The Wall Street Journal Falls for Palestinian Fauxtography Hoax

The modern Arab-Jewish conflict has played itself out on many fronts in the last 60 years. Israel has been vastly more successful on the field of battle, but the Arabs have managed to co-opt the media narrative. For a generation, the press has been sympathetic to the cause of those who strive to eradicate Israel. This has shown itself over and over again, not only in editorial decisions, but in the blind acceptance of reports coming from Arab sources in the region.

The problem is that those sources have repeatedly shown that they are not interested in reporting the news but, in many cases, in fabricating it. In many cases, these fabrications have been done with the active participation of “respected” news gathering organizations.

In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, the term Fauxtography was coined to refer to either the embellishing of existing photographs or staging others for the best effect to discredit Israel. The uncovering of tampering resulted in both Reuters and AP disciplining freelance “reporters” as well as having to kill pictures that they had syndicated.

The staging of news photographs, and news in general, is alive and well in disputed areas of Israel even now.

What remains surprising is how otherwise discerning news operations such as the Wall Street Journal still accept, uncritically, the output of suspect sources. Just this past week the Wall Street Journal, as well as a range of other international news operations, posted a picture submitted by Hazem Bader for Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The caption on the photo explains that the man seen writhing in pain on the ground was intentionally run over by a tractor driven by an Israeli soldier. That is to say that the international press reported, without questioning, that an official representative of the Israeli Government had, without cause, purposely caused a grave injury to an innocent man.

The only problem is that it never happened. There is no record of anyone being injured. CAMERA, a watchdog group that specializes in following anti-Israel media activity, followed all possible leads to find the injured man.

Yet, after checking with both Palestinian and Israeli sources, it seems that the man was not at all injured, and there is no evidence that he was run over. On the Palestinian side, Tthe Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which provides comprehensive weekly reports about all injuries, fatalities, incursions, and other incidents in both the West Bank and Gaza, makes no mention of this alleged injury in its report for Jan. 19- 25. In addition, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency did not cover the alleged injury, even though it does report on Israeli army activity that day nearby in Tel Rumeida. And Ma’an also reported a hit and run incident, in which a Palestinian teen was hit by an Israeli driver at a checkpoint this morning. Presumably, then, had this worker actually been run over and injured on Wednesday, Ma’an would have carried the story. Nor does it appear that any English-language wire service or other media outlet covered the alleged injury.

On the Israeli side, Capt. Barak Raz, spokesman for the Judea and Samaria division who had spoken to soldiers at the scene, told CAMERA the following: IDF soldiers were on site to provide security for the Civil Administration, which was preventing Palestinian construction in an area not permitted for building. One Palestinian worker was lying on the ground next to the trailer when he started to scream that he had been run over. Nobody saw him get run over. First he complained that his left leg was injured. An army medic checked him and saw nothing. The medic did, nevertheless, wrap him in a bandage since the worker was carrying on that he had been run over. The man then subsequently claimed that it was his right leg which was injured. According to Raz, the Palestinian Red Crescent, which was also on the scene, checked him, and likewise found absolutely nothing wrong with him.

In short, at worst, this incident is staged, as Raz contends, and the man pretended to be run over and injured, while neither happened. At best, there is zero independent confirmation that he was injured. If neither AFP nor IHT can substantiate the claim, it ought to be immediately retracted.

It doesn’t come as a big surprise that AFP is involved in disseminating anti-Israel propaganda after the al-Dura affair. One would, though, expect more from such bastions of serious journalism as the Wall Street Journal.

For shame.

(Special thanks to Elder of Ziyon for bringing this to my attention.)