Did you see the photograph of the Middle Eastern boy blown apart in an explosion?
I did, unfortunately. Someone insisted on posting it in my Twitter timeline. For my education, presumably.
The boy – no older than five – was on a hospital bed. It must have happened very recently because there was still colour in his face. His eyes were closed and his expression – he can’t have seen it coming, thank God – was serene. You might almost have imagined him asleep, if it weren’t for the fact that his body was in bits: head and severed torso; an arm; legs and lower body; entrails.
Whoever did this, I thought, is really, really sick.
But I didn’t mean the Israelis – who, I imagine, were the people I was expected to blame. Rather, I meant the sicko who scooped up the boy’s remains while they were still fresh and insisted on laying them out, like some grotesque jigsaw, in order to snap them artfully for a propaganda shot. And also, all the sickos out there who have been reposting photos like these all over the internet in order to make what they seem to imagine is an unarguable point about Israel’s war on Hamas.
The point they are trying to make goes like this: here is a dead child; killing children is evil; Israel killed this child; therefore Israel is evil.
Are you buying this argument? I’m not. I don’t even think it qualifies as an argument. In fact, I think it has about as much insight and depth as one of those posters with kittens on it saying: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
What I loathe about it is its mixture of hectoring presumption and manipulative dishonesty.
Presumption: “If you support Israel, then you clearly don’t care about dead children,” it says. (Is there anyone in the world who isn’t moved by the sight of a dead child? I don’t think so. The people who are implying otherwise are beneath contempt).
Dishonesty: other than the truism that war is hell, the photograph actually tells us nothing.
We have no idea whether this boy was actually a victim of the fighting in Gaza – or of the far bloodier and uglier civil wars in Syria and Iraq.
If he was indeed a Palestinian, we have no idea whether he was killed by Israeli fire or by Hamas ordinance.
Nor, even if he was killed by Israeli fire, do we know the circumstances. Maybe it was a tragic mistake; maybe, he was one of those innocents that Hamas likes to use as human shields in its rocket launching sites; maybe he was being used as a “tunnel rat”; maybe he’d tried to flee with his family to a shelter only to be driven back to his apartment by Hamas who recognise the propaganda value of dead children.
In a world where the media was doing its job, none of this would need explaining. It would be widely known that Israel is going to extraordinary lengths – even to the point of risking the lives of its fighting troops – to minimise civilian casualties. It would also be widely understood that the aggressor in this conflict – and the only side that can possibly benefit from large numbers of Palestinian dead – is Hamas.
But the media isn’t doing its job. Apart from small pockets like Breitbart, Fox and the Spectator, almost no one out there is reporting the reality of what is happening in Gaza. What this information deficit means is that there are people out there – lots and lots of them – who are happy to act as Hamas’s useful idiots, disseminating this vicious and unprincipled terror group’s vile propaganda in the belief that it will further the cause of peace.
No it won’t. It just advances the cause of the bad guys.