Ha-Aretz and the Beach Tapes

[Lest anyone think I only report the stuff that supports my point of view…] (Hat tip: Solomonia,)

Avi Issacharoff, co-author of an important book on the second Intifada, The Seventh War, and journalist for Ha-Aretz (a cross between the NYT and the Guardian), has seen the full tape from the Gaza Beach. His report:

The harshest images were edited for TV

By Avi Issacharoff

GAZA – When Zakaria Abu Arabid, a journalist with the Ramatan news agency, arrived at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp two weeks ago on Friday to photograph casualties of an incident in the Beit Lahia area, a staff member told him that Israel had shelled the Lahia beach. He headed to the spot.

Two weeks later, Abu Arabid and Haaretz view the now-famous tape of Huda Ghalia as she runs along the beach and finds the body of her father. The most gruesome images, it turns out, were censored for television.

The camera starts rolling during the trip. A narrow road, then a left turn onto a dirt road. On the horizon, the sea and then growing awareness of the horrific sights. When Abu Arabid, 36, from Beit Hanun, gets out of the jeep the camera shows an ambulance and people standing around.

The picture zooms in on a pile of bodies, uncovered and blasted apart. The people urge on Abu Arabid with calls of, “Shoot it, shoot it.” The injured are loaded onto stretchers, including a girl without an arm. A Palestinian man carried the remains of the body of a young girl and runs toward the ambulance. An earsplitting siren wails in the background.

Abu Arabid’s camera shoots the removal of the dead and wounded, near where the three bodies had lain earlier. He focuses on a young girl with black hair wearing sweatpants: Huda, who takes a few steps and then starts running while calling for her father.

She throws herself on the ground and the camera shows the body of her father. She cries out for him and hits herself. The camera pans to a pot filled with food and then returns to Huda. A young man tell her her father is okay although he knows the man is already dead. Huda, in wet clothing, sand stuck to her pants, pleads with the paramedics: “Take him to the hospital, he’s alive.”

Abu Arabid photographs the body parts being collected into bags, plastic beach toys strewn on the sand, an Israeli Navy ship off the coast.

“No one can remain indifferent to the pictures, the pain of the children,” Abu Arabid says. “I looked at the tape afterward and broke into tears, how can one not?”

The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung cast doubt on the authenticity of the picture and made its own determinations without checking the facts: Why were bodies covered with sheets?, it asked – although they were not. Why were Huda’s clothes dry? – although they were actually wet. Mohammed Salman, Abu Arabid’s boss, is considering a suit against the German paper.

“If a foreign photographer had taken the pictures, no one would have had doubts. Because we are Palestinian journalists they immediately claimed we staged it,” Salman said, adding, “How can one stage such horror?”

Of course, if a foreign photographer had taken the footage there would have been fewer doubts. Palestinian cameramen have a deservedly bad reputation as propagandists from a society of fear and intimidation with an unfree press. And of course one can stage not the horror itself (unless, God forbid, Hamas actually planted a mine and wanted Palestinians blown up), but the footage of the horror.

I would like to see these tapes.

That there was an explosion, everyone agreed. That there would be body parts, one would have expected.

What roused the suspicion of many, was that there was something staged about this footage, and that its pathos might have been aimed at covering up the possibility that this explosion was not Israeli but Palestinian. Issacharof shows no sign of understanding what to look for and what to ask (unlike the reporter from Suddeutsche Zeitung, who got the admission from Arabid that Houda had asked to be photographed).

Did he ask Arabid what he would feel if these were Palestinian bombs that did this damage? Would he have photographed it? Would he be expressing the same horror? If he did, his article shows no trace of it.

And had Houda thought that it was a Palestinian mine that killed her family? What would she have done?

One Response to Ha-Aretz and the Beach Tapes

  1. Pablo says:

    I just came by this post linked to by The Wandering Jew: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;jsessionid=V1XG21W0O43FVQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/opinion/2006/06/17/do1702.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/06/17/ixopinion.html
    I found it interesting and very much in line with your thesis about Jews and civil society.

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