March 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm 2 comments

Continued from:

Photographs with captions

that lie


Excerpts from his book “How to avoid Armageddon”

Available through Amazon

Click:  type: how to avoid armageddon 

News reporters, cameramen and editors need to work quickly in order to meet unrelenting deadlines. This constant rush to get things done can lead to blunders, especially when accompanied by knee-jerk responses. A striking example took place on September 30, 2000, when an Associated Press photograph was printed in dozens of prominent newspapers all over the world, showing an angry-looking, helmeted Israeli policeman, wielding a baton. In front of the policeman is a young man crouching with his head and shirt covered in blood. The New York Times carried a brief caption that explained what appeared to be obvious in the scene: “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.” Other newspapers carried similar captions. Readers all over the world were provided with yet another heart-rending scene that showed Israeli brutality committed against a helpless, bleeding Palestinian.

But studying the photograph one is immediately perplexed. Just behind the policeman is the incongruous sign of a gas station with the price of a liter of gasoline. There is no way that the Temple Mount, the holiest spot on earth for Jews, and under Muslim jurisdiction, would have a gasoline station. How could this have been possible?

A day or two later Dr. Aaron Grossman of Chicago clarified the conundrum with a letter to The New York Times, in which he explained that the victim was not a Palestinian. The battered young man in the picture was his son, Tuvia, who had been studying in a Jewish religious seminar in Jerusalem and that the Israeli policeman in the picture was protecting his son who had been brutally attacked by Arabs. Clearly, the misleading caption reflected sloppy work ethics and bias, which are unfortunately encountered all too often even in the most prestigious publications. Tuvia reported that he and two friends had been traveling in a taxicab when they were suddenly stopped by a large mob of Arabs, dragged out of the taxicab and severely punched, kicked, pounded on the head with rocks and stabbed. Tuvia managed to get away from them and scrambled to a nearby gas station, where he collapsed. An Israeli policeman wielding a club arrived in the nick of time and protected him against the raging mob. This was when the infamous picture was taken by a freelance photographer who was near the gas station. The policeman had probably saved Tuvia’s life.

To its credit, The New York Times subsequently published corrections on October 4 and 7, as well as an article that clarified the scene. Other newspapers also printed corrections. Actually, they had no alternative because the Hebrew print on the gas station sign and Dr. Grossman’s letter showed that mention of the Temple Mount and claiming the victim was an Arab, were ridiculous and warranted prompt explanations.

Here was yet another example of a mindset among a large part of the media everywhere that immediately, without checking facts, jumps at any opportunity to portray Israel as the shameful aggressor.

Meanwhile, adding to the preposterousness of the affair, a number of Arab and Muslim organizations have continued to use the picture, blithely presenting Tuvia Grossman as a Palestinian victim of Israeli violence. And thus, a picture or report purporting to illustrate the villainy of Israel, even when shown up clearly to be fraudulent, is nevertheless misleadingly represented over and over again. Subsequent retractions or admission of error by publishers or presenters of TV programs are appreciated. But unfortunately the damage remains.

*   *   *

Many journalists are ready to accept unconditionally, the claims of official or unofficial Arab sources about alleged Israeli killings of civilians, while ignoring or downplaying Israel’s version of the events. It must be said that at least up to the time of this writing, Israel has not been as prompt or assertive in its official statements as the Arab side. Perhaps this stems from a policy of trying to present statements as accurately as possible. (As an open society, Israeli spokespersons cannot make invalid statements with impunity because they would be found out sooner or later and pilloried in the local press.)

Also, many newspapers all over the world, when receiving information from Israeli sources that contradicts Arab claims, often push it down to the middle or end of the article. In many cases they just ignore the Israeli version of events altogether.

The Palestinians are generally perceived as the clear underdog in this confrontation. Scenes appearing on the pages of the international press and on TV screens everywhere of teenagers and even children, facing Israeli soldiers firing (rubber) bullets or (smoke) grenades, and defiantly throwing stones at tanks, must arouse deep sympathy among the viewers and reporters alike. Scenes of Palestinian guerrilla fighters facing Israeli helicopter gunships, tell a story of intrepid freedom fighters staking their lives against a ruthless, occupying power. This notion of the situation automatically appeals to people. There’s drama and a struggle against what is perceived as gross unfairness and injustice. People want something to be indignant about, and the media grants them what they want without giving them any cause to wonder how it is possible for children armed with stones to square off against the vaunted Israeli Army’s tanks.

Another reason for the media’s cool treatment of Israel is because it is a western, secular, democratic society, in addition to being the people who gave the world a code of ethics, therefore it is natural for the press and the public to have higher expectations and thus readily find fault when Israel appears to be less than perfect.  Some reasons are undoubtedly due to ignorance regarding the history of the conflict and naivete, thus making it easy to accept false claims by Israel’s adversaries.

Also, Israel has a very open, democratic Israeli society, with many people highly critical of government policy, and freely expressing their views throughout the local and overseas media, while on the other hand, the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the brutal Hamas government in Gaza, with a much tighter grip on their own media, employ very drastic measures to stifle dissent and prevent statements by their people that might be seen as complimentary towards the Jews or to Israel.

And finally, as illustrated earlier in the Tuvia Grossman incident, even the most pedantic reporters and editors need to consider deadlines. It is far easier to use material obligingly presented by Arab spokespeople and their sympathizers, and that can be appreciated by the public, than to carefully check every photograph or piece of information for veracity, often needing to double check with the Israeli side and then search for relevant background material.

As a Jew and an Israeli I am aware of being sensitive to criticism or uncomplimentary coverage of my people and my country. This sensitivity could be due to my people’s less than happy past. I don’t know if I am more sensitive than the average non-Jewish person living elsewhere about his or her country. I believe that I do engage in frequent stock-taking about my attitudes and responses to things. However, very often when perusing the media, the slant and bias are all too obvious.

To order the book click:  type: how to avoid Armageddon


Entry filed under: Blogroll, dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, Solutions for Palestine, United Nations. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .


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