in reality no one in the Israeli government even came close to contemplating such a move (although when asked about it in interviews, even left-wing ministers made sure to stress that “all options” were on the table).
Ten days into the war, when Hamas rejected a cease-fire offer and sent terrorists through a tunnel into Israel, the IDF’s ground operation began. Here, too, it is important to note the disparity: The international media sees Israeli soldiers as legitimate military targets, while to Israelis they are quite literally “our boys”—who are sent off at the age of 18 into mandatory military service. In this war Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.
Not only were Israelis watching a different war on television, but the pictures they saw were embedded in a different narrative that, in a nutshell, was this: We left the Gaza Strip, dismantled all settlements, completely retreated to the 1967 lines, and the outcome was that Hamas took over Gaza and we got rockets, which at any moment might strike our homes. The world, in contrast, heard the story of Israel bombing innocent civilians in an Israeli-made prison—and saw pictures of the devastation inflicted by our military might.
I don't buy this. First, Israel is probably the most wired country in the world. While 40% of the country may have had the television going all the time as Levi and Segal claim (a figure I find hard to believe), I would bet that far more were using the web and social media and saw everything being aired by CNN, al-Beeb and all the other international media that is seen as so biased against us as to lack all credibility. And we weren't moved by it at all.

Israelis were promised that there would be no rockets from Gaza once we 'disengaged' in 2005. Those who warned otherwise were subjected to ridicule. Personally, I was called a 'Kahanist' on a certain 'conservative' web site (from which all conservatives have since been banned) for opposing the 'disengagement.' But we see that we were right. And most Israelis are not going to be fooled twice, no matter what our media tells us.

So yes, we will oppose withdrawing the IDF - and probably oppose withdrawing revenants from Judea and Samaria. But not because we were saturated with war coverage this past summer. We will oppose it because unlike Israel's Leftist media we have awoken and smelled the coffee.

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