The media war behind the military war

What is the role of the media in war?

The question is getting a good going-over today as the war in Gaza continues.

Israeli forces have arrested Khezir Shahin, a reporter for an Arab-language news organization because he reported that Israel had launched the ground offensive on the Gaza strip. Shahin wasn’t wrong. The offensive had started. But Israeli military imposes broad censorship power even in times of relative peace.

Today’s New York Times reports that three times in the last week, reporters were told to assemble near the Gaza border — in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling overturning a ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza. Three times they were denied.

Says the Times:


Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

How’s that working out for Israel? Not so well because it’s not 1967 anymore.

YouTube, the most influential media source in the world now, has turned the tables on Israel, banning some of the video the Israeli Defense Forces uploaded on its own YouTube channel.

Israel didn’t like the idea of censorship very much.

“We were saddened earlier today that Youtube took down some of our exclusive footage showing the IDF’s operational success in operation Cast Lead against Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip,” said a release from the IDF.

Hamas sympathizers had flagged the videos as inappropriate.

“Keeping the foreign journalists in Israel, sources say, is good for Israel’s image because the media is experiencing the war from the Israeli side,” Gili Izikovich writes on Haaretz.com. “As soon as the IDF gets a hold in the Strip, it is expected that the IDF Spokesman will let Israeli and foreign journalists in with the army. For the time being, the only presence documenting events is the spokesman’s office.”

  • Bob

    I don’t think the role of the media is or should be any different in war than it is in any other situation. Probing, questioning, assessing, cutting through the spin and propaganda, reporting what they see and hear, etc. (to the extent that they aren’t revealing critical military secrets, of course).

    One of the things the media should be doing is asking why Gaza isn’t a situation in which a U.N peacekeeping force should be inserted.

    Whether the warring parties are willing to let journalists perform their role is something else entirely.

  • bigalmn

    While the Israelis have not let the journalists in they certainly have not been able to keep the reports from coming out.

    So in the end, they only hurt their cause instead of blocking things they do not want reported.

    It seems they have gone from no ceasefire to humanitarian ceasefire and the next step will be a quasi-peace agreement that will last for 6 months to a year and the fighting will start again.

    Most Americans fail to realize that our country was pretty much populated with all the persecuted people from countries around the world at its beginning – Quakers, criminals in Georgia – and that we don’t have thousands of years of hatred like there are in other parts of the world. So we do not understand why people want to kill each other.

  • Bob

    Big Al, it’s true that we don’t have thousands of years of hatred, but we do have hundreds of years of hatred, called slavery. We even had a big war in the 1860’s in which tens of thousands of people were killed and maimed in regard to the issue of slavery.

    And up until recently, blacks were being killed in this country with impunity (I assume you’re familiar with the fact that hundreds of blacks were lynched in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the Duluth Lynchings?).

    Perhaps you’ve also forgotten the government-sanctioned genocide of Native Americans (does the Trail of Tears ring a bell?), or the government’s imprisonment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent in WWII. Or how about the fact that the U.S. dropped a couple of atomic bombs on Japan’s civilian population, killing roughly a quarter of a million people?

    Sorry, but the general history of our country is replete with examples of the dominant culture hating others and denying them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.