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Media Analyses





Updated: In Gaza, Macabre Manipulations of a Child Victim


Update, 1 pm EST: Following communication from CAMERA, Reuters commendably clarifies

Update, Nov. 19: Following communication from CAMERA, CNN Revisits Story

Not for the first time, the death of a Palestinian child killed in hotly disputed circumstances is being categorically blamed on Israel. Elder of Ziyon blogger was the first to catch the latest case, involving the death of 4-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah of Jabaliya, whose body was photographed with Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil as he visited the Gaza Strip Friday.

Photos of the boy's body on display were distributed by the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters, all of whose captions categorically stated that the boy was killed in an Israeli air strike, despite the fact that news articles by the New York Times and even AP itself made clear that the circumstances behind his death were "hotly disputed," (as AP put it), and that he may have been killed by an errant Palestinian rocket. CNN's Sara Sidner also reported as fact that Mahmoud Sadallah is "another victim of an [Israeli] air strike," ignoring evidence to the contrary.

About the boy's death, the New York Times reported:

It is unclear who was responsible for the strike on Annazla: the damage was nowhere near severe enough to have come from an Israeli F-16, raising the possibility that an errant missile fired by Palestinian militants was responsible for the deaths. (Emphasis added.)

Moreover, AP reports about Sadallah's death:

Israel vehemently denied involvement, saying it had not carried out any attacks in the area at the time.

Mahmoud's family said the boy was in an alley close to his home when he was killed, along with a man of about 20, but no one appeared to have witnessed the strike. The area showed signs that a projectile might have exploded there, with shrapnel marks in the walls of surrounding homes and a shattered kitchen window. But neighbors said local security officials quickly took what remained of the projectile, making it impossible to verify who fired it. (Emphasis added.)

A sampling of photo captions stating categorically that Israel is responsible for the boy's death despite information to the contrary follows:
 
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (2nd R) and Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (2nd L) touch the body of a Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike, during a visit to a hospital in Gaza City November 16, 2012. Israel's military denied on Friday that it had carried out attacks in the Gaza Strip during a visit to the enclave by Kandil. REUTERS/Mahmud Hams/Pool (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
 
A Palestinian doctor carries the body of a baby boy who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on November 16, 2012 during the visit to the al-Shifa hospital by the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (unseen). AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS/POOLMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian boy Fares Sadallah, 11, cries as he sits outside his home which was damaged following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, on November 16, 2012. Egypt's premier vowed to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a truce and urged world leaders to end Israel's "aggression" in Gaza, as he visited the Hamas-run enclave. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABEDMOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images
 
 
A Palestinian doctor carries the body of a baby boy who was killed in an Israeli air strike, during the visit by the Palestinian Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (both unseen), to the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, 16 November 2012. Israeli forces launched a heavy barrage of bombs at the break of dawn but also announce a three hours ceasefire during the visit of the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Ashraf Amra Palestinian casualties of Israeli airstrikes at al-Shifa hospital, Gaza City - 15 Nov 2012 (Rex Features via AP Images)
 
 
Ismail Haniya and Hisham Qandil visit to a hospital in Gaza City Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh and Egypt's Prime Ministe,r Hisham Kandil in the Gaza Strip - 16 Nov 2012 Egyptian premier Hisham Qandil vowed to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a truce and end Israel's "aggression" in Gaza, after a strike killed two as he visited the strip (Rex Features via AP Images)

Photographic Propaganda by Ashraf Amra

The photographs distributed by AP were not taken by an AP photographer, but by the Rex features photo agency. The first of the above images was taken by Ashraf Amra, whose work last week included this specimen:

 
Nov. 12, 2012 - Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory - Palestinians inspect damage in their land damaged in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 13, 2012. The spike in violence, which comes as Israel is in the middle of an election campaign, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli military campaign to stamp out rocket fire, although commentators said it was unlikely it would be one on the scale of Operation Cast Lead. Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Newscom

We have noted before that Palestinians have strategically placed their children among piles of rubble to stage emotive photographs, but Amra took this phenomenon to new heights by photographing an infant crawling in a giant pit to "inspect damage." Here is more from Amra's children-inspecting-damage-in-their-land series last week:

