Gaza: Media Distortions in Words and Images
by Enza Ferreri
Won't Get Fooled Again, sang The Who.
Apparently many got fooled again and again, maybe because they wanted to.
The mainstream media people and outlets have published and circulated in various ways, including social media, photos and videos purportedly of Israel's Palestinian victims in Gaza which were in fact very doubtful, fake or not what they were described to be.
These are some of the several visual misrepresentations:
1) Hamas has used photos of children and other people wounded or killed in Syria and circulated them through social networks claiming they were Palestinians.
2) Jon Donnison, a BBC journalist, retweeted a dramatic photo of two children, one of whom dead on a stretcher, from an original tweet by Palestinian activist Hazem Balousha with the misleading description "Pain in #Gaza." The BBC reporter did not make any effort to verify the picture’s authenticity. In reality, the photo is from October 28 and the child was wounded in Syria.
Donnison later apologized for the retweet, but, after the original retweet had reached his over 7,000 followers and received almost 100 retweets, the damage was already done. As far as I know, the original Palestinian twitter did not issue any apology.
3) On the first day of the war The Guardian published a grotesque cartoon of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a huge, cruel, nasty-looking, all-powerful puppeteer pulling the strings of the UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, against the background of Israeli missiles and the writing "Vote Likud", hinting that, as BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen has suggested, re-election is the motive for Netanyahu's strikes in Gaza.
4) Hamas has, as other times before, been caught faking an image of a dead Palestinian child claiming that an Israeli strike was responsible, this time using a 4-year-old boy likely killed by its own rocket fire.
CNN's Sara Sidner ran a full report on the death of the child, Mahmoud Sadallah, strongly implying that he had been victim of an Israeli bomb. Associated Press news agency also used the image.
Even The New York Times had doubts about this. Several sources, including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, have now reported that the child was in reality not killed by Israel but by a Hamas rocket. Many bloggers exposed and reported the fakery.
In fact, the office of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that "60 of the 703 rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups since the start of the conflict have fallen on Palestinian civilians. The Israel Defense Force says that 99 rockets in total that were fired at Israel have hit Gaza itself in four days of conflict".
5) As Honest Reporting highlighted in its top 5 media fails, "The footage of a beige jacketed Palestinian man making a miraculous recovery after appearing to be injured in an Israeli airstrike was broadcast not only on the BBC but also on CNN." (video above)
The BBC, on the other hand, defended the footage it too had received from Reuters, claiming that the footage it broadcast was edited from a longer sequence.
This should not be too surprising. As Melanie Phillips says:
"In 2004, prompted by persistent concerns about anti-Israel bias, a report was written by broadcasting executive Malcolm Balen on the BBC’s Middle East coverage. The BBC has spent more than a third of a million pounds resisting legal efforts to force it to publish this report, which remains secret to this day."
In another post Phillips expands on this:
The fact is that broadcasters including the BBC have been falling for Pallywood scams for years, for two reasons. First, a number of the freelances involved in the news agencies supplying these materials are themselves Arab or Muslim partisans or Palestinians under the thumb of, or even supporters of, Hamas; and second, such is the western animus against Israel that western broadcasters simply don’t see what is right there under their noses, that the Palestinian ‘victims’ in these staged tableaux are quite obviously play-acting.
One further thought about the malevolently warped reporting of this latest phase in the Arab and Islamic war against Israel. Among British reporters and commentators, there is a pronounced obsession with the numbers killed on either side. The three Israelis killed this morning were all but brushed aside by reporters hastening to tell us that (at that stage) eleven Palestinians had been killed.
The implication is of course as odious as it is irrational -- that Israel cannot be considered the victim of aggression unless more of its citizens die. It is also odious to suggest some kind of moral equivalence between those killed by acts of aggression in the cause of exterminating a country, and those who are killed by that country in its own self defence.
The implication of the numbers game is that there is no moral difference between aggression and defence. That’s why so much of the reporting seeks to suggest a ‘cycle of violence’ or ‘tit-for-tat’ attacks. But there is no tit-for-tat cycle. There is aggression, and there is defence against aggression; there is attempted mass murder, and there is the attempt to prevent mass murder. Those who claim a ‘tit-for-tat’ cycle are effectively sanitising, and thus helping promote, mass murder.
As I wrote before, there is a certain widespread illogical assumption of direct proportionality between number of casualties and position on the moral high ground, therefore judging the ethicality of actions of Israelis and Palestinians not by what is morally relevant, namely the intended consequences and whether they are aggressive or defensive, but on the irrational basis of which side has had more dead in its midst, which can be, and in this case is, caused by morally irrelevant factors, like the higher or lower level of efficiency and advanced technology of either side's defensive apparatus.
In addition to fake images, the media are replete with "fake words", false assertions and misleading explanations.
I watched the political debate programme Question Time on the BBC, and I had to endure a "discussion" in which the two ends of the spectrum were ranging from the majority-view idea that both Israel and Hamas could find an everlasting peace if they only wanted and we all have to blame ourselves for not doing enough towards that admirable goal, to the claim of a moral equivalence between Iran and Israel - the usual fare of Muslims and their extreme left allies.
And on the BBC Radio 4's Any Questions member of the audience Stephen Bedford asked: "Despite all the foreign aid and support Israel has spectacularly failed to get on with its neighbours. Does Israel deserve a future?". Douglas Murray made these sharp comments in The Spectator's blog:
The same could be said of absolutely any and every country in the region. But I doubt that the Mr Bedfords of this world would ask whether these countries ‘deserve to have a future.’ And this isn’t a despotism we are speaking about, but an ally and a democracy. How does hatred like this become so mainstream?
Well, one reason is that so many British politicians, including Britain’s favourite idiot granny Shirley Williams, tell them lies about Israel which the BBC allows to go out uncorrected. Here is Shirley Williams in reply to the bigoted question with which (unlike the excellent two conservative voices on the panel) she had absolutely no problem.
[Liberal Democrat] Shirley Williams told the audience that Gaza is ‘a slum’ and then went on to say the following:
‘It’s crowded out to the gills. It’s full of people struggling to find a box in which to live. It’s full of people who see their land slowly eaten up by more and more Israeli settlements.’
What settlements? What ‘slow eating up’? Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. There is not a Jew in Gaza. Not a Jewish family, not a Jewish settlement, not a Jewish house, not a Jew. The place is – as the Palestinians have said they would like the West Bank to be if it comes under their full control – wholly and absolutely Judenrein. The last Jew in Gaza was Gilad Shalit. Does Shirley Williams think he was there building settlements for five years, rather than holed up in captivity as a hostage of Hamas?
Hamas and Palestinian activists' propaganda did - from their perverse viewpoint - a terrific job. The media didn't.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based author and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L'Espresso, La Repubblica.