Saturday, July 22, 2006

The story behind...

... the picture of the Israeli girls writing on the missiles

I was reading Yael K's blog, to find out what those at the other side of the conflict are thinking, and came across another blogger who wrote about that infamous picture. Here's Lisa's post in its entirety. I definitely do not agree with everything that's being said, I just thought it was interesting to share:

The image above caused a huge storm of outrage in the Arab blogosphere. Huge. You wouldn't believe how huge. The widely-read Gulf-based Palestinian blogger who was the first to post it received so much traffic that he had to move the photo to another server. Many others, including several I know personally, posted it and expressed their disgust. Israeli children taught to hate! Lebanese children are dying and they're happy! They're no better than... (fill in the blank, I don't want to go there).

Below is the story behind the photo - from the source.I phoned Sebastian Scheiner, the Israeli photojournalist who took the photo for Associated Press (AP), explained that the image had given a really terrible impression and asked for the context. He sketched it out quickly and fluidly, but asked me not to quote him.

So I spoke with Shelly Paz, a Yedioth Ahronoth reporter who was also at the scene and agreed immediately to go on record. She was quite shocked to learn how badly the photo had been misinterpreted and misrepresented; and she told me the same story Sebastian did, but with more details and nuance.

The little girls shown drawing with felt markers on the tank missiles are residents of Kiryat Shmona, which is right on the border with Lebanon. And when I say "on the border," I'm not kidding; there's little more space between their town and Southern Lebanon than there is between the back gardens of neighbouring houses in a wealthy American suburb. No, how close is it really? Well, there's a famous story in Israel, from the time when the Israeli army occupied Southern Lebanon: a group of soldiers stationed inside southern Lebanon used their mobile phones to order pizza from Kiryat Shmona and have it delivered to the fence that separates the two countries.

Anyway. Kiryat Shmona has been under constant bombardment from South Lebanon since the first day of the conflict. It was a ghost town, explained Shelly. There was not a single person on the streets and all the businesses were closed. The residents who had friends, family or money for alternate housing out of missile range had left, leaving behind the few who had neither the funds nor connections that would allow them to escape the missiles crashing and booming on their town day and night. The noise was terrifying, people were dying outside, the kids were scared out of their minds and they had been told over and over that some man named Nasrallah was responsible for their having to cower underground for days on end.

On the day that photo was taken, the girls had emerged from the underground bomb shelters for the first time in five days. A new army unit had just arrived in the town and was preparing to shell the area across the border. The unit attracted the attention of twelve photojournalists - Israeli and foreign. The girls and their families gathered around to check out the big attraction in the small town - foreigners. They were relieved and probably a little giddy at being outside in the fresh air for the first time in days. They were probably happy to talk to people. And they enjoyed the attention of the photographers. Apparently one or some of the parents wrote messages in Hebrew and English on the tank shells to Nasrallah. "To Nasrallah with love," they wrote to the man whose name was for them a devilish image on television - the man who mockingly told Israelis, via speeches that were broadcast on Al Manar and Israeli television, that Hezbollah was preparing to launch even more missiles at them. That he was happy they were suffering.

The photograpers gathered around. Twelve of them. Do you know how many that is? It's a lot. And they were all simultaneously leaning in with their long camera lenses, clicking the shutter over and over. The parents handed the markers to the kids and they drew little Israeli flags on the shells. Photographers look for striking images, and what is more striking than pretty, innocent little girls contrasted with the ugliness of war? The camera shutters clicked away, and I guess those kids must have felt like stars, especially since the diversion came after they'd been alternately bored and terrified as they waited out the shelling in their bomb shelters. Shelly emphasized several times that none of the parents or children had expressed any hatred toward the Lebanese people. No-one expressed any satisfaction at knowing that Lebanese were dying - just as Israelis are dying. Their messages were directed at Nasrallah.

None of those people was detached or wise enough to think: "Hang on, tank shell equals death of human beings." They were thinking, tank shell equals stopping the missiles that land on my house. Tank shells will stop that man with the turban from threatening to kill us.

And besides, none of those children had seen images of dead people - either Israeli or Lebanese. Israeli television doesn't broadcast them, nor do the newspapers print them. Even when there were suicide bombings in Israel several times a week for months, none of the Israeli media published gory photos of dead or wounded people. It's a red line in Israel. Do not show dead, bleeding, torn up bodies because the families of the dead will suffer and children will have nightmares. And because it is just in bad taste to use suffering for propaganda purposes.

Those kids had seen news footage of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, but not of the human toll. They had heard over and over that the air force was destroying the buildings that belonged to Hezbollah, the organization responsible for shelling their town and threatening their lives. How many small children would be able to make the connection between tank shells and dead people on their own? How many human beings are able to detach from their own suffering and emotional stress and think about that of the other side? Not many, I suspect.

