TEL AVIV – Have you noticed that in the TV coverage of the Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas, all we've seen are missiles, explosions and their sad aftermath?
We haven't seen one image of an Israeli firing a gun. Same thing goes for Hamas.
Although Hamas fighters are hunkered down in homes, mosques, schools and even in hospitals, according to Palestinians who can see them, we haven't seen one picture of a Hamas fighter with a gun in a military situation, let alone firing it.
It's an extreme case of "Control the Message."
|SLIDESHOW: Gaza chaos|
Both sides are doing it. Israel has closed the border area to any journalists (or civilians it feels don't have any business there). And Israeli citizens, whose sons and daughters are fighting the war – and who know the government's policy on images from war zones – are understandably reluctant to release cell-phone video of the scenes.
Hamas achieves the same result in a different way: they simply threaten to kill anybody who films them. That's a persuasive argument, especially as most, if not all, of the reporters in Gaza at the moment are local Palestinians, who have nowhere to escape to.
And in Rafah, on the Egyptian section of the Gaza border, where local police violently suppressed demonstrations against Israel's invasion – and also protests critical of Egypt's alleged collusion with Israel – all video was confiscated from reporters.
In the West Bank, Palestinian police dealt with pro-Hamas demonstrators in the same way, but more brutally. Reporters were beaten and threatened before having their tapes taken from them.
Each side wants to be the 'victim'
What is the message that is being so brutally controlled? It's the same as always: each side wants to be portrayed as the victim, one that doesn't have a choice but to defend itself.
All we see broadcast in Israel are homes battered by Palestinian rockets, with their intrinsic message that the Israelis have no choice but to retaliate against Hamas in order to return "peace and serenity" to its people.
And from Gaza, all we are allowed to see are crushed homes, bleeding adults and dead children. Their message: look what they're doing to us, the world must stop them.
The irony, of course, is that the message from both sides is right – that the violence should stop. However, each side protests that only its violence is justified.
Israel and its supporters argue that there is no equivalence – they have been rocketed for years before their patience ran out. For Hamas, their charter states their goal – to destroy Israel.
For onlookers, images of destruction, each side's key propaganda weapon, are confusing. Can anybody be right if all this is so wrong?
And that's the job of a reporter – to report the story of both sides as fairly as he can, while each side limits his or her access to the truth.
Related link: Reporters locked out of Gaza war zone