If you want to see the action in Gaza, the good news is you don't have to be a foreign correspondent. Actually, Israel has nixed reporters from entering the country for now because they don't want them getting in the way or information getting out. Or for journalists to get the wrong message.
Something like that.
As Daniel Seaman, director of Israel's government press office told the New York Times, "Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that." (At least they're open about this, I guess.) So even if you were Christiane Amanpour or Richard Engel you'd be camping out on the border in khakis.
In the meantime, in lieu of actual reporting, the Israeli government has come up with a really cool viral substitute to show everyone the war. As the New York Times reported, all you have to do is log on to the Israel Defense Forces' YouTube Channel and you can see images of Israel pummeling Gaza, read grim-faced soldiers' blogs, and sit in on "the first ever" Twitter press conference with a government official.
It's just like being there, right? Nothing like reducing the hostilities to a tweet.
Still I'd like to suggest a few tweets, I mean tweaks. Although the images of artillery shells hitting Hamas targets were neat, they were a bit vague. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what I was watching. A tunnel being bombed? A truckload of rocket-firing militants? A school? Sure, there were descriptions ("Israeli Air Force Strikes rockets in transit") with arrows pointing helpfully to the designated target. But, really, I could have been watching World War II footage of the Allies in Africa, or any other war footage of explosions and grainy black and white images. I could have been watching anything, but was it true? It would help to have an authoritative narrator, someone along the lines of the late Peter Jennings, explaining things.
But here's the real P.R. problem. I don't think the website helps you understand the war better. Or Israel's perspective. After all, Hamas fired their rockets into southern Israel first and with little international outcry. Maybe it would be good to emphasize that message? Or that the militant group doesn't believe in Israel's right to exist? That seems important.
Despite the novelty of being able to see real live soldiers in camouflage, I felt like I was viewing that creepy scene from "Silence of the Lambs" where Jodi Foster is tip-toeing through the serial killer's home while he watches her through the icky green glare of a night scope. Every time the Israelis launched a missile against Hamas, I didn't jump out of my seat and cheer. I winced.
It also doesn't help when you hit innocent civilians who can't seem to escape the real gunfire and shells. That happened yesterday when some 40 people were killed trying to hide in a United Nations school in northern Gaza. Some of those killed were children. The Israelis say that Hamas was using the facility to fire mortars at them.
Let's hope for a truce. But let's also send in some real reporters.