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Monthly Archives: January 2012

We drove through a lot of desert, and I kept hearing this in my head.

Near Gaza

I was in Sderot and we climbed up to the top of a hill to see out over to the Gaza.

 

Jerusalem

What looks like a sprawling toy city is the heart of all the Abrahamic religions.

 

Near Galilee

The hills are just as billowy as the clouds above them. And now I'm a beat poet.

Spin is showing a selected side of the truth, an Israeli journalist said. It is the truth, but it is only a facet.

What I saw in Israel was the truth. The people who I spoke with and met with told the truth. Their messages, though, were only a part of the truth.

The most potent and dangerous weapon is not a rifle or any sort of firearm or rocket, Daniel Reisner, head the Public International Law, Defense and Homeland Security Division at Israel’s largest law firm.

It is information.

Reisner said the information about the attacks between Hamas and Israel get distorted through videos. In a specific incident, he said members of Hamas attacked an Israeli base and planted a flag for a few moments, took video footage of it, and then ran away. Later, Reisner said a video was circulating saying Hamas had taken over the base, and showed footage of the planted flag as proof.

He said members of Hamas and Hezbollah would also have people “play dead” in front of the camera, and take footage of people pretending to be dead to make it seem like there were more casualties in an Israeli attack than there actually were.

Reisner said he had footage of Hamas and Hezbollah members actually doing this. I am going to email him presently asking for that video, and when/if I get it, I’m going to post it here.

Reisner knows the power of stories and information, which is why he is telling us these things. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t just about fire power, it is about allies and sympathies, and the more allies you have, the better off you’ll be.

Reisner also said YouTube censors and removes IDF clips from the site. While censorship may be present, I found a number of IDF clips on YouTube when I did a quick search. That doesn’t necessarily mean YouTube doesn’t take some footage down, but the IDF definitely has a presence.

In this conflict, both sides need to know how to use the media– information is a weapon. In order to not be a vessel for another person’s agenda, it’s good to know people doctor footage and will host campus media groups for free*.

I’m an idiot if I stomp my feet and huff about how people only present their argument or their truth. I’m an idiot if I think people aren’t going to lie to get ahead. It is not their job to present an objective, full and true representation of facts and events, it’s mine. Nobody is going to drop a neat little truth package in my lap. It’s up to me to wade through the bullshit and find it.

*Edit: I do not view these things as equally deceptive. I don’t think Project Interchange was deceptive, but I do think it had an agenda, which isn’t a bad thing. I’m just aware it has one.

Despite the title of this post, I’m far from done.

The last few days have been so fast and full that I haven’t had any time to right anything down, but believe me, I will.

There are so many ideas on this trip that require a lot of introspection, and right now my batteries are too low to think them through completely and give them justice. I need more than three hours of sleep to do that.

But believe me, I will, and I’ll post them here because I think best when I’m writing.

A few quick reflections, though:

Being with other college journalists has reinforced how much this field means to me.

We’re all working towards the same thing, and everyone brings something to the table. For instance, we talked about the beauty of fonts and serifs on a bus ride to Tel Aviv. Then, when the Yale reporter read my blog, he complemented my lede, but pointed out a reporting flaw in a very matter-of-fact way. It didn’t hurt my feelings. He just cared enough about the written word and good writing to never pull any punches. It’s what every editor and every reporter should be doing all the time.

Everyone talks about crime reporting, bad staff members, the value of objectivity, the art of headlines and the merits of going to graduate school without any of the tension that comes with being on the same newspaper staff. East coast, west coast and the Midwest– it doesn’t matter, we all are facing similar issues. Just meeting everyone has made this trip worthwhile, but there have been so many other incredible things I will never forget.

Being on this trip has put me in fascinating places and situations in such a short period of time with such complex ideas that I have trouble processing.

Today I went to Sderot, a town in southern Israel which was bombed last night at approximately 7 p.m. and is constantly living under the threat of rockets from the Gaza Strip. We visited a building designed so that children could play in it without having to worry about the threat of an attack. Half of the budget for the building was to reinforce the ceilings and walls.

The citizens of Sderot have only 15 seconds to find cover when the alarm goes off in the city telling them a rocket has been launched. It is a tragedy children need to grow up worrying about rockets. I commend the adults who took enough care to make sure those kids have some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

However our group was shown a propaganda video which really left a bad taste in my mouth. It flashed pictures of the village after an attack in such rapid succession that it was hard to tell what exactly I was seeing. The sky footage during on the bombings was doctored so a red film creeped across the sky until it was covered. I was already sympathetic to their cause and their town, but in that film I felt like my emotions were being manipulated. One editor described it as good public relations.

That is not to say their plight isn’t real and tragic. It is. The security director of the play building says even though many rockets often do not leave any physical casualties, they leave traumatic mental scars in the adults and children who constantly live under the threat of rocket fire. They do retailiate, but they say they do not target civilians like the attacks against them from Hamas do.

It’s hard to question security figures when they show you the rockets that have been fired at them and the place they need to keep their children safe. The themes of protection and security are important to think about in reporting, especially as they apply to civilians and children.

Military messages are hard to decipher and it is hard for me to decide where I stand. It tugs at the eternal question, what is more important, security or freedom? Do I think it is more important that military messages are kept tightly guarded to protect people or do I think information should flow freely to the press and the public to promote optimum transparency? I think there’s a middle ground.

I’m heading out to Tel Aviv right now. I’m leaving the country tomorrow. I’m going to keep writing when I get home. Thanks for reading.