Friday, July 28, 2006

Is Reuters Running Out of Kids to Photograph? 

I recently took a stroll through Yahoo's Mideast Conflict News Photos, as is my wont when I'm looking for something easy to blog about -- if you have a blog that deals even remotely with media bias, you owe it to yourself to wade in there at least once a week because those posts practically write themselves.

You might think that I, a pro-Israeli blogger, would tremble and quake at the mere thought of sifting through all those insinuating captions, the photos of Israeli-inflicted damage from every conceivable angle -- and some of those twice -- not to mention the countless clever ways of photographing the same Israeli tank's gun barrel. Yes indeed, the AP, Reuters, and AFP photographers do have a tendency to dwell on images of carnage and collapse, tears and tragedy, with the occassional exasperated-diplomat image thrown in just for effect. But I can handle that. We have to face the fact that war -- especially war against unscrupulous forces with no hesitation to use their own civilians as human shields -- is going to result in injury and loss.

But to hide from that fact, to pretend that our lives are only worth defending if the action photographs well, is slow suicide. So we face the fact that accidents happen, and we work to correct them. We face that our enemies violate the most basic rules of war, forcing their own civilians to stand between them and incoming bullets. And we face the photos, forcing ourselves to answer the question of whether we are right, rather than simply letting others answer in the negative for us. We face the fact that AP and AFP and Reuters don't care why or how so many civilians are hurt while gunmen operate among them, since Hizballah's script is so much more photogenic than an IDF press conference explaining ballistics and targeting angles.

So I took my stroll. You probably won't be surprised to learn that out of the approximately 1000 images I've clicked through over the last week or so, there were a lot of pictures of refugees -- refugees sleeping in schools, refugees fleeing in cars, refugees being evacuated by kind and gentle non-Israel soldiers -- but not one of them Israeli. I did not see a single picture of Israeli refugees, leaving their homes and jobs and belongings behind, seeking shelter from Hizballah's missiles. You might even think there aren't any such refugees, as the gratuitous picture I found of paddle boarders in the gorgeous Tel Aviv sunset would indicate. But that's not the case.

I'm not trying to start a CNN-style refugee scoreboard contest with our neighbors to the north (let's check the tote-board Bob; yes, I do believe the Lebanese have pulled back ahead by a narrow margin, but Israel's suffering is catching up fast). I just want to make sure people recognize that much of the world's most visible media consistently and predictably presents a pretty one-sided view of how this conflict is supposed to work out: Israelis attack and destroy, while innocent Arabs suffer. Israelis are soldiers, Arabs are refugees. Heck, the editors could have written the captions even before the Hizbullah kidnappings and rocket fire that set this whole thing off; the only thing missing would have been the pictures, which Hizballah will happily supply on demand.

Just to make it official though, let me post a few pictures of some of the Jewish refugees in this war, not that we intend to let them remain refugees for decades, or pressure the world to compensate them or anything. But please understand that Israel did not choose this war, and that we will defend not just our kidnapped soldiers, but also those like Yosef and Flora who are living here in Beit Shemesh wtih other refugees in the room that was my daughters' kindergarten classroom:


Or the Mamah family, who've put aside their lives and left their homes for weeks, to live in strangers' homes like ours, with no end in sight.


After almost a week with us, the Mamahs are now staying in another house, playing a game of musical homes, so long as they don't return to their own home -- which has had a missile land right next to it while they've been away, as well as a nearby strike at their daughter's school. Of course there are lots of Lebanese who've been forced from their homes too, but you know all about them already, and have been led to the opinion you are supposed to hold as to why this has happened to them, and who should be blamed. What the media wants you to feel about Jewish refugees is not nearly so clear, since they haven't shown you any.

I'll just close with one last discovery from my latest photo tour, a photo caption found while looking for my regular Reuters dose of poor Lebanese children hospitalized in the midst of Israel's war against them. While I'm not reproducing the image, here is the caption of what Reuters felt was a newsworthy photograph to be displayed amongst the rest of the important photos of the "Mideast Conflict":

A Lebanese child suffering from cerebral palsy lays with other children on a bed at the Dar Al-Ajaza-Islamia Hospital near the Hizbollah stronghold of the south part of Beirut July 26, 2006. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (LEBANON)
Don't get me wrong, I have great sympathy for anyone with cerebral palsy, children especially, Lebanese or otherwise. But unless our Zionist scientists finally managed to produce the much-coveted Cerebral Palsy Inflicting Ray Gun, I must confess to not having a CLUE how this photo relates to the current conflict the way it's presence in this collection asserts. The only news I can see here is that Reuters must be running out of sad kids to photograph and has taken to trolling the hospital wards -- any hospital wards -- for suffering little kids. Either that or Reuters has finally decided not even to bother with the mythical mask of objectivity anymore, and is just letting loose with every photo of Arab pain or misery it can muster, regardless of cause or context, in order to advance the idea that it is all Israel's fault.

Welcome to the club, Reuters. Take a number, you're right behind the UN in line.


Seawitch has more on the subject. Although she lives in the US, she is able to personally explain what it feels like to be a forgotten refugee.

Seawitch also passes on a link to a news agency that appears to be interested in civilians on both sides of the border, HonestReportingUK.

Cozy Corner notices the anti-Israel bias outside the hallowed halls of Yahoo News Photos too.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: