Battle over credit ends with a journalist walkout

Security checks at seized Iranian weapons display turns golden ‘hasbara’ opportunity into farce.

March 16, 2011 20:58
2 minute read.
The Victoria followed by Navy speedboat

Victoria Raid 311. (photo credit: IDF)


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The first was Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who released a statement late Tuesday afternoon announcing that he would hold a press conference at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the Ashdod Port for foreign journalists and diplomats on the seizure of the Iranian arms ship.

Next was Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who invited journalists to the Ashdod Port at 6:15 a.m., where he would be the first government official to inspect the arms cache that Israel Navy commandos had captured aboard the German-owned Victoria cargo ship the day before.

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IDF releases list of weapons on the 'Victoria'
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Last was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who announced that he would be arriving at the port at 1:30 p.m. to meet with soldiers and review the cache.

Slowly, Barak and Ayalon began to fall in line. Ayalon pushed off his press conference, and Barak – at 1:20 a.m. – announced that he would not in the end arrive at the crack of dawn, but would come together with Netanyahu. The two were joined by Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein.

Responsibility for inviting the press was given to the IDF, which summoned reporters, photographers and cameramen to arrive at the port at 12 p.m. But then began the security inspections.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – which is responsible for guarding the prime minister – arrived at the dock at around 10 a.m. and by the time the media started showing up, they had barely completed setting up one metal detector and three different checkpoints that journalists needed to cross. Representatives of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, on the other hand, had arrived to begin setting up the dock shortly before 8 a.m.

Unable to handle the large number of journalists, the line just stood still and did not move for over an hour. Most reporters and cameramen stood under the hot Ashdod sun for close to 90 minutes.

At one point, as the line grew and the Shin Bet stopped inspections, a group of 30 journalists announced that they were leaving.

“Israel shoots itself in the foot every time,” one disgruntled journalist said as he walked away. “Now, at least, everyone will understand why the pictures of the weaponry aren’t going to be broadcast all over the world.”

The cause of the delay was the Shin Bet, which instituted stringent security measures due to Netanyahu’s planned arrival. Senior IDF officers were made to undergo the inspections; some even had to take their army-issue boots off before being allowed to go through the metal detector.

Deputy commander of the navy, Rear-Admiral Rani Ben- Yehuda, stood in line like the rest of the media, despite his rank and clearance.

Members of the prime minister’s press office stood by helpless, and ultimately admitted that the security conditions were extreme. “We will look into it,” Netanyahu’s spokesman Gidi Shmerling told a number of reporters.

One veteran reporter had the best idea for Shmerling: “Next time, don’t have Netanyahu come,” he said.

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