The photograph of BBC Arabic editor Jihad Masharawi holding the shrouded body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, went viral within hours of the commencement of Israel’s Operation pillar of Defense in November 2012. The photograph depicted Masharawi outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The young Masharawi’s death was attributed to an Israeli airstrike. The photograph was featured on the Web and in newspapers around the world. The Daily Mail published a series of photographs of Jihad Masharawi enacting his grief for the cameras.
In our first post of several on the photo, on the morning of November 15, I asked whether the photo was for real and raised the question whether it was an instance of Terrorist Theater, citing my Weekly Standard article “He didn’t give at the office” on the phenomenon. Now the advance copy of a UN report on the hostilities in Gaza now suggests that the death of young Masharawi resulted from an errant Hamas rocket. The report suggests that young Masharawi was hit by shrapnel from a Hamas rocket intended for Israel.
How are the journalists who publicized the story as advertised by Masharawi dealing with the UN report? I intend to take a look in a series of posts this week of which this is the first.
On November 15 the Washington Post featured the photograph on page 1 above the fold with the attribution of responsibility to Israel (image below). Washington Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher had a companion post with thoughts on the deep meaning of the photo. (Fisher’s post includes photos forwarded to him by Danahar.) Fisher returned on November 16 with yet more deep thoughts in which he acknowledged that “[s]upporters of Israel’s airstrikes countered by suggesting that Misharawi’s home was bombed by an errant Hamas strike.”
Washington Post ombdudsman Patrick Pexton subsequently devoted a column to complaints about the photograph. Everything Pexton asserted directly or indirectly as a matter of fact was wrong. And remember, this guy was the newspaper’s ombudsman. The Post has some explaining to do.
The editors of the Post have yet to take up the subject of their use of the photo. So far they are exercising their right to remain silent and letting the AP article cited above, posted on its Web site, do their talking for them.
A late arriving spirit of skepticism descended on Max Fisher. On Twitter yesterday Fisher held out hope that the UN report was not referring to Masharawi. He tweeted: “Lots of pro-Israel readers sending this to me, but not sure I buy that this UN report is talking about Omar Mishrawi.” (The AP article clarifies the report on this point.)
Last night Fisher addressed the UN report. In his post last night, Fisher goes Rashomon on the subject:
The question of which “side” bears responsibility for Mishrawi’s death is of course important, if at the moment not fully known, in its own right. It’s also, in some ways, part of a larger battler over symbolism and narrative in the Israel-Palestine conflict. As I wrote at the time, the much-circulated photo of Mishrawi was championed by critics of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian territories, held up as a microcosm of what they argued was an unjust conflict that disproportionately affected Palestinians. A small but troubling minorities of those critics suggested the Israeli military does not care about, or even willfully targeted, Palestinian children.
Fisher and the Post remain oblivious to the phenomenon of Terrorist Theater. They therefore make themselves the willing tools and useful idiots of the jihad. Elder of Ziyon makes the same point more elaborately. He writes:
It doesn’t take a prophet to know that many of the rockets from Gaza have always landed inside Gaza. In fact, right before the outset of Cast Lead, when Hamas declared its own operation Oil Stain, two Gaza girls were killed by a Qassam rocket. It was reported by Reuters.
That was hardly an isolated incident, although the world media ignored the many injuries and damaged houses that Gaza rockets inflicted on Gaza.
The problem, that Fisher is trying to deflect, is that the reporters from his newspaper and all the other media purposefully ignored this fact that bloggers like me knew very well. They assumed that any civilian killed in Gaza must have been killed by Israel. Any other thought did not even cross their minds.
That is why this story is so popular on social media. It has nothing to do with this case being being a microcosm of the conflict. It is entirely about people being sick of being lied to by an arrogant media. It is about the fact that the supposed expert reporters on Gaza didn’t consider a simple fact about Qassam rockets that they should have known intimately. It is because they were too lazy to think critically – which is their job.
After years of seeing that Palestinian Arab spokespeople routinely lie, that they try to manipulate the media, that they would never admit any mistake on their side – and after years of seeing that practically every time the Israeli side of the story ends up being proven correct – the media still reflexively blames Israel, time and time again, for things that aren’t Israel’s fault.
It doesn’t take prescience to know this. It takes simple observation.
This is why this story strikes a chord, Max – because the media dropped the ball, in a way that it has dropped it countless times beforehand. Sadly, instead of learning that lesson, you are engaging in a magician’s redirection trick to take the focus away from the truth.
UPDATE: See also the “Who will tell the truth about teh Masharawi tragedy?” Answer: the Jerusalem Post blogger who wrote that post.