ISRAEL'S military campaign in Gaza may have been despicable but its public relations campaign to justify its actions has been very impressive. Mark Regev, the chief spokesman for prime minister Olmert, is to be seen daily on international TV from Jerusalem making a strong defence of Israel's policies; his bull-points are obviously circulated world-wide immediately because within hours Israeli's ambassadors are on TV and radio in the world's centres reinforcing the Regev line. The most recent example of this PR technique was Israel's defence against allegations that it had shelled a UN school where many Palestinians, told to leave their homes by the Israeli army, were sheltering and at least 40 of them were killed. Regev said that Hamas terrorists had used the school as cover for firing mortars, a claim vehemently denied by senior UN officials who, for once, put Regev on the defensive by calling for an independent international inquiry into the incident -- which he said was unnecessary.

Of course, Israel's superiority in the propaganda game is helped by its refusal to allow foreign press and TV reporters into Gaza, because of the danger to them. That argument adds insult to the injury of the exclusion -- journalists who cover conflicts around the world know all about the risks they run, as do their editors, but believe it is important to gather objective information on the spot about what is really happening. Censorship, by whatever means, does not inspire confidence in the veracity of those who impose it.


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