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The Missing Pictures of Gaza

Last week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency posed an interesting question to the New York Times: Why isn’t it publishing any pictures of Hamas fighters in Gaza? The answer from the Times and from other media outlets about the lack of any depictions of Hamas terrorists or rocket launchings speaks volumes about the biased nature of much of the coverage of the war.

The answer from the Times communications shop was candid if not particularly helpful. According to their spokesman, out of the hundreds of images of the fighting filed from Gaza by their photographers, there wasn’t a single clear one of one of the two sides in the conflict. The same appears to be true of all the other major news outlets, not to mention the broadcast networks and cable news channels operating in Gaza in large numbers. How is it that we have yet to see a single photo or video of Hamas personnel launching rockets at Israel even though we know that has happened literally thousands of times in the last few weeks? Is it that the intrepid war correspondents and video teams just happened to miss the chance to take the picture every single time the rockets went up? Or is there some other explanation?

There is simply no way that the battalions of journalists wandering around in the relatively tight confines of Gaza could have possibly missed every time a rocket was launched. Nor are the excuses being put forward by some journalists when asked about this astonishing gap in their coverage credible. We know that Hamas has thousands of armed fighters in Gaza.

It is true that most spend as much time as possible in the underground city of tunnels and bunkers that Hamas has constructed at great expense underneath the narrow strip. But they are not vampires. It is possible to take a picture of them when they emerge from their lairs to launch attacks on their enemies or to indiscriminately shoot rockets at Israeli cities. Indeed, unless the foreign journalists in Gaza are making a concerted effort to avoid doing so it would be hard for them to have contrived not to bump into some of them in the course of their efforts to cover instances of Israeli fire causing Palestinian casualties. Since the Israelis are returning fire at Hamas personnel either launching rockets or conducting other military operations, it would be next to impossible for them not to have noticed their presence.

The answer is fairly obvious: despite denials, foreign journalists in Gaza take great care not to depict Hamas military actions because to do so would be to jeopardize their ability to continue to report from Gaza or, even worse, invite attacks from these terrorists. This is not the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing happening. A generation ago, Thomas Friedman and others wrote about the difficulty of reporting accurately about the Palestine Liberation Organization when Yasir Arafat’s terrorists exercised their reign of terror in southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut. The same was true in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when CNN defended its exclusive niche in Baghdad by failing to tell the truth about what that evil regime was doing. Subsequent admissions from CNN about making tough decisions after Saddam’s fall make the network’s current disclaimers about its reporters and camera operators being subjected to intimidation ring false.

In saying this, I’m not castigating those reporters who are trying to report on the fighting in Gaza. It’s dangerous work in the best of circumstances and who are we to ask any of them to dare Hamas to kill them by taking pictures that would give the lie to the Islamists’ attempt to have the world believe the only thing going on in the strip is Israeli aggression and cruelty.

But that’s the reason why this is a topic that needs to be honestly addressed by the networks and publications that are helping to spread these talking points. If, as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough argued last week, the Jewish state is losing friends because of the pictures of horror emanating from Gaza, it’s fair to ask why those depictions are never balanced with footage or stills of the actions of terrorists inviting return fire from the Israelis.

To state this fact is not to deny that the suffering of civilians in Gaza is real. Nor can or should anyone claim that the injuries being inflicted on civilians by fire from Israeli aircraft or troops, including many children, is anything but horrific. There is no doubt that Israeli troops, like those American soldiers and marines operating under similarly restrictive rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes make mistakes. But to tell the story of this war without including the photographic and video proof of the way Hamas deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians is a travesty. Those who lecture Israel on the damage done to its image from the pictures of Palestinian children should at least have the guts to demand that those reporters and photographers working in Gaza either start doing their jobs or admit that they are either being intimidated from doing so or are engaging in biased journalism.


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6 Responses to “The Missing Pictures of Gaza”

  1. BEATRICE STEIN says:

    Why don’t Israeli photographers take pictures?

  2. WILLIAM HICKEY says:

    “World opinion” is slandering Israeli troops as “baby-killers,” “fascists” and “practitioners of genocide.”

    Those are exactly the same charges which “world opinion” leveled against American troops in Vietnam.

    Do you think American Jews – and others – are beginning to have second thoughts about the truth of those charges from 45 years ago, or about the real motives of the people who made them?

    It wasn’t peace and love, Baby.

  3. H M GARDNER says:

    Martin Savage on CNN did show a rocket taking off about 50 yards from the hotel he was staying in. It was, of course, in the middle of a built up area of civilian use.

  4. MANUEL LAZEROV says:

    The New York Times has sunk to a new low. Its despicable neglect to publish those pictures says it all.

  5. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    Tobin, why do you expect the U. S.liberal/progressive MSM, and the Establishment Conservative media reporting on foreign political events–which involve Obama and his policies–to be any different than their reporting on U.S. domestic political events? Your umbrage, if not outrage is simply another cover for your selfish, careerist, cowardly failure to report on Obama’s criminal past and present. The fact that you are joined by your colleagues, the Congress, and the Judiciary, in a despicable silence, does not lessen your responsibility to rank and file Conservatives to protect them from the criminal machinations of this regime. An affirmative obligation from which you have fled.

  6. PRISCILLA CHATTAH says:

    I work with a number of journalists, both print and broadcast, who have voiced their frustration over the difficulty covering the horrors in Gaza and Israel this past month. Regarding getting “visuals” of terrorists in action I refer you to a segment of a recent interview with the Pulitzer winning war photographer Tyler Hicks. Mr. Hicks’ comments below reference the basic issue of terrorism versus warfare: Hamas is operating in “plain sight” and out of sight, blended in with the local population it uses as a shield:

    Question: We have many photos of the casualties and destruction in Gaza. Why don’t we have many photos of Hamas fighters or missiles?

    A.
    This is a war fought largely behind the scenes. Hamas fighters are not able to expose themselves. If they were to even step a foot on the street they would be spotted by an Israeli drone and immediately blown up. We don’t see those fighters. They are operating out of buildings and homes and at night. They are moving around very carefully. You don’t see any signs of authority on the streets. If you can imagine every police officer, every person of authority in America gone, this is what that would look like.

    If we had access to them, we would be photographing them. I never saw a single device for launching the rockets to Israel. It’s as if they don’t exist.

    Sometimes people assume that you can have access to everything, that you can see everything. But the fighters are virtually invisible to us. What we do as photographers is document what we can to show that side of the war. There are funerals, there are people being rushed to the hospital, but you can’t differentiate the fighters from the civilians. They are not wearing uniforms. If there is someone coming into the hospital injured, you can’t tell if that’s just a shopkeeper or if this is someone who just fired a rocket towards Israel. It’s impossible to know who’s who. We tried to cover this as objectively as possible.




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