So, perhaps the parents were not wise when they encouraged their children to doodle on the tank shells. They were letting off a little steam after being cooped up - afraid, angry and isolated - for days. Sometimes people do silly things when they are under emotional stress. Especially when they fail to understand how their childish, empty gesture might be interpreted. I've been thinking for the last two days about this photo and the storm of reaction it set off.

I worry about the climate of hate that would lead people to look at it and automatically assume the absolute worst - and then use the photo to dehumanize and victimize. I wonder why so many people seem to take satisfaction in believing that little Israeli girls with felt markers in their hands - not weapons, but felt markers - are evil, or spawned by an evil society. I wonder how those people would feel if Israelis were to look at a photo of a Palestinian child wearing a mock suicide belt in a Hamas demonstration and conclude that all Palestinians - nay, all Arabs - are evil. And I wonder why it is so difficult to think a little, to get it into our heads that television news and photojournalism manipulate our thoughts and emotions.

Links to anti-Israel websites with that photo placed prominently next to the image of a dead Lebanese child have been sent to me several times. Someone has been rushing around the Israeli blogosphere, leaving the link to one particularly abhorrent site in the comments boxes. And it makes me really sad that the emotional climate has deteriorated to this point.The moderates of the Middle East are locked in a battle with the extremists. And look what they did to the moderates. Without blinking, without thinking, we fell victim to the classic "divide and conquer" technique. We work hard for months and years to build connections, develop our societies, educate ourselves, promote democracy and free speech... And they destroy it all, in less than a week. And we let them.

War is so ugly, whether it be from the Lebanese side, or the Israeli side. War kills innocent people. These missiles weren't being sent to kill Nasrallah, the man with the turban...they were being sent to kill children and families and brothers and sisters and parents. Innocent human beings who happen to live in the place where these missiles fell. Enough is enough. Really.



Anonymous said...

please stop this. i couldnt even read the whole article i had to skim through it trying to reach the point, and you know what this is a terrible empty excuse for demonic pictures. if the children were unaware of the meaning of such an act, i'm sure the parents looming around in the background are well aware. the parents were simple letting of steam and frustrated after being in shelters for 5 days??? WE WISH WE HAD SHELTERS THAT WE COULD HIDE IN FOR 5 DAYS. 7 of my family were killed, my niece was found in the field next to our house because she was blown out completly ... can you compare what is happening to us to what is happening in isreal, can u even compare??? you are an educated rational logical person, tell me is there a comparsion between what is happening, please enough, kill us, we are dead, but do not take away the peace of death by tormenting us with excuses to make it sound like the isrealis are not to blame... they took my home and my land, they now live on it and call it their home while i am a REFUGEE with no passport no identity no rights no nothing and u say that they r right, they r fruestrated becasue they have been in shelters for 5 days, i have seen my family murdered right in front of my house, they have the whole international worl supporting them, what bulshit what bullshit what bullshit what bullshit u say... this is injustice and God will not let this go, this is our suffering, God will not let this go.

Anonymous said...

it took us so much time to build our house, we built it with our own hands and everymorning my grandmother would spend hours in the garden, perfecting it, growing tomatoes and pears that were celbrated through all of lebabanon and we had our own heaven on earth with swings and flowers and trees and now it is all destruction with my grandmother lying dead with so many of the hands, my family that built this ruined house just for nasrallla whom i do not even support, after we were kicked out of palestine, when the isrealis took our land, we came here and through hard work we were able to start again and have a new life away from home, but now the isrealis have ruined us again, our second try, and they killed the half of my family that was left after the first time, i am so depressed i do not know what to do with my self or who to tell my story to or who will care to listen when i am a palestinian muslim, i am nothing in the eyes of the west, 2 isreali soldiers for so much destruction that is the balance in the modern world lieave me in my grief i cannot read such utter injustice anymore

Dubai Sunshine said...

Dear Anon
I did not write the part where it explains the picture that was taken. As mentioned in the beginning of the post, I copied it from an Israeli blog. And I clearly specified that I do not agree with what is being said. Of course I find it ludicrous to use an excuse such as "we did not know these missiles were going to kill civilians". You are right, if the little girls did not know, then at least the parents should have.

That being said, I am completely and utterly disgusted by what's happening, and I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for someone like you who has lost loved ones for a stupid, meaningless, cruel reason.

Be's hard, but it's the only thing you can do....

umkahlil said...


