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Media Analyses





In LA Times Gaza-Israel Photo Slideshow, Hamas Not in Picture


In The Los Angeles Times' online photography slideshow about the Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas is literally not in the picture. As of this writing, the collection of 75 photographs, including many by Times photographer Carolyn Cole, does not include a single photograph of anyone identified as a Hamas fighter, dead or alive. According to Times photo editors, the Israeli army and Gaza's civilians are the only players in this conflict. Hamas literally does not have a role. (The collection is constantly being expanded.)
 
And it's not just the pictures. Not a single one of the 75 captions includes any mention whatsoever of the word "Hamas." And just once do the captions mention the word "rocket."
 
The closest the captions come to acknowledging that the Israeli army is facing off not against an unarmed civilian population teeming with children and women, but with an organization recognized as a terrorist group by the United States, armed to the teeth and trained by Iran, are two references to "Palestinian militants" accompanying photographs of Israeli soldiers in or next to the tunnels Hamas has dug to infiltrate into Israel. The only veiled allusions to Hamas, which has fired more than 2,600 rockets at Israeli civilians since the start of this round of violence, are the following photos and captions:
 
 
The caption states: "Israeli army officers gives journalists a tour of a tunnel at the Israel-Gaza border said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks."
 
 
The caption reads: "An Israeli soldier walks away from the entrance of a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks."
 
Beyond the delicate erasure of any mention of Hamas, the captions also obscure by stating that the tunnels are "said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks," as if the facts surrounding the multiple cross-border attacks – both failed and successful – have not yet been established. As if some 10 Israeli soldiers have not yet already been killed as a result of these attacks "said" to have taken place.
 
Nor does the photo essay include a single image of a Palestinian rocket, although it is the barrage of rockets which prompted Israel's Operation Protective Edge in the first place. As of this writing, well over 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities from south to north, forcing millions of Israeli civilians into and out of shelters for weeks. Those living close to the Gaza Strip have only 15 seconds to flee to safety. Nevertheless, The Times' photo editors didn't deem the rockets worthy of inclusion in this graphic depiction of the conflict. If Hamas thugs would not allow photographs of rockets sitting in schools or being fired from among high-rise residential buildings, then surely photo editors can include one or more of the many available images of rockets flying through the air heading towards Israel. But they did not.
 
And, while Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket has proven highly successful, with a success rate of close to 90 percent, unfortunately, there were many instances of rockets hitting Israeli homes and communities, and photographs of the damage and destruction are there for those who want them. But apparently, Times editors were not interested in pictures, like that below, of the remains of rockets or the remains of Israelis' homes left by those rockets.
 
A destroyed house in Yehud, central Israel, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip July 22 (Photo by Ziv Koren/Polaris/Newscom)
 
The only indication in the entire photo collection that rockets are even an aspect of this conflict is this one photograph of Israeli civilians seeking shelter in a concrete pipe:
 
 
The caption reads: "People shelter in a concrete pipe during a Palestinian rocket attack on the southern Israeli village of Nitzan on July 10." That is the singular appearance of the word "rocket" in the entire collection.
 
Hamas fighters have worked hard to blend into the civilian population, by fighting in street clothes instead of uniforms, by establishing headquarters in a hospital, by stashing rockets in schools, and by firing from mosques and homes. In addition, Hamas officials have urged the social media activists to identify all fatalities as civilian, and they have reportedly intimidated journalists into silence about their belligerent activities. If photographers can't – or won't – take photos of Hamas fighters, their weapons or their uniforms, then editors have an added responsibility to make Hamas' presence known via the captions.
 
But editors fail dismally on this count. When Gaza civilians are killed as Israel fires back at Hamas rocket launchers who positioned themselves in the midst of civilians, The Times keeps mum about Hamas. For instance, there are numerous photographs depicting devastation in the Shajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, such as the one below.
 
 
The caption states: "At the start of a 12-hour cease-fire, people scour the rubble of their homes in the Shajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, looking for the dead and recovering what they can."
 
