Media Under Attack

Bomb The Press

Ali Gharib on the Israeli military's bombing of two media buildings in the Gaza Strip.

[Updated below.] Yesterday, the American media outreach group the Israel Project sent out a release to journalists. It read:

Hamas has trapped at least 22 foreign nationals in the Gaza Strip. ...The move raises the possibility that Hamas is preparing to endanger journalists in order to heighten the risks of any Israeli operations which would seek to degrade Hamas's arsenal or intercept ongoing military operations. The tactic repeats one that the group has used in previous wars with Israel.

The reported news (sourced to the Israeli government) is indeed troubling, but the timing seems particularly poor this morning. Today, Israeli forces attacked two media buildings in Gaza, drawing round condemnations and notes of caution from media accuracy groups. Reuters reported that the Israeli government justified the attacks by explaining they were targeting "Hamas communications devices" atop the buildings. Nonetheless, eight journalists were injured in the attacks. The Associated Press released a video of smoke pouring from one of the buildings' roofs in the aftermath of the attack.

"Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict," Robert Mahoney, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a release. "Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately." Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was even more harsh, outright condemning the attacks. In a statement, RSF head Christophe Deloire said: "Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified."Israel's media strategy centers on demonstrating that it's pursuing Hamas targets like missile stockpiles and military officials in the Islamist organization, all the while, apparently, expanding operations in response to each subsequent Hamas escalation. The short-sightedness of the tack mirrors that of the larger strategy, or lack thereof: the Israeli failure to realize that Hamas is here to stay, in large part due to the fact that its curriculum vitae contains more than just its role as an eliminationist terror group. Just as Hamas must end its morally bankrupt targeting of (or, for the more credulous, disregard for) Israeli civilians, so too must Israel acknowledge that it cannot at will hit Hamas "devices" that make up its non-military power structure in Gaza. That's precisely why there is no military solution to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

That's what NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin suggests in his tweet above, responding to the Israel Defense Force's warning to journalists. The notion that Mohyeldin and other journalists should not, as part of their regular reporting, be in contact with Hamas officials—the de facto governors of the Strip—seems as absurd as its parent notion: that only one side of this burgeoning war merits coverage at all. The Israel Project, as a pro-Israel media outreach outfit, certainly subscribes to this: the group routinely toes the Israeli government's line. But that doesn't mean responsible and well-intentioned journalists on the ground should abide. Just don't expect the Israel Project to put out a release expressing concern for them.

UPDATE: The Israel Project just put out another press release about "Hamas's War On Journalists," which, again, raises important issues about press freedoms in Gaza (which we have covered in these pages). Nary a word, though, from the Israel Project about the attacks on the Gaza media buildings.

UPDATE II: This article was changed to reflect the following correction: Eight journalists were injured when the Israeli military attacked two media buildings in Gaza. Originally, this piece erroneously said eight journalists were killed in the strikes. We regret the error.

UPDATE III: The Associated Press reported this morning that the militant Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad said that one of its leaders was killed by the strike on the Gaza media center.