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Media Analyses





AFP Photo Captions Holy Wrong


 
Oct. 26 — Agence France Presse photo captions yesterday packed in a number of errors, omissions and distortions concerning the Temple Mount and Palestinian violence.
 
First, captions yesterday published by the influential news service, including the one below, managed to incorrectly identify the most sacred holy sites in two major religions: Islam and Judaism. 
 
 
The caption states:
A general view shows Jerusalem's Old City's Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the Dome of the Rock (C), Islam's holiest site, and the Western Wall (front), Judaism's holiest site, on October 25, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an agreement to put 24-hour security cameras around Jerusalem's sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound was in Israel's interest. Tensions raised over clashes at the mosque compound, known as Temple Mount to Jews, have spiraled into a wave of daily knife attacks and shootings on Israelis as well as deadly protests. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI
The "Al-Aqsa mosque compound," or Temple Mount, is not Islam's holiest site. Islam's foremost sacred sites are in Mecca, not Jerusalem, as previously reported by AFP. (See, for example, "Muslim pilgrims gather pebbles in last major hajj rite," Sept. 23, 2015). The Al-Aqsa mosque is Islam's third most holy site.
 
In a second factual error which requires correction, the above caption falsely reports that the Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site. In fact, is it the Temple Mount, the site of the first and second Jewish Temples where the Holy of Holies once stood, which is the most sacred site in Judaism. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray, and its holiness derives from its proximity to the Temple Mount. 
 
In the past, this identical error has been corrected by a number of leading media outletsincluding The Telegraph, Haaretz, BBC, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and most recently, last week, The New York Times.
 
The next caption is extremely tendentious and misleading. While it (wrongly) notes the site's holy status for Muslims, it does not mention the fact that the Temple Mount, upon which the Al-Aqsa mosque sits, is Judaism's most sacred site.
 
 
 
The caption reads:
A general view shows Jerusalem's Old City's Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the Dome of the Rock (C), Islam's holiest site, on October 25, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an agreement to put 24-hour security cameras around Jerusalem's sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound was in Israel's interest. Tensions raised over clashes at the mosque compound, known as Temple Mount to Jews, have spiraled into a wave of daily knife and shootings on Israelis as well as deadly protests. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI
Clearly, the fact that the site is Judaism's holiest is absolutely essential to news consumers' understanding as to why the site is sensitive and why Israel has an interest in it at all.
 
Obscuring Palestinian Violence
 
Finally, also yesterday, in an unrelated caption distortion, a series of AFP captions accompanying photographs of demonstrations in Morocco absurdly characterize the recent Palestinian wave of daily knife attacks and shooting on Israelis, along with protests, as "violence between Palestinians, Israeli forces and Jewish settlers."
 
 
The caption reads:
MOROCCO, Casablanca: Moroccans shout slogans wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people, in Casablanca, on October 25, 2015. The outbreak of violence between Palestinians, Israeli forces and Jewish settlers in recent weeks has worsened in October, raising fears of a third intifada, or uprising. AFP PHOTO / FADEL SENNA
This inaccurate wording completely misrepresents the spate of Palestinian stabbing, ramming and shooting attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians, by no means all of them settlers. As CAMERA's UK Media Watch recently noted: "The current wave of Arab violence – as with most such attacks over the last 100 years– is not directed at 'settlers.' It’s directed at Jews." (Thanks to UK Media Watch, The Times of London has recently corrected a photo caption which wrongly characterized the attacks as targeting Jewish settlers.)
 
Other AFP captions yesterday, including those reproduced here, did more accurately characterize the Palestinian violence as "daily knife attacks and shootings on Israelis as well as deadly protests."
 
CAMERA has contacted editors to request corrections. Stay tuned for an update.

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