No do any of the captions regarding Shajaiya note that it is a Hamas stronghold, replete with tunnels and traps under homes. The Times' itself reported:
Promptly at 8 a.m., people began flooding into the ruined district of Shajaiya, which had been largely inaccessible because of airstrikes and gunfire exchanges that all but leveled parts of the neighborhood.

Shajaiya is known as a militant stronghold. Posters of suicide bombers and others who died in the wars with Israel are plastered on walls in the less damaged parts.

In an earlier article, The Times had reported:
They had fled the shelling in Beit Lahiya, moving in with the rest of the family in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaiya. A few days later, Israeli ground forces, backed by tanks, moved into the area overnight, exchanging intense fire with militants they said had built tunnels under the homes to strike at Israel.
Worse, several unsubstantiated captions blame Israel for the July 24 attack on an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun in which 16 were reportedly killed, despite the fact that The Times' own news article – along with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – both stated that the circumstances of the attack are unknown. The unsubstantiated captions include the following:
 
 
The caption accompanying Cole's photograph states: "At least 12 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a U.N. shelter housing evacuees was hit by an Israeli shell Thursday afternoon, July 24, 2014. At the Jabalia hospital morgue, the body of a young child is placed in the cooler."
 
 
The caption states: "Palestinian children on the floor of the emergency room at Kamal Adwan hospital in the Gaza Strip. They were wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun."
 
But as The Times' Alexandra Zavis had reported:

But the circumstances remained murky late in the day Gaza authorities accused Israel of targeting the school in Beit Hanoun with tank fire and said it was guilty of a war crime. Israel Defense Forces officials said the area was a battle zone and that they had asked international organizations to evacuate the school Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"From initial inquiries done about the incident militants opened fire at IDF soldiers from the school area," the Israeli military said in a statement. "In order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives, they responded with fire toward the origins of the shootings. The IDF is still reviewing the incident."

Since Zavis' article was published July 24, the Israeli army released the findings of its preliminary investigation on July 27. The IDF stated:
The preliminary report indicates that militants fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers, who then responded by firing several mortars in their direction.
 
The preliminary inquiry and footage indicate that a single errant mortar landed in the courtyard of the UNRWA school, when it was completely empty
 
In light of the inquiry's findings, the IDF rejects the claims that were made by various officials immediately following the incident, that people were killed in the school premises as a result of IDF operational activity.
CAMERA has provided editors with all of the relevant information about the Beit Hanoun incident, but they have yet to set the record straight.
 
Virtually Nonexistent Israeli Civilians
 
Israeli civilians, too, are virtually invisible in the Web site's graphic depiction of the conflict. Out of a total of 75 images as of this writing, only two depict Israeli civilians. Besides the aforementioned image of Israeli civilians seeking shelter in a concrete pipe, there is an image of Israelis at two opposing demonstrations, one in favor of the Gaza operation and one against.
 
In addition to the two photos of Israeli civilians, there are six photographs of Israeli soldiers, and three photographs of funerals for Israeli soldiers. Thus, out of a total of 11 photographs about the Israeli side, two, or 18 percent, depict Israel civilians.
 
In contrast, out of the 56 photographs depicting Palestinian people, 100 percent ostensibly show civilians. If there are Hamas members among them – and images of several combat-aged men do appear – The Times doesn't say. The images of Palestinian people break down as follows: 28 pictures of uninjured civilians in Gaza, and 27 photographs depicting Gaza casualties. The latter includes bloody images of dead and wounded, as well as funerals and grieving relatives. There is also one photograph of Palestinians in the West Bank. There are zero photographs which identify Hamas members or their funerals.
 
Besides the 56 photographs of Palestinians, there are an additional eight photographs of destruction, explosions and flares in Gaza. 
 
Hamas' Interior Ministry should be pleased with The Times' slideshow. After all, it perfectly complies with the ministry's guidelines to social media activists to always identify casualties as innocent civilians, to avoid photographs of rockets being fired from residential areas (and here, The Times goes even further, avoiding rockets entirely), and to always treat Israeli accounts as false.
 
CAMERA queried Times editors about the news judgment considerations involved in the selection of these images. As of publication time, we have not received a response.

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