A sign of the times

Posted: Jun 26, 2006 12:07 PM

On my resume, it mentions that I wrote a humor column for the L.A. Times. Some people assume that I still do. They are mistaken. My term of service was 1967 to 1978, but that, as they say, was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The paper has taken a sharp left turn since then, and I can no longer even get a letter published in its pages, unless it’s about baseball.

I mention this because the last time I wrote a letter to the editor was June 10th. I didn’t really think they’d publish it, but hope springs eternal. The letter read: “The Times should be ashamed. On page 18A of today’s paper, the photo of the weeping Palestinian girl was clearly staged. It was about as spontaneous as a Hollywood movie. It’s obvious that the photographer had to be standing on a stepladder in order to have gotten that impossible angle. That it was a phony piece of propaganda was apparent even before I noticed your source was the Ramatan News Agency.”

The other day, a German newspaper, Sued Deutsche, after doing a fair amount of research, determined that, not just the photo, but the entire event was phony. They reported that, although a barrage of Israeli shells had supposedly just killed seven members of the Ghalia family, dozens of people were to be seen standing around in the background, not fleeing for their lives, but looking on as people will invariably do when a movie is being shot. Apparently, a man who is “dead” in one photo, is seen in later photos standing nearby with a rifle. Well, sometimes even in our movies, extras are called upon to do double-duty.

The girl in the photo, Hadil, pictured grieving over the body of her dead father, was allegedly spared a similar fate only because she was swimming in the water at the time. Yet, in the now famous photo, she is dry as a bone and fully clothed. And her father, who was supposedly killed by Israeli shells is pictured lying peacefully on his back, neither wounded nor bloody.

The photographer, Zakaria Abu Irbad, claims he just happened to be the first person on the scene…and yet most of the other bodies are covered in white sheets. Who covered them, Sued Deutsche wonders, and where did the sheets come from?

Ramatan, which distributed the photo world-wide, identifies itself as an independent Palestinian news agency. Well, of course it is. And North Korea calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. And I call myself Brad Pitt.

It’s bad enough that the L.A. Times ran the photo and didn’t run my letter. But what’s even worse is that they won’t run the truth even now.

The New York Times has a famous motto which the L.A. Times might consider adapting for itself: All the Anti-Israel Propaganda There’s Room to Print.