As a senior CNN reporter said in January 2009, this is the determinant of the news we see about Hamas on our screens and in our newspapers:
And right now you could make a real case that the message that’s coming out is one that’s essentially controlled by people that are perhaps more partisan to the situation inside the Gaza Strip than a lot of international journalists.
COOPER: Inside Gaza press control by Hamas is heavy-handed. There are few press freedoms inside Gaza, and Hamas controls who reports from there and where they can go.
While pictures of wounded children being are brought to hospital are clearly encouraged, we rarely see images of Hamas fighters or their rockets fired into Israel.
Politicians kissing babies is a cynical political ploy as old as politics
Politicians kissing dead babies, supposedly killed by your enemies, at an organized photo op to which the dead child has been brought as a prop is a gruesome new twist for the West's media to offer its readers. In the case of the Egyptian Prime Minister, the "enemy" is a country you have a peace and co-operation treaty with.
Here's how the Daily Mirror web site ran the story on Friday 16th November:
Of course, the death of any child in a conflict is a profound tragedy, above all for his or her parents and family.
But in this case, the Hamas regime decided that the toddler's corpse had a priority role to play as a prop for an image that would bind an image of the Egyptian Prime Minister and Hamas' regime "Prime Minister" Haniyeh together with the freshly dead child in a classic reworking of Pieta imagery for our time.
This took some news management. You have to think about the exchanges that must have gone on:
To the parents whose child has just died that minute. Was it: "Your son is a martyr, you must give him to us, we need him now to show the world!"?
To the hospital staff where the dead boy was taken, was it:" No, don't clean off the blood. Don't even close his eyes. We need to get there in time for the photo op with the Egyptian PM and our heroic leader."?
To the doctor who hauled the boy over as if he were a stray animal killed in a road accident was it:" C'mon, no time to lose. Get that martyr over here! Great idea to lift his t-shirt to show the blood!"?
Does this sound horrendously cynical? But it cannot have been one iota less cynical than the way in which the decision of the Hamas propaganda machine to put this death-porn propaganda stunt together was carried out, with the willing co-operation of the Egpytian and Hamas leaders, the assembly of Hamas-nominated press photographers assigned to the world's press agencies and broadcasters. And that includes the appalling way the body of the child was manhandled and treated without the reverence due to the dead.
And then the Mirror ran it totally uncritically without in questioning the veracity of this account beyond saying that Israel denied the death time. It used two images of the corpse of child who is said to have died earlier in a blast some way away without even speculating how that came to pass, other then by an "Israeli airstrike". Airstrike casualties rarely leave casualties in the relatively tidy pristine state in which the infant corpse, clearly freshly dead, is shown. It appears to have had no qualms about the ethics of allowing itself to be used for what was clearly a posed propaganda image which it is perfectly well aware has been created by a closed propaganda machine which could have taught the Stasi a lesson or two.
indeed,the story was bylined by Tom Parry, stated on the Mirror's website to be a news and features writer based in the Mirror's London office.
CNN on the other hand had a Hamas-nominated reporter visit the area in which the child was claimed to have been killed, who trudged wide-eyed round the hit-marked building in the area, noted the Hamas flags flying but spotted no evidence of military activity, whilst not referring to the standard Hamas practice of concealling its arms and firing apparatus under civilian homes and buildings.
Aljazeera English,as you might expect of a channel controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Emir of Qatar, ran the story, in the clip above, as uncritically as the Mirror, including for good measure a radical Israeli associated with the virulently Israel-hostile +972 site who questioned whether Israel was telling the truth about its reported successes. Though other press coverage in the west also ran the baby-kissing image but pointed out that there was no confirmation that the child had indeed died as the result of an Israeli airstrike, and that the local Human Rights organizations were unable to verify the claim:
The boy's aunt, Hanan Sadallah, and his grief-stricken father Iyad — weak from crying and leaning on others to walk — said Mahmoud was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Hamas security officials also made that claim.
Israel vehemently denied involvement, saying it had not carried out any attacks in the area at the time. Gaza's two leading human rights groups, which routinely investigate civilian deaths, withheld judgment, saying they were unable to reach the area because of continued danger.
Mahmoud's family said the boy was in an alley close to his home when he was killed, along with a man of about 20, but no one appeared to have witnessed the strike. The area showed signs that a projectile might have exploded there, with shrapnel marks in the walls of surrounding homes and a shattered kitchen window. But neighbors said local security officials quickly took what remained of the projectile, making it impossible to verify who fired it.
Mahmoud's 12-year-old cousin Fares was injured in the right leg by shrapnel and was still visibly shaken several hours after the incident. "It's terrifying. I don't sleep at night," the boy said of the massive Israeli air attacks of the past three days. "I'm staying up all night."
Mahmoud's body was taken to Gaza City's main Shifa hospital around midmorning, just as Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was showing Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil around the wards of patients.
One of the Sadallah's neighbors, carrying the lifeless boy, pushed through a throng of Hamas security men to reach the politicians. Eventually, the two prime ministers were photographed cradling the child.
It was left to the New York Times, the equivalent of the Guardian in its routinely critical coverage of Israel, to point out the disparities between the supposed cause of the death--injuries from an F16 missile and the state of the child's body, and suggest that the death may have been caused by Palestinian ordinance going off accidentally:
But around 9:45 a.m., family members and neighbors said, an explosion struck a doorway near the Abu Wardah home, killing Aiman Abu Wardah as he returned from his errand, as well as Mahmoud Sadallah, 4, who lived next door and had refused his older cousin’s pleas to stay indoors.
“What is the truce? What does it mean?” the 22-year-old’s brother Mohammed, 27, asked as he mourned a few hours later.
It is unclear who was responsible for the strike on Annazla: the damage was nowhere near severe enough to have come from an Israeli F-16, raising the possibility that an errant missile fired by Palestinian militants was responsible for the deaths.
CAMERA, an Israel advocacy organization, has run a more detailed deconstruction of this story, and it includes even more repulsive images of the child's bloodied body being manipulated and held up like a prize trout catch for the benefit of the photographers.
Elder of Ziyon has rounded up other coverage which shows convincing circumstantial evidence that the child could not have been killed by an Israeli strike and is likely to have been killed by Palestinian fire. The Algemeiner adds convincing ballistics evidence based on what can be seen of the child's injuries.
So where did the photographs from which Tom Parry sitting in London put together his "Egyptian PM weeps for Palestinian child" story come from? The story came from Associated Press in Gaza, which is of course totally controlled by Hamas. But the photographer used appears to have been contracted from Rex Features' Ashraf Amra Hamas propagandist, whose specialities appear to include posing children on bomb crater sites even more creatively than the Hamas machine usually does.
How can the Mirror and all the other sites that have used these images justify their use of such blatantly posed propaganda based on desecrating a dead child for whose death Israeli responsibility is far from having been established?
The Mirror site is still using the story without correction today, two days later and long after other sources have been questioning its veracity and purpose.