The revelation that Hajj had digitally manipulated his photos left at least one prominent Arab journalist was unsurprised. “Sadly, things like this happen a lot, especially when your local fixers are openly affiliated and have a clear agenda,” explains Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh. He adds that some of the Arab stringers and freelancers contracted by Western media outlets are “people who see themselves as foot soldiers for the cause.”
Violence against Arab journalists
Toameh is careful not to paint with too broad a brush, and he stresses that there are Arab journalists who do their best to get the story out. But the record is well-established that reporting certain truths in the Palestinian territories can result in intimidation or sometimes severe violence.
Whereas most of the Western journalists kidnapped before Centanni and Wiig have been released within hours, threatened and actual violence against their Arab counterparts has been far more brutal.
After being arrested and detained for six days because he didn’t give Yasser Arafat the desired coverage in the run-up to the 1996 election, Maher al-Alami, editor of Al Quds, the largest Palestinian newspaper in Jerusalem, said that “the Palestinian media follow his (Arafat’s) instructions out of fear.”
When an Associated Press camerman filmed Palestinians in Nablus rejoicing the 9/11 attacks, he “was summoned to a Palestinian Authority security office and told that the material must not be aired,” according to the AP’s own account. Threats from Islamic terrorists on Arafat’s payroll quickly followed. One PA cabinet officer even stated that the PA could not “guarantee the life” of the cameraman if the footage was released.
The Associated Press never officially released the footage.
How the “stage” is set
To get an idea the lengths to which Palestinians have gone to manufacture sympathy for them and outrage against the Jewish state, consider a production from April 28, 2002. During a funeral procession, the stretcher carrying the “victim” was dropped. Oops. No problem, though, as the “victim” sprung up quickly and was able to shake it off.
The only reason the public learned of the funny, phony funeral was because it was captured on video by an Israeli drone. Given that almost everything done by the Palestinian propaganda machine is for the media, why did it only come out after the Israeli government released its grainy footage? Good thing for the Palestinians, though, that productions for Western consumption typically have gone much smoother.
Examples abound of Western reporters being duped or threatened. In April 2002, Israel Defense Forces raided the Jenin refugee camp, a known terrorist breeding ground and safe haven. Palestinians immediately accused the Jewish state of systematically committing war crimes, and the buzzword soon tossed about by the Western press was “massacre.”
That no massacre actually occurred—not even the United Nations, the Palestinians’ best friend, found any evidence to suggest one had—received only a fraction of the earlier, largely uncritical reporting. Ditto for the incident this June where many family members died on a beach in northern Gaza. Originally covered as an Israeli shelling of innocent Palestinians, it turned out that Israel almost certainly played no role in the tragedy. The media mea culpa, though, was essentially mute.
In a widely-circulated photo taken last month and distributed by Agence France Press, two older, hijab-clad Lebanese women are wailing in front of caskets. Dozens of caskets, actually. The caskets were lined up against a wall, and numbers were spray-painted on the wall. Somehow, the women had wedged themselves into the narrow space between the coffins and the wall, and the numbers conveniently appeared directly behind them—guaranteed to be in any photo.
The problems with the photo are obvious. Why would the women force their way into a crevice, when they could more easily face both the caskets and the wall? Quite simply, that shot wouldn’t capture both the mourning faces and the numbers signifying the enormity of the tragedy. And on the topic of the numbers, the ones spray-painted on the wall were the kind used in the west, not in South Lebanon, thus erasing any doubt about the photo-op’s intended audience.
This photo, though, was not taken by an Arab freelancer or some hack Westerner. It was shot by award-winning photographer Marco Di Lauro, who won praise for his work with Marines in Iraq. The benign—and probably correct—interpretation is that he just wasn’t suspicious enough.
Yet given that thugs from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Arafat’s Fatah control almost everything in the most “newsworthy” areas of the Arab world, any scene or event encountered by Western media outlets must be viewed with supreme skepticism.
But it’s not as if this is news to the Western media. They know it. Yet pretend as if they don’t. That’s the real travesty.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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