When the Photo is the Story

News photos often have more impact than the articles they accompany. Readers view the photo first, and images are all many see while flipping through the paper. Unfortunately, photojournalism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regularly contains the same anti-Israel bias evident in print media.

One recent example: Earlier this week photojournalists were present at an Israeli cabinet meeting. Here’s an AFP photo of Ariel Sharon from that event ? no, we didn’t crop it, that’s the actual ‘news’ photo:

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presides over the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. (AFP)

AFP frames Sharon as scary and sinister. What other democratic world leader would receive such treatment at the other end of a photojournalist’s lens?

Comments to AFP: contact@afp.com


Yesterday (Wed., Aug. 11), a Palestinian terrorist detonated a bomb at the Kalandia checkpoint just north of Jerusalem, killing two and wounding eighteen.

IDF checkpoints, designed to prevent such attacks from reaching civilian centers, are routinely cited in news reports as examples of supposed Israeli inhumanity. On Aug. 11, the New Zealand Herald described the IDF checkpoints as “manned by young and sadistically aggressive Israeli soldiers.” The Guardian painted a similar picture with an article yesterday on a supposedly evil checkpoint commander named Udi, who, it’s claimed, terrorizes Palestinians who dare to smile. At right is a typical news photo from an IDF checkpoint.

Well, here’s another look entirely at checkpoint culture ? an IDF soldier named Dave uploaded a slideshow from his recent service at the very Kalandia checkpoint where Wednesday’s attack occurred.

Here are some of Dave’s photos, with his own captions below each one:

BBC wants you to believe the lineup here is hours long, but 45 seconds was the average wait time.

The Arab kids like to hang out
with Dana.

Free doughnuts for everyone – it’s Hannukah!
Arab mom with five kids ate the rest of our doughnuts.

‘Dave’ offers these comments:

99% of the physical work I did at that checkpoint involved preventing Arab on Arab violence…We had to chase a couple of guys who mugged an Arab taxi driver. He was shaking and we had to comfort him…

When I was at [Kalandia] checkpoint, [news] cameramen would often show up and wait for hours for something to take pictures of. 99% of the time there was nothing to photograph so the reporter would wait and wait… I remember once we helped a really old guy get out of the checkpoint when he walked in the wrong direction, he didn’t really understand us so we just stood in his way so he would understand that this was the wrong path and turn around. Anyways this AP photographer was just snapping away when this happened. There were tons of incidents like this.

An Israeli Army soldier comforts a Palestinian woman at the Kalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah…

Yes, and those are the images we’re used to seeing. Why have the major news outlets so rarely publicized photos like Dave’s above? Kudos to AP for this one on the right, from Kalandia yesterday (Aug. 11):

[Hat tip: Little Green Footballs]

UPDATE: A fine summary of the problem of photo-based media bias on the conflict, and an interview with ‘Dave’ at IsraPundit.


On Thursday (Aug. 12) at 9:30 pm ET, HBO will air James Miller’s BBC/Channel 4 film ‘Death in Gaza’ (see a trailer on the HBO site). Miller died from a gunshot wound in Rafah while making the film. The information presented on Miller’s memorial site suggests that the IDF was responsible for the fatal shot, but there has been no official conclusion on the matter.

HonestReporting is concerned for the fairness of this film, and encourages subscribers to view it, then send feedback to HBO.

An instant rebuttal to ‘Death in Gaza’ has been prepared by a group of Israel activists: Phyllis Chesler’s site is hosting two full videos by Pierre Rehov ? ‘The Road to Jenin,’ which debunks the media falsehoods surrounding the 2002 Jenin incursion, and
‘The Silent Exodus,’ which tells the largely unknown story of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands following the Israeli War of Independence. [Hat tip: StandWithUs]

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.