A diplomatic row between Israel and the Vatican cast doubt over Pope Benedict XVI’s planned visit to the Holy Land, after a prominent cardinal said that Gazans were living in a big concentration camp.
In his annual speech to
diplomats in the Vatican the Pope sought to damp down the dispute. He said that the war was provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian populations in Gaza and Israel. He urged the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the
use of arms and added: Violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. The military solution is never an option .
His remarks came amid outrage from Israelis over a statement by Cardinal Renato
Martino, the head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace and a former Holy See envoy to the United Nations, who compared Gaza to a concentration camp. The cardinal criticised Israel for killing civilians who had taken shelter at a UN run school in
Israeli officials said that they were deeply shocked that a man of religion is using the vocabulary of Hamas propaganda. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which monitors antiSemitism and hunts down Nazi war criminals, said that Cardinal
Martino had used the language of a Holocaust denier.
When I was in journalism school, we were taught that truth was the first casualty of any war. But in the current seismic
violence in the Gaza Strip, truth was joined by three more casualties — decency, compassion and shame.
True, censorship is there. Not only are there no Israeli journalists in Gaza, but Israel is also preventing all foreign media from
reaching the Strip, with even the circumspect decision by an embattled Supreme Court to let in a pool of eight journalists (foreign and Israeli) not being carried out. Foreign journalists have been detained, and online forums have been contacted and
requested to remove threads which the IDF considered dangerous either to security or morale . The parliament has happily joined the bandwagon, with one prominent MK suggesting to block al Jazeera and al Arabiya due to the demoralising effect it
has on our Arab population.
The media itself rushes to assist them with bucketfuls of self-censorship. But all this pales before the unabashedly jingoistic tone struck by the media.
News sections in newspapers are entirely devoted to
drums of war from day one, when all media lauded the brilliant thinking of the surprise effect. IDF statements are given as news items and the most extravagant quotes by the Israeli politicians are reported as they are. (The
prize-holder for these is, undoubtedly, Tzipi Livni, with such profound statements as a ceasefire would damage negotiations and the war is necessary to promote peace.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Israeli
military's bombing today of a Gaza City building that houses the offices of a number of international news organizations.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the rooftop of Al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building located in Al-Rimal
neighborhood in Gaza City, which houses more than 20 international news organizations.
Al-Jazeera reported that at least one journalist was injured while filing a report from the roof of the building. Satellite transmission equipment on the roof
of the building was also damaged in the attack.
Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, defended the strike in an interview with Al-Jazeera, saying that communications equipment in the building could have been used by Hamas.
The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert
Mahoney. Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately.
Several French online media organizations have decided to stop letting their readers comment on articles dealing with the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza. These news sites include Liberation.fr, LCI.fr and 20minutes.fr.
A spokesman for
Lib้ration said: Many of the reactions were outbursts of hatred, endless insults. We do not want the comments section to become a forum for racists and anti-Semites.
The BBC erases more than half of the reactions posted to one
section of its site
Most major international sites, including CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera (as well as FRANCE 24), however, have decided to continue publishing reader comments - but they do check the contents before the comments go online.
On most subjects, the BBC has usually allowed most user-comments to pass freely, but they have found that is not the case where reactions to the Israel – Gaza conflict are concerned. In the Have your say section of the BBC website, a
moderator explains: We’ve got two debates on the blog at the moment (on Gaza and on homosexuality) that are leading us to delete well over half of the comments you’re posting. So, to save your time and ours a little reminder of our blog
Robust debate is welcome. Comments that are too long, stray off the topic, are racist or homophobic will not be published. It also comes down to tone. If it sounds like you are being threatening, or launching personal
attacks it won’t be published.
French website Rue89.com has chosen to maintain automatic publication of responses and to filter them after they have been posted. Site editor Pierre Haski explains: It is a sign of defeat to close the
opportunity to comment while the events are happening. We may as well close the site down. It is true that the comments about Gaza are numerous – between 500 and 1,000 per article. I spend at least three hours moderating the site after an article
is posted. We find that we have to remove between 25 and 30% of comments, against 2% for other stories.
Internet users of FRANCE24.com are often surprised that not all their comments are published. For example, “Ch้rif”, a
resident of France, complained: FRANCE 24 is politicized. It’s too bad. My posts do not pass.
FRANCE24.com explained their stance: Because of the high number of user reactions to the Gaza conflict, we are posting only a selection
on the site. Please keep your reactions short, relevant and civil. (See our Rules of conduct.). We select reactions that contribute to a respectful, constructive debate. Like other news sites, we receive many reactions that contain racist or
aggressive language that violate our rules of conduct. We do not publish those.
But we want to know what you think. When news sites filter user reactions, are they providing a service to their users and the broader community, or is it