Athens — The Israeli government has announced today that Israel will not differentiate between journalists and passengers on board any ship taking part in the Gaza flotilla. The Israeli government press office announced in a statement this morning that “is a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas.”
Journalists from CBS, CNN, The New York Times, Democracy Now and The Nation (I am on assignment for the Nation) will be on board the US boat to Gaza, set to sail later this week from Greece. Previously, Israel warned activists on board the boat that they will be subject to a ten year ban from the State of Israel if the boats are intercepted by the state of Israel.
In a bold statement, the government of Israel has now extended the same warning to the press wishing to cover the flotilla. It has also stated that equipment will be impounded and additional fines could be levied against any journalists on board. Israel has said that it will ’embed’ members of the press on Israeli navy ships sent to intercept the boats. Army commandos are also being equipped with advanced recording devices to film any raids that take place aboard the flotilla ships. Israel has not released any footage collected by activists– it has confiscated all footage and has subsequently ‘lost’ all of the footage collected– on last year’s flotilla.
Israel has been noted in the past for its vibrant freedom of press and this bold move to seek banishment of journalists comes as a surprise for many in the press community in Israel and aboard. The GPO’s stark warning to the media that journalists will not be differentiate from passengers is intended to instill fear and dissuade journalists from covering the story.
It seems that the government is engaged in a last ditch effort to control the narrative of the flotilla and ensure that it will be able to control the image of the flotilla in the international press. The stark warning to the press who plan on boarding any boats begs the natural question of what Israel is afraid that the press will report during the flotilla voyage.
Joseph Dana is in Greece reporting for The Nation, and about to embark on the American ship to Gaza.