There is a set routine for foreign correspondents arriving in Israel. They head straight for the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, a beautiful Ottoman-era pile, home to all sorts of useful United Nations and international officials. The bar is full of their colleagues, last met in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq. The assembled hacks will rapidly and fluently brief the new arrival on breaking political developments, the best ways to pass through checkpoints into the Palestinian Territories, and the latest, ablest translators and fixers. Neophytes will soon find the telephone ringing in their room with offers of the same, from friendly Palestinians. The Palestinian public-relations machine is a wonder to behold: it knows what Western journalists want. The Israelis could learn much from the ‘other side’. The Palestinians field young, attractive, US-educated professionals to make their case. Israel often wheels out snarling Yitzhak Shamir look- and sound-alikes, losing the battle for hearts and minds before they open their mouths.
Briefed by the Palestinian flaks, the journalists will trek to Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus, generally delayed or even harassed by aggressive teenage Israeli soldiers on the way. Once they are inside the Palestinian Territories, local contacts will provide them with the necessary soundbites about the petty malevolence of the Israelis,