 
Nov. 12, 2012 - Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory - Palestinians inspect damage in their land damaged in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 13, 2012. The spike in violence, which comes as Israel is in the middle of an election campaign, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli military campaign to stamp out rocket fire, although commentators said it was unlikely it would be one on the scale of Operation Cast Lead
 
Nov. 12, 2012 - Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory - Palestinians inspect damage in their land damaged in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 13, 2012. The spike in violence, which comes as Israel is in the middle of an election campaign, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli military campaign to stamp out rocket fire, although commentators said it was unlikely it would be one on the scale of Operation Cast Lead
 
But photographing children placed in rubble for propaganda purposes is restrained child's play for Ashraf Amra, whose work this week includes exploitive, gratuitiously exhibitionist photos of the naked body of 4-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah:
 
Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory - A Palestinian doctor carries the body of a baby boy who was killed in an Israeli air strike, during the visit by the Palestinian Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Newscom)
 
Reputable news agencies should not distribute exploitive, manipulative photographs by blatant propagandists like Ashraf Amra. Media outlets that take themselves for credible sources should not publish captions that categorically indict Israel for the killing of a Palestinian boy while ignoring information pointing to Palestinian rockets as a culprit. CAMERA has contacted editors at CNN, AP, AFP and Reuters requesting clarifications. Stay tuned for updates.

Update, 1 pm EST: Following communication from CAMERA, Reuters commendably clarifies

Within hours of receiving communication from CAMERA concerning the photo caption which unequivocally blamed Israeli for the death of Mahmoud Sadallah, despite information to the contrary, Reuters has commendably refiled the image with the following clarification:

REFILE - REMOVING REFERENCE WHICH STATES THAT THE BOY WAS KILLED IN AN ISRAEL AIR STRIKE AND ADDING NEW INFORMATION Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (C) and Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (2nd L) touch the body of a Palestinian boy during a visit to a hospital in Gaza City November 16, 2012. Hamas says the boy was killed by an Israeli air strike but Israel's military denies any raids at the time. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the leading human rights group in Gaza Strip that documents every single Israeli attack that takes place, does not include this child's name on its list of victims. Picture taken November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Mahmud Hams/Pool (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

CAMERA commends Reuters for its straightforward, thorough clarification. Will AFP, CNN and AP follow suit?

Nov. 19 Update: Following Correspondence with CAMERA, CNN Revisits the Story

Last night, CNN Interntational and American CNN broadcast the following update about Sadallah's death:
 

Here is the transcript of the segment:

DON LEMON: Follow-up now to a story from Friday about the death of a 4- year-old boy in Gaza. The child's death got a lot of attention after his body was kissed by Egypt's prime minister during a tour of a Gaza hospital. And we need too warn you about the video you are about to see. It is heartbreaking and may be considered disturbing to some viewers. For our report, CNN visited the child's home that neighbors said had been bombed five hours previously. Neighbors and family members told CNN they heard an aircraft before the explosion. Israeli military told CNN today it did not carry out any air strikes at the time of the child's death. Israeli Defense Force says it stopped attacks because of a visit of Egypt's prime minister, raising questions about what caused that fatal blast.

Among the other possibilities, the misfire of a Hamas rocket intended for Israel. CNN's crews in Gaza says it saw two such rockets passing overhead, apparently fired not far from where the boy lived.

CNN has not removed or clarified the original video on its Web site blaming the boy's death unequivocally on Israel.

In a separate development, the Telegraph reports:

But there were signs on Saturday that not all the Palestinian casualties have been the result of Israeli air strikes. The highly publicised death of four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah appeared to have been the result of a misfiring home-made rocket, not a bomb dropped by Israel.

The child’s death on Friday figured prominently in media coverage after Hisham Kandil, the Egyptian prime minister, was filmed lifting his dead body out of an ambulance. "The boy, the martyr, whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about," he said, before promising to defend the Palestinian people.

But experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday said they believed that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket. . . .

Less than 24 hours after her youngest son’s death, Esmat Sadallah, Mohammed’s mother, was too bereft to apportion blame. It was possible he was struck by a rocket fired by Palestinian fighters, she said. It was also possible he was killed in an Israeli strike, she added, although nobody had heard the sound of a drone or plane in the sky just before the explosion.


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