Saturday, January 17, 2009
Western press enters Gaza: The truth will out
As you know, Israel has blocked "foreign" journalists from entering Gaza during its assault on the territory, although Al-Jazeera has a number of reporters there and has done a generally excellent--if not always entirely "balanced"--job of bringing news of the terrible destruction of lives and buildings to those who are willing to see and hear it.
The BBC has now managed to get one of its reporters, Christian Fraser, into Gaza via Egypt, and his reports of the incredible destruction and its effect on those Gazans still living can be seen here. The BBC is also reporting this morning that Israeli airstrikes hit a United Nations school and killed two children. The report quotes Christopher Gunness, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), calling for an investigation into possible war crimes by Israel--adding to the many voices now suggesting that both Israel and Hamas are guilty of violations of international law.
It is great that Fraser is now on the ground in Gaza, and once a cease-fire is declared Israel will have no choice but to allow the entire Western press into the strip. The truth of the Jewish state's barbarian acts will then be irrefutable--even though, as usual, it will come too late for its more than 1100 victims.
PS--Until now the BBC had relied heavily on a Gazan reporter whose name I do not immediately have to hand, and he did a very good job. But Western audiences tend to only believe "their own" reporters, which is why Fraser's reports will have particular credibility. As a long-time member of the Paris press corps, I can testify that most U.S. and British news outlets insist on sending their own nationals abroad as foreign correspondents, rather than rely on "native" reporters. The American reporters, for example, usually arrive in Paris speaking very little French and have to get up to speed--something that takes time. And because of U.S. and French tax laws, normally American reporters can only stay abroad 5 years without triggering local taxes and social security charges. Thus most U.S. outlets rotate their reporters in and out: Just when they are speaking the language well, and know French politics and have good sources, they have to leave. I have been here more than 20 years and have seen it time and time again.
Meanwhile, concerning other massacres... The Center for Justice and Accountability, an organization that investigates and litigates human rights abuses, announces that a Spanish court will investigate the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her 16 year old daughter in El Savador in 1989. This was apparently carried out by the Salvadorean military, heavily supported at the time by the U.S. government. Spain is one of the few places victims of abuses can turn these days for justice; let us hope the Bush administration's torturers travel there soon.
Forgive and forget? Speaking of accountability, Paul Krugman hits the nail right on the head when he says Obama does not have the Constitutional right to let bygones be bygones when it comes to crimes committed by the Bush administration. "I don't believe that anybody is above the law," but "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards," Obama said last Sunday. Krugman's answer is the only one that puts the law above political considerations: "...to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that's not a decision he has the right to make."
Sderot. There has been a lot of coverage of this town, which has been hit by rockets from Gaza, especially since Obama visited it last July. What is less well known is that Sderot was built on the ruins of the Palestinian town of Najd, whose inhabitants were expelled by Jewish troops in 1948. Details are at the Palestine Remembered Web site, which is dedicated to preserving the memory and history of towns in Israel that were once Palestinian. This does not justify the rockets, of course, whose launching constitutes war crimes on the part of Hamas; but it does put things into some context and perspective.