In December 2004, HonestReporting noted that a prestigious World Press Photo award had been granted to photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer (at right) for a series of photos portraying Israel’s security fence in the worst possible light. (Wiedenhofer’s photos were — and continue to be — inaccurately captioned on the WPPH site. While some of his photos were taken of the southern Gaza border with Egypt, the caption implies they are all from the West Bank.)
Now, equally prestigious Getty Images has presented Wiedenhofer a $20,000 grant for his series ‘Sharon’s Wall: Holy Land, Divided Land’. Wiedenhofer was one of 3 winners chosen from over 160 submissions. The Getty Images press release makes no bones about that organization’s, and Wiedenhofer’s, stance on the matter:
The remaining part of the Berlin Wall which stands today serves as a constant reminder of the political conflict that separated Germany for more than 25 years. A message scribed in graffiti on the wall reads, “Wall of shame stands now in Israel.” The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a focal point of the crisis between the West and Islam. The Israeli government’s solution to this unrest is to build a wall that is much bigger than the one in Berlin…
With the benefit of the Getty Images grant, Wiedenhöefer will document the construction of the wall, along with the related repercussions which could intensify the tensions between the two peoples. Having worked in the region extensively for more than a decade, his experience and intimate knowledge will enable him to depict that walls cannot be a solution to political problems, as we have seen in German history.
1) Getty Images is a leading source of (ostensibly impartial) news photography for all international news outlets. This press release clearly indicates their partisan stance against Israel on this key matter.
2) Neither Getty Images nor their prize winner acknowledges the fact that Israel’s separation fence has dramatically lowered the number of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians in the central and northern regions of Israel. Instead, Getty Images puts forth an entirely inappropriate comparison to the Berlin Wall, and rehashes that old chestnut ‘walls cannot be a solution to political problems’ as if it were empirical fact.
A reminder that more than 97% of the planned separation barrier is a chain-link fence, and not a ‘wall’ at all. And regarding the Berlin Wall comparison, the MFA makes the appropriate distinction:
The Berlin Wall was designed by the Communist regime of East Germany to solidify and perpetuate the division of the city by keeping the German citizens of “East Berlin” – who sought only freedom and contacts with their German brethren in “West Berlin” – locked in. The Berlin Wall was built during the height of the Cold War by a totalitarian regime in its struggle against the democracy that thrived in the western sections of the city and in the Federal Republic of Germany.
In stark contrast, Israel is building the anti-terrorist fence for only one purpose – to keep Palestinian terrorists, who wish to murder and maim Israeli citizens, out. Israel, a democratic society, is building the fence to protect its citizens from deadly attack, not from peaceful contacts with the other side. It is Palestinian terrorism – backed by an authoritarian regime and supported by the most dangerous terrorist organizations and terrorist-sponsoring states in the Middle East – that is the threat and the proponent of conflict in the region. Terrorism has forced Israel to take the defensive step of building an anti-terrorist fence.
HR editors have contacted Getty Images on this matter and await their reply, which will be posted here.