Wednesday, July 30, 2014
  Home
RSS Feed
Facebook
Twitter
Search:
Media Analyses
Journalists
Middle East Issues
Christian Issues
Names In The News
CAMERA Authors
Headlines & Photos
Errors & Corrections
Film Reviews
CAMERA Publications
Film Suggestions
Be An Activist
Adopt A Library
History of CAMERA
About CAMERA
Join/Contribute
Contact CAMERA
Contact The Media
Links
Privacy Policy
 
Media Analyses





Dissembling Demolitions


It has become a common, almost clichéd image in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: forlorn children scampering across the rubble of their demolished homes. These photographs graphically epitomize the narrative of the dispossessed Palestinians, literally cast out of their homes by a brutal Israel.

When Israel demolished three apartment buildings Oct. 26, 2003, in the Gaza Strip town of al-Zahara, photo services sent out the standard images. (The Israeli action followed an Oct. 24 attack by a Palestinian infiltrator into the nearby Jewish settlement of Netzarim in which three Israeli off-duty soldiers, including two female soldiers likely in their beds, were killed while in their living areas.) A sampling of pictures from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press, large agencies whose photos reach millions of readers in thousands of newspapers across the globe, include:

 Your Image

Palestinians search in the rubble of three buildings after they were dynamited by the Israeli troops in the town of Al-Zahara in the Gaza Strip 26 October 2003. Israeli troops blew up scores of apartments in the southern Gaza Strip after three soldiers were killed 24 October as they guarded Netzarim Jewish settlement. [CAMERA note: The soldiers were not killed "as they guarded" Netzarim. They were in their living quarters, probably asleep at the time of the attack. AFP has ignored CAMERA's calls to correct this error.] Some 2,000 Palestinian residents living nearby were evacuated from their homes as the three 13-storey buildings were dynamited in a single massive explosion. Israel security sources said that the partially-contsructed buildings had been used by Palestinian militants to spy on Israeli troop movement in Netzarim. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

 Your Image

Palestinian girls climb on the rubble of three buildings after they were dynamited by the Israeli troops in the town of Al-Zahara in the Gaza Strip 26 October 2003. Israeli troops blew up scores of apartments in the southern Gaza Strip after three soldiers were killed 24 October as they guarded Netzarim Jewish settlement [sic]. Some 2,000 Palestinian residents living nearby were evacuated from their homes as the three 13-storey buildings were dynamited in a single missive explosion. Israeli security sources said that the partially-constructed buildings had been used by Palestinian militatns to spy on Israeli troop movements. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Your Image

A Palestinian boy sits on the rubble of a building after it was blown up by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip town of al-Zahrah, October 26, 2003. The Israeli army blew up three 13-story Palestinian Authority buildings in the Gaza Strip on Sunday as part of what it said was a military operation, sending shock waves from the deafening explosion kilometers away. Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

 

Your Image

A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of three buildings after they were blown up by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip town of al-Zahrah, October 26, 2003. The Israeli army blew up three 13-story Palestinian Authority buildings in the Gaza Strip Sunday as part of what it said was a military operation, sending shock waves from the deafening explosion kilometers away. It was the largest Israel demolition of Palestinian buildings since the Palestinian uprising began three years ago after peace talks deadlocked. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

 Your Image

A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of three buildings after they were dynamited by the Israeli troops in the town of Al-Zahara in the Gaza Strip 26 October 2003. Israeli troops blew up scores of apartments in the southern Gaza Strip after three soldiers were killed 24 October as they guarded Netzarim Jewish settlement [sic].  Some 2,000 Palestinian residents living nearby were evacuated from their homes as the three 13-storey buildings were dynamited in a single massive explosion. Israeli security sources said that the partially-constructed buildings had been used by Palestinian militants to spy on Israeli troop movements in Netzarim. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

 

 Your Image

Palestinian girls climb in the rubble in the remains of three apartment buildings that were destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

 Your Image

A Palestinian girl stands in the remains of three apartment buildings that were destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

 Your Image

A Palestinian girl climbs on the remains of the an apartment building that was destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish Settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes.(AP/Kevin Frayer)

 Your Image

 A Palestinian youth sits next to the remains of an apartment building that was destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

 Your Image

 A Palestinian boy walks in the remains of an apartment building that was destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

 Your Image

Palestinian children make their way through rubble of three apartment buildings that were destroyed during an Israeli Army operation near the Netzarim Jewish settlement, south of Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003. Israeli forces retaliated Sunday for a deadly attack by militants on a nearby Jewish settlement, blowing up three large, empty buildings in Gaza after evacuating 2,000 Palestinians from their homes. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

 But, what critical fact is not readily apparent when viewing these photos and captions? None of the photographed children lost their homes during the Oct. 26 demolitions. In fact, despite the multitudes of photos implying otherwise, not a single Palestinian lost his home that day. Though some of the captions did indicate that the buildings were “partially constructed,” they did not spell out that they were uninhabited. The New York Times’ James Bennet reported that “The apartment buildings were built by the Palestinian Preventive Security force for its members before the conflict began more than three years ago, but they were never occupied” (“Israelis Blow Up Buildings in Gaza,” Oct. 27).

Why are sad Palestinian children so prominently and frequently featured posing on the rubble if they did not live there? Furthermore, why didn’t the photo services make clear that the children did not lose their homes?

The misleading implications of these wire service photos were carried into the print media outlets in which they appeared. The New York Sun, for example, featured the following AP close-up of three girls in the wreckage (Oct. 27, page 7):

 Your Image

Although the caption notes that “The buildings had been used as lookouts during the attack” on Netzarim, it failed to make clear that neither the pictured girls nor any other Palestinian inhabited the apartments. This information was available in the accompanying text, but while quick readers will look at headlines, photos and captions, they may not bother with the full article.

The al-Zahara case is not the first time that photographers have wrongly represented Palestinian children as newly homeless. For example, the following Feb.1, 2000 Reuters photo by Mahfouz Abu Turk, taken in Isawiyah, Israel, is especially explicit and erroneous:

 Your Image

 Palestinian boys find their toys among rubble of their just demolished home February 1. Eight members of the Sheikh Omar Family were living in this house which was destroyed for the second time today by Israeli authorities who claim the family do not have a proper building permit.

The catch? The Sheikh Omar family who owned the demolished house said they do not have children of that age and do not recognize the pictured children. Reuters told the Jerusalem Post that the children are relatives of the Sheikh Omar family but had not been living in the house (“Isawiya house demolition sparks anger,” Feb. 2, 2000.)

According to Danny Seaman, director of the Government Press Office, Palestinian photographers stage photographs and are handsomely compensated by foreign agencies. “The IDF announces that it is going in to demolish an empty house, but somehow afterwards you see a picture of a crying child sitting on the rubble. There is an economic level to that. The Palestinian photographers receive from the foreign agencies 300 dollars for good pictures,” he claimed in an Oct. 11, 2002 Kol Ha’Ir interview translated by Israel News Agency. Seaman did not provide evidence.

If true, the motivation of the Palestinian photographers taking such deceptive photos is clear. More troubling are the actions and motives of the international news agencies which solicit and distribute misleading or blatantly false photos and captions.


Bookmark and Share