Israeli Blockade ‘Eased’ Only in English, but U.S. Media Eat It Up

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement yesterday that promised to “liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza.” The announcement from Israel’s security cabinet came after widespread international pressure on Israel following a deadly Israeli naval raid on a humanitarian flotilla trying to break the three-year old blockade of Gaza.

U.S. media echoed the Israeli press release in headlines like “Israel to Ease Gaza Land Blockade” (New York Times, 6/17/10) and “Israel Eases Restrictions on Goods Bound for Gaza Strip” (Washington Post, 6/18/10). (CNN6/17/10at least attributed the claim in its “Israel to Ease Blockade of Gaza, Cabinet Says.”)

But corporate news coverage in the United States omitted an important aspect of the story that undermines the narrative that Israel is “easing” its blockade of Gaza. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz (6/17/10) reports:

The prime minister’s office announced on Thursday that the security cabinet had agreed to relax Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, but as it turns out, no binding decision was ever made during the cabinet meeting.

The prime minister’s office issued a press release in English following the meeting, which was also sent to foreign diplomats, was substantially different than the Hebrew announcement–according to the English text, a decision was made to ease the blockade, but in the Hebrew text there was no mention of any such decision.

U.S. corporate media have apparently decided to ignore the Hebrew press release that told a far different story about the blockade of Gaza. Even if their correspondents in Jerusalem don’t speak Hebrew, the online English version of Ha’aretz reported the news about the dual statements loud and clear yesterday afternoon.

Only time will tell which statement is true and whether Israel is really easing its land blockade of Gaza. (The naval blockade will remain in place, according to the New York Times story on the Israeli statement.) Even if the English version were true, though, it doesn’t seem like it will squelch criticism of the blockade–Israeli human rights organization Gisha (Guardian, 6/17/10) called the announcement “cosmetic changes,” and said that “we need a policy that recognizes the rights of Palestinian residents of Gaza not just to consume but also to produce and to travel.” Such viewpoints, however, are unlikely to get much of a hearing in the U.S. press.