In the past few days, and particularly in the last day or two, photographs of “racist” graffiti allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers in Gaza is surfacing. The photos (see right) I have seen mostly are attributed to an unidentified photographer for Agence France Presse and depict carefully drawn wording in English and Hebrew, while a few others have appeared on the internet depicting less graphic graffiti, and are being spread by anti-Israeli bloggers.
In the 2006 war in Lebanon, numerous AFP photos were shown to be doctored or staged resulting in the firing of several photographers. In this blog, we have noted apparently staged “shoe fauxtographs” by a Getty Images photographer, whose photos occasionally are attributed to AFP. The photos of graffiti in Gaza have all the hallmarks of a hoax, including the careful and polished writing in both English and Hebrew lettering (the Hebrew to give it authenticity as coming from Israelis, the English so that the western media can read it).
Here, there are two levels on inquiry. Is the graffiti a hoax, and were the photos staged? Or are both the graffiti and photos real? Will it matter if a hoax is revealed in a few weeks, after the images and accusations have entered the public consciousness?
Don’t expect the mainstream media to investigate. Only the blogosphere unmasked seemingly genuine anti-Israeli fauxtographs in the past, and it will be up to us to do so again. Calling on all bloggers to examine the graffiti photos, before it is too late.
UPDATE: Beginning to look like an organized campaign to me. The old “zionism is racism” schtick. Here’s a quote from a correspondent for the NY Times reporting on Gaza:
Opponents of Israel feel the Gaza fighting has demonstrated (again) everything they have always believed — that Israel is a kind of Sparta that dehumanizes the Palestinians and will do anything to prevent their dignified self-determination. The ways in which Israel attacked — the overwhelming force, the racist graffiti left on walls — are what one has come to expect of that state, they say….
The graffiti, even if not a hoax, may be offensive and inappropriate, but it is not “racist.” The racist angle is being followed as a given, and the only question by the media is whether Israel truly is “probing” the graffiti. Note in this article how the word “probes” is in quotes, but nothing else in the description of the photo.
UPDATE No. 2: The earliest post of these allegations I can find in from January 19, 2009, in The Guardian, the incessantly anti-Israel newspaper. No photos accompanied The Guardian story, by Rory McCarthy, at least not online:
But most disturbing of all was the graffiti they daubed on the walls of the ground floor. Some was in Hebrew, but much was naively written in English: “Arabs need 2 die”, “Die you all”, “Make war not peace”, “1 is down, 999,999 to go”, and scrawled on an image of a gravestone the words: “Arabs 1948-2009”.
Interestingly, these sayings appear in several of the photos linked on this page, which appear to be taken in different places by different photographers. But The Guardian story is about a single extended family in Gaza who found these sayings written on the walls and other items in their house. So which came first, the article or the photos? And was some of the graffiti in the photos created after the article using phrases from the article?