Mideast crisis Blog from Jerusalem
Jerusalem Attempting to deny Hezbollah any information useful for better aiming at targets, Israeli authorities have instructed the media not to identify the exact locations where the Katyusha rockets fall.
But driven by competition, ratings, and the Israeli public's appetite for information, TV networks and newspaper photographers are racing to the site of the latest hit. Israel's military censor is aware of the problem. "We are flexible," said Yehezkel, a worker at the censorship headquarters who declined to give his full name.
Part of the reason is that the censors have to be. "If it happened on a city street where people were killed, it's impossible to stop [the media]," Yehezkel told me.
Indeed, Amir Bar Shalom, chief military correspondent for Israel's Channel 1 television, said he got the instructions from the censor, "but I do what I want." Still, he told me, "I don't want to help Hezbollah."
So he's careful. "I show the site where Katyushas fell, I just don't show the long shot."
And he's never had a problem.
Crews for the pan-Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera have.
Israeli police have detained crews of the Qatari-owned network four times in the last two days, taking them three times to a police station and holding them for a few hours. "Then they apologize and let us go," said Al-Jazeera's bureau chief, Walid al-Omary. "They didn't ask anything, they didn't take any equipment. Nothing."
On one occasion, the Al-Jazeera crew members were filming at a point in Haifa where many TV networks line up with their cameras, including the Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News, and the Israeli channels. "The police walked over to us, asked us who we were and told us we had to go with them," al-Omary told me. Another couple of hours at the police station followed. (Al-Jazeera's crew members are all Palestinian citizens of Israel with the exception of one, a Jerusalemite, who carries an Israeli ID.)
It didn't get better. On Tuesday night, al-Omary was taken alone to the police station for six hours of questioning, he said. "They said there were claims that our broadcasts are helping Hezbollah," he said. "That's ridiculous. My work doesn't help Hezbollah. What about the Israeli stations that even name the address of the house [that was hit]? I want them to tell me, what are we broadcasting which is different from the others?" Al-Omary asserted that his network is being harassed for its coverage and because "it's easy to bother the Arabs."
I called Miki Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police. "[Al-Omary] has the right to say what he wants," he said. The issue is under investigation, he added. Channel 1's Bar Shalom said he did not know the details about the detention of Al-Jazeera's crews, but what's certain, he said, is that "the [authorities] suspect them immediately. They never suspect me."
July 17, 2006
JerusalemWhen Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed seven others in a July 12 cross-border raid, sparking an aggressive Israeli military reaction on Lebanon, a Jordanian friend of mine changed his MSN messenger user name to "F*** Hezbollah."