For the children, Times style (2)

Last week I noted Robert Satloff’s analysis of the May 26 New York Times page-one feature on the Gaza war — “They were only children” As Satloff explained, the Times spread displayed thumbnail photos of “69 youths under 18 years old – 67 Palestinians and two Israelis, one Arab and one Jewish – killed in the 11 days of conflict between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Satloff exposed a basic problem with the page-one Times feature.

Following up on Satloff’s analysis, I want to note Jake Wallis Simons’s Spectator article “The problem with the New York Times’s Gaza coverage.” Subhead: “Every Israel-Gaza conflict sees fake images repackaged as Israeli aggression and circulated online.” Simons itemizes the post-publication disclosures regarding certain of the child victims depicted in the photo lineup on page one of the Times:

The first disclosure was that a charming photograph of a girl wrapped in a keffiyeh and smiling confidently in the first row of the collage was not, as the paper had claimed, 10-year-old Rahaf al-Masri. It was an unidentified picture from 2015.

How had the error occurred? Well, the fake image had simply been circulating on Twitter. This had apparently been enough for the New York Times to run with it — though it was not, of course, enough for the sleuths who followed their tracks, nor, one would have thought, for the public.

The unraveling gathered pace. It soon emerged that 17-year-old Khaled al-Qanoi, pictured in the fourth row of the Times’s heartrending montage, was in fact a fighter in the al-Mujahedeen Brigades, a terror group in Gaza.

A straightforward Facebook search brought up multiple images of al-Qanoi aiming rocket-propelled grenades, and posing in front of the militant group’s flag wearing a headband and brandishing an automatic weapon.

Had the Times journalists thought of checking Facebook, they may have found al-Qanoi’s eulogistic ‘martyr video’, put together by his terrorist comrades. Some social media posts carry more weight than others, it seems, where a certain 130 Pulitzer Prize-winning title is concerned.

Things were not looking good for the ill-fated front page. And they were only getting worse. It emerged that 15-year-old Mohammed Suleiman, on the second row of the montage, was the son of Saber Suleiman, a prominent Hamas commander.

Once again, it was unclear why the Times journalists had neglected to look at Facebook. If they had, they would have unearthed a video of Suleiman père et fils in matching combat fatigues, firing a heavy weapon together.

They would also have found photographs of young Mohammed brandishing an assault rifle at home, in the woods and while astride a horse, clad in a military uniform.

Initial reports claimed that father and son had been killed by an Israeli drone strike while ‘on their agricultural land outside the city of Jabalia’. Tending their crops, no doubt.

As the days ticked past, more holes began to appear in the already threadbare New York Times splash. There were suggestions that at least ten of the children pictured may have been killed by some of the 600-odd Hamas rockets that mistakenly landed in Gaza.

This is a classic case that inadvertently illuminates the trouble with the Times as a political actor and with the nature of Hamas, if only attention were to be paid. Whole thing here.

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