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Joe the Plumber Starts His Reporting Gig in Israel

SDEROT, Israel -- Joe the Plumber has set aside his wrenches to become a rookie war correspondent, covering Israel's side of its two-week-old military offensive in Gaza.

The Ohio man, who rocketed to fame during the U.S. presidential campaign for asking Barack Obama about his tax plan, was in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Sunday to tell readers of the conservative pjtv.com Web site about the rockets that rain down from the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The people of Sderot "can't do normal things day to day" like get soap in their eyes in the shower, for fear of rockets, said America's most famous plumber, who's real name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher.

"I'm sure they're taking quick showers," he said. "I know I would."

Wurzelbacher's status as a rookie was evident when he stood in front of a pile of spent rockets and said: "I have thousands of questions but I can't think of the right one."
What he could summon was contempt for Israel's critics, who are outraged by the more than

870 Palestinians killed in Israel's bruising air and ground onslaught against Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers. Thirteen Israelis have also died since the operation began, including four killed by the rocket fire that touched off the war in the first place.

"Why hasn't Israel acted sooner?" Wurzelbacher asked. "I know if I were a citizen here, I'd be damned upset."

He described himself as a "peaceloving man," but added, "when someone hits me, I'm going to unload on the boy. And if the rest of the world doesn't understand that, then I'm sorry."

Wurzelbacher, who underwent intense media scrutiny during the campaign, said he was enlisted to cover Israel because he's "an expert on media bias."

"I was on the short end of the stick," like Israel is now, he said.

When Wurzelbacher joined Republican Sen. John McCain on the campaign trail, he agreed with a supporter who asked if he thought "a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel."

Wurzelbacher said the full story of Israel's campaign against Hamas isn't coming out on mainstream news outlets. He said they are demonizing Israel instead of recognizing it as the victim of Gaza militants who have fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past eight years.

"It's asinine when someone is firing upon you and the world is coming down on you," he said. "Common sense has gone out the window.

"Hamas hides among its own people," causing civilian casualties, he added. "But I hear no cry out from the international community."

That's the Israeli government's position, too. And though foreign reporters normally have to provide proof of experience to receive government authorization to report from Israel, Wurzelbacher was being escorted Sunday on his first reporting gig ever by the head of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman, and a press office photographer.

Wurzelbacher said he's been "embraced" by the people of Israel because "they know I have no agenda but the truth." But his arrival in a busy cafe elicited no overt signs of recognition. He appeared to cause more of a stir among the press there.

This is his first trip to Israel, and he pronounced himself "happy to be here."

But war correspondent or not, Wurzelbacher won't get to Gaza: Israel has barred access to foreign journalists.

"If he wants to put on an Israeli military uniform and go in as a volunteer, maybe," Seaman quipped. "Nobody goes in."