In Part 3 of our Shattered Lens study, we highlighted how wire service photographers use clever photographic techniques to present a false impression that enhances images of Palestinian “suffering”. In that particular case, we focused on the use of bars. In this chapter we see how candles are employed as a similar prop.
In 2008, HonestReporting highlighted how Hamas used stage-managed candlelit protests during power blackouts in Gaza for cynical propaganda purposes.
Fast forward to 2010 and candles are still the image of choice for Hamas to paint a picture of Gaza under siege and suffering from electrical shortages, which can be blamed solely on Israel.
During the period of our study, Palestinians holding candles appeared regularly. One case in particular, however, deserves special attention. It was uncovered initially by blogger Elder of Zion and highlights a stunning discrepancy in captions between Reuters and Getty Images of the same event.
On June 25, a power plant in Gaza was shut down despite Israel’s willingness to send the necessary fuel. Instead Hamas and Fatah argued over who should pay. Gazans then protested the shutdown.
Getty filed the following photo and caption of the protest:
Palestinian girls hold candles during a march in protest against the lack of fuel to Gaza’s power station, and the continued power outages in the city, on June 25, 2010 in Gaza City.
Reuters covered the same protest and issued photos of the same girl as above, but the caption expressed a radically different motive for the protest.
Notice the caption: Palestinian children hold candles during a protest in Gaza City calling for an end to Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip June 25, 2010. (Emphasis added)
It is also worth noting that the Reuters photo that claims the protest was against Israel’s blockade was credited to Mohammed Salem, who happens to be the same photographer who took the infamous Hamas propaganda photos in 2008 mentioned above.
The continuous use of candles in photos creates the false impression of the Gaza Strip in perpetual darkness as a result of Israel’s blockade. Below are some more examples of this phenomenon: