Has this man been spending too much time with Joe the Plumber, the neophyte PJTV stringer? That neocon scribe's notion that the media has "no business in it" is echoed by the head of the Government Press Office and seems to be plunging the media here into despair.
"To be honest with ya, I don't think journalists should be (allowed) anywhere near . . . war," opined Joe in Sderot. "You guys report where our troops are at, what's happening day-to-day, you make a big deal out of it. I think it's asinine... well, you don't know the full story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."
Hmmm. The Israeli government seconds that emotion, and would prefer to strand the press corps on the Hill of Shame, or else take them on a day trip to meet the settlers. Branding foreign journalists "spoiled crybabies" unwilling to make "a little effort" to get into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Government Press Office head Danny Seaman (pictured above) claims, astonishingly, that foreign reporters were not banned from visiting the Gaza Strip. It's just that the crossing was closed. (He may be burnishing his rightwing mythmaking skills in a bid to be a spokesman for Bibi Netanyahu, who many believe will be elected Prime Minister next month.)
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, the Foreign Press Association Chairman Steve Gutkin disputed this, and said the association was pursuing a petition with the High Court of Justice to arrange regular access.
"There was no ban," Seaman declared, "Israel did not want to endanger the lives of the workers at the crossings so we didn't open them, not for humanitarian reasons and not for foreign journalists."
"Those spoiled crybabies just didn't want to put a little effort in [to getting into Gaza]," he said "We never arrested anyone who went in, nor are we running after them now," which proves that it wasn't an actual Israeli policy.
"In hindsight, next time we should make it an actual policy. This week proves it. All of the reporters have been let in and they are accepting everything everyone says at face value. Maybe 3% are calling and asking for an Israeli response, or talking to the IDF spokesman. They are a fig leaf for Hamas.
"Their coverage right now is a disgrace to the profession. Instead of reporting, they are settling scores. Reporting without both sides, without a context is an abuse of the profession," he declared.
Meanwhile, Steve Gutkin, AP bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, said the Foreign Press Association was pursuing a court ruling.
"There were actually two petitions," he explained, "one for immediate access to Gaza during the operation and one for general access to Gaza even in peacetime."
"The ban began in November, even before the operation," he pointed out. "The ban constituted a severe restriction on information vital to the world."
Israel refused to open any of its crossings to allow foreign journalists into the Strip during the three-week-long operation, leading many broadcasts from international media to begin or end with a mention of the prohibition.
As a result, international viewers and media organizations were forced to rely on local Palestinian stringers, prompting concerns among Israel's supporters about objectivity.
"It was definitely the correct decision. If foreign journalists had been killed, and in such a close quarters urban combat environment that was inevitable, then Israel would have immediately been blamed," Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and now a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) maintained.
"At the very least, the journalists would have interfered with IDF operations in ways which would have put at risk more soldiers' lives," he added.
Dr. Yariv Ben-Eliezer, director of Media Studies, The Lauder School of Government, IDC, was even more vociferous in his approval of the ban.
"In Lebanon, they let every journalist have whatever access he wanted and there was chaos, which interfered with the fighting. They changed the concept for this operation.
"I don't think the US took journalists into Grenada, or the British into the Falklands. It is our right to decide not to let them in if we believe it will help the operation," he said.
Neither Mazel nor Ben-Eliezer seemed in the least bit concerned with the negative press Israel has been receiving as reporters moved into Gaza.
Ben-Eliezer attributed the complaints about the ban to a general anti-Semitic attitude in the world.
"There is a tendency in many countries to view the Jews as the beaten, downtrodden ones. If the Jew does the beating, then that is deemed unacceptable. I would rather be accused and alive than be the favorite of the British and the others and be dead," he declared.