Media coverage comes under scrutiny in any war, but none more so than the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are parallels between coverage of the latest Israeli onslaught against Gaza, and its invasion four years earlier. However, there are also striking differences, the biggest being that this time, there was no Israeli ban on media access into Gaza. This was not out of goodwill, but because such a ban would have been futile.
It was possible four years ago because Egypt's then-president Hosni Mubarak kept his side of the border with Gaza tightly sealed, much to the outrage of his own people and the wider Arab world. However, his elected successor Mohammed Mursi opened the border this time, so journalists would have been easily able to circumvent an Israeli ban. As such, Israeli authorities tried to facilitate the media to exert as much influence as possible over coverage.
The lack of a ban meant that there were far more foreign journalists in Gaza who could directly and immediately cover events there, challenge Israeli claims, relay the Palestinian narrative, and experience and humanise their suffering. It also allowed a greater NGO presence, as well as high-profile visits to the territory by regional politicians in solidarity with the Palestinians, which in turn garnered more media coverage.
Web hacking took on arguably a bigger role this time round, most notably with renowned hacker group Anonymous attacking Israeli government websites, and giving instructions on its twitter account for Gazans to get reconnected amid a lack of electricity.
The same is true of regional social, print and broadcast media in light of the Arab Spring, with an easing of restrictions allowing for freer expression, and a greater number and variety of media outlets covering the conflict.
Despite the lack of a media ban, there were still more foreign journalists in Israel than Gaza, because most news organisations covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are based in Israel, not the occupied territories.
This meant that by and large, people either got more of Israel's viewpoint, or at best, a highly distorted narrative of a conflict with equal sides. It also meant that Israeli authorities were still able to manipulate the flow of information, and journalists were better able to report and humanise Israeli suffering because they were in closer proximity.
BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has aptly said that "the best way to understand a place is to live there." As such, there is much more understanding of Israel than the occupied territories.
This goes a considerable way to explaining the continuing, woeful lack of context, which was limited to events just prior to the latest flare up of violence. Largely absent was sufficient background information on the siege of Gaza and the dire conditions it has created for Palestinians there, not to mention Israel's frequent, often unprovoked attacks.
Many argue that this lack of context is by design. That is true up to a point: when journalists, editors or proprietors have certain sympathies or biases. However, that can be difficult to prove, and there is not always a sinister agenda behind this trend.
One must also take into account limited airtime and article length, which means that longer-term context is often lacking in any conflict. As such, this media limitation inherently benefits Israel and its occupation, colonisation, siege and oppression, because they have gone on for so long that they have ceased to be newsworthy.
Israel once again attacked journalists, bombing on three occasions a building in which local and foreign media are based, causing several casualties, including a Palestinian journalist who lost a leg. "We obviously knew there were journalists in the building," said Israeli Defence Forces spokesperson Avital Leibovich.
Israel justified the attack because the building also housed Hamas-run media. "From our point of view, that's not a legitimate journalist," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, prompting the following response from Al Jazeera English presenter Darren Jordon: "So what are you saying, that a local Arab journalist's life is any less than an international journalist? You clearly are targeting the media. You're shooting the messenger."
Regev unwittingly made the case for declaring open season on Israeli media and journalists sympathetic to Israel. He would do well to realise, if he does not already, that according to Protocol 1, Article 79 of the Geneva Convention, targeting journalists is a war crime because they are considered civilians. Then again, civilians in Gaza and the West Bank fare no better.
Sharif Nashashibi is a London-based writer and Arab commentator. @sharifnash