Bum Rap

Israel has suspended the press credentials of two correspondents for American news organizations because they failed to submit to military censors their stories about the assassination of Palestine Liberation Organization official Khalil Wazir in Tunisia. Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post and Martin Fletcher of NBC News are charged with violating a law that stories relating to "security matters" must be cleared by censors. Technically, perhaps, the somewhat vague law--which doesn't clearly define security matters--was circumscribed. But it can hardly be claimed that this in any way threatened Israel's national security.

It's clear from the many stories that have passed through Israeli censorship that most of the detailed information about the assassination has come from well-informed official sources. Officially, the government neither confirms nor denies its role in the killing. Unofficially, high military and intelligence as well as political figures have rushed to provide details about the intricate operation that led to Wazir's murder. Frankel and Fletcher were only reporting what their government sources told them, meaning what those sources wanted the world to know. The accuracy of their reports is not in dispute; only their failure to comply with an ambiguous rule is at issue. Suspending their credentials over this issue makes the Israeli government look petty, vindictive and absurd.

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