It took a day, but fortunately, the Israeli government has rescinded the threat by the government press office to any member of the press who chose to accompany the flotilla set to sail to Gaza. The bureaucrats in Jerusalem should never have said accredited journalists found on a ship trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza would have their equipment confiscated and be banned from entry into the country for ten years. It is to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s credit that he quickly intervened to overturn this foolish decision.
However irksome the presence of the press on this pointless Palestinian propaganda mission might be, it does Israel no good to attempt to punish them. Those journalists on the ship may be covering a bogus story and may even, as is likely, be prejudiced against Israel and in favor of those planning this pro-Hamas stunt. But their status there is the moral equivalent of a war correspondent covering a different army and should be respected. Israelis are right to have their backs up about biased journalists puffing an effort to aid a terrorist state, but threatening the press is no way to improve your image or convince people to change their minds. Mark this story down as just one more error in the Jewish state’s long history of badly managed public relations.
A better riposte to a flotilla whose aim is to bring succor to a terrorist-run region that is not actually suffering a humanitarian crisis comes from a more literary source. Booker Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson writes on the CNN website about fellow literary celebrity Alice Walker’s participation in the flotilla. Though he ignores some of her more egregious comments about Israel such as her belief it is a terrorist state, Jacobson is on target when he notes that “good people can do great harm.” He patiently explains why Walker’s stance is not only morally wrong but undermines any chances for peace. So while I’m not sure a person who singles out the one Jewish state in the world for opprobrium that she never would hand out to any other country — a textbook definition of anti-Semitism — deserves to be termed “good,” Jacobson deserves credit for bringing some literary artillery to Israel’s defense.