Gaza Update: Hiding from Justice
Israel is finally opening the crossings for journalists to enter Gaza – two days before their Supreme Court was set to rule on the violation of the earlier order requiring access for small groups of foreign journalists. Some journalists have already entered via the Rafah crossing in Egypt and one, Jonathan Miller of the UK based Channel 4, recorded what he saw as he drove through the Gaza Strip. His important report is in this YouTube on the left.
At the same time, Israel is tightening military censorship on their own press – in an attempt to block prosecutions of Israeli soldiers for war crimes. NPR reported yesterday:
In anticipation of possible war crimes charges, Israel is taking precautions. It has ordered all media not to publicize the names of battalion commanders who took part in the offensive, so as not to facilitate their potential prosecution.
And today Ha’aretz has more details:
In recent days the censor has forbidden publishing the full names and photographs of officers from the level of battalion commander down. It is assumed that the identity of brigade commanders has already been made known. The censor also forbids any reports tying a particular officer of such battlefield command rank (lieutenant to lieutenant colonel) to destruction inflicted in a particular area.
There is particular concern at the Defense Ministry that interviews in the press by officers describing the destruction of homes or harm to civilians in areas where they commanded forces could become "self-incriminating" evidence, used by human rights groups and political groups seeking to bring suits against IDF officers.
As Kenneth Roth writes for Human Rights Watch:
Israelis seem dismayed that the world has not embraced the justness of its latest war in Gaza. Of course Israel is entitled to defend itself from Hamas’ rocket attacks, but when it does so in violation of its duty to spare civilians, and with so massive a civilian toll, public outrage is entirely predictable. Meanwhile, the IDF does itself no favor when it resorts to censorship, PR techniques and misrepresentation rather than subject its conduct to the open and independent scrutiny that should characterize any military that is genuinely committed to respecting the laws of war.