You are not alone. Your comment sums up my frustration with the vicious and unjust editorials in the US papers blaming the victim and the naive Arab bloggers who enable these Zionist spinmeisters (excuse me, Dubai but that's what you're doing by printing the story). This is no comfort, I know, but I am very moved by your comment. I will pray for you and know that you and your family are in my thoughts. I hope that what I write will in a small way hasten the day Palestine will be fully free and our return. The simple truth of your words give me inspiration to continue. God Bless You.

zingtrial said...

Hi! I liked reading through your blog,Thanks for sharing.Wish you well

Dr.Lost said...

what a shame.. i hope the jews get it right in the ass this time..

Dubai Sunshine said...

I believe that if everyone, Arabs, Israelis, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Shiites and Sunnis, etc. took the time to consider others' points of view, then we would have at least made a step into the right direction...a step into making this world a better place.

And maybe I did not communicate this correctly in my post, but the whole point was to show that these Israeli girls were ignorant about what they were doing (what 7 or 8 year old would understand about the intricate politics of the Middle-east anyway), but that the parents were aware and that they allowed this to happen.

So what does this mean? It means that this hatred, this violent behaviour is engrained in these people's lives. They don't even think about their actions anymore, they don't have the perspective to understand the implications of their acts. Which is very worrysome because when one acts without thinking, the effects of these actions can be catastrophic. And this is what's happening in this situation.

Um Khalil, I wouldn't call myself naive...on the contrary, I pride myself in the fact that I attempt to look at all sides of the story in order to be able to formulate my own opinion. And this post was, by no means, a way of excusing the Israelis for what they are doing. On the contrary...I wanted to also highlight how any story can be spun, whether it be by Arab or by Israeli media.

I am upset beyond words about what's happening in Lebanon. And I get upset every day at the way Palestinians are treated on a daily basis....I remain, after all, and Arab...and proud to be one.

Anonymous said...

i just want to ask you one question... you say that the isrealis palestinians etc... need to look at things for differnt perspective.. what percpective would you look from if someone came and overtook your home and land, called it his own, kicked you out and left you passport less to raom the world, and called your country isreal, then goes on to say


« Jerash Festival is Canceled This Year | Home | Last Week Articles Links [27] »
July 22, 2006
The Zionist Grudge Against Arabs
Filed under: Quotes
"We must expel Arabs and take their places."
- David Ben Gurion, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.

"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."
- Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

"There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."
- Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.

what would ur perspective be? what to do? tell me, what does this mean to you?

Anonymous said...

please ignore the jerash festivasl part as i cut and pasted the qoutes from another site, hoping that this will not undermine the seriousness of my question and mood

umkahlil said...

Hello Dubai Sunshine,

I am sorry, it was not my intention to insult you by referring to you as naive.

Israel has demolished 418 villages, changed Arabic names to Zionist and Hebrew names, shot at villagers trying to return home, created 7 million refugees, which is 3/4 of the Palestinian population, and denied Palestinians their inalienable right to return home.

I am not concerned about providing a forum for a rapist. Nor do I believe those who advocate racism should have a forum.

I don't believe that we need to empower Israel in any way. The immigrant from Canada who wrote the story has a lot of Zionist spin on her blog. I do not like to provide a forum for Zionists; they have practically a monopoly on the op-ed pages in the mainstream press; I can barely watch CNN without screaming at the TV. The Zionists do not need Arabs to empower them further.

Rather than carry on futile dialogue with Zionists, I'd rather expose Israel's institutionalized racism and its violation of international law. Why do I want to trust some immigrant from North America when old Palestinian people with keys to their homes are not permitted their universal right to return. This is what we need to be publicising, not some Israeli spin on some pictures that were bad publicity for their criminal state. I don't trust anyone who attempts to put a good face on Israel; time is too short; every day our kids are getting killed so that Lisas and Yaels can traipse on over to our stolen land to which they have no right whatsoever.

Mainly, I commented the first time because I was so moved by anonymous' sincere comment. The only way that we will free Palestine fully is to continue to fight for our inalienable rights and avoid the manifold Zionist tricks to subvert our efforts.

BuJ said...

well well i admire you for posting this jewish excuse for these pictures.. but pictures do not lie.. and if that israeli blogger was trying to explain herself then why does she need 54 pages to do so? i couldn't read the full txt because it was so long and seems others skimmed it too like me.

pics are pics.. and the whole thing is quite sad.

Anonymous said...

You dont believe victims should be used for Propaganda... What have you done when Dogs shagged your grandmothers you filthy jews...
I wish you all death you dirty israeli,

an ex-supporter of you right to live
a current Jew killer,

I love hitler now and I wish he finished you all up and maybe introduced you the art of getting fucked by donkey... not only dogs... a race half dog half human.

Baby killers.