Sunday, August 09, 2015

09-Aug-15: Who's actually disabled in this affair?

The child with a hospital clown at
Tel Hashomer [Image Source]
Winston Churchill once famously said
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Since his long life ended before the emergence of today's social media, Churchill might have expressed it differently if he had seen how distortions and outright falsehoods have the ability to go to sleep for a while after being exposed, and then emerge via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the others to get recycled, reinvigorated and relaunched. They can then do a great deal more damage while those of us concerned with old fashioned notions - like truth - are still struggling with our closets.

This morning, looking for a specific article that throws light on the terrorist attack on the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem carried out by Hamas exactly 14 years ago, we stumbled across this:


It's a Tweet that went live just yesterday. And it exemplifies the point made by Churchill, updated to the age of the Tweetstream.

There's no doubt that vast numbers of Palestinian Arab children living under the ghastly Hamas regime suffer terribly. Sometimes, that suffering gets much worse when open warfare breaks out, which happens more or less as often as Gaza's Islamist overlords want it to happen. Last summer, for instance, when the constant fire of hundreds of Gazan rockets into Israel and at anything Israeli finally got too much for the Israeli side, there was a great deal of suffering. We understand perhaps better than many where to lay the blame for the suffering and how truly barbaric are the people who hold the destinies of Gazans in their corrupt and violent hands.

But war has additional dimensions. And whoever is the person behind the Twitter account above (sometimes there's no actual person) is also at war.

The image, tearing at the heart of most people, stops you in your tracks. The message it conveys doesn't really need to be articulated: if you can do this to a defenseless child, you're a savage. It's the kind of message we hear a great deal from Gaza and from the apologists who defend its institutionalized, imposed-by-relentless-force barbarism. It's hypocrisy incarnate.

But far more than the effect it has on people like us - and we know how to look behind the scenes, get to the facts, scrape away the exaggerations and the lies - a Tweet like this and the photo it drags along with it fills the heads of many, many, many people living far from the scene, people who know relatively little beyond what is beamed at them by people with messages to market. And for soldiers like the Twitterer we just mentioned, the picture is the whole narrative.

As for the facts, who cares?

So here are the facts behind the image above, despatched from a Twitter account yesterday, and circulating the globe at this very moment, drilling into people's opinions, minds and prejudices.

First, it's not new. Here is how it was exploited last year:

Source: Falastin News, September 23, 2014

The real source is an Associated Press syndicated report by Diaa Hadid, datelined May 3, 2013. You can see both the text and the accompanying photo online even now via Huffington Post. It's a story that got wide circulation via many AP licensees including Times of Israel ["Disabled Gaza toddler lives at Israeli hospital", May 3, 2013],

The image that went out with it has this unmistakable caption:
In this Monday, April 29, 2013 photo, Palestinian child Mohammed Al-Farra is seen in the Tel Hashomer Hospital near Ramat Gan, central Israel. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Then the dramatic photo, but not the Diaa Hadid article, got a flurry of attention two years after that when a different propagandist for the Palestinian Arab cause, a journalist, brazenly recycled it as depicting a child victim of the fighting in and around Gaza the previous summer. Here's his Twitter post, since removed:

The owner of the Twitter account in question (@mogaza) has an interesting bio. He's Mohammed Omer. and he calls himself "Award winning journalist... Gaza-New York-Amsterdam". Over at an alert Israeli news site, they expanded on this in a May 10, 2015 article, revealing that Omer
started the Rafah Today blog and has written for numerous major news outlets including Al Jazeera, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, the New Statesman, Aftonbladet and others [and] received the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2008. The Prize is granted to journalists who "tell an unpalatable truth, validated by powerful facts." [Israel National News]
Prize-winning Mohammad Omer
in hisTwitter portrait
The good people at Honest Reporting added some wording from the Gellhorn Prize
We would expect the winner to tell an unpalatable truth, validated by powerful facts, that exposes establishment conduct and its propaganda.
In announcing the Gellhorn Prize, the judges said of Omer that he
was honoured as "literally the voice of the voiceless" and his dispatches were described as a "humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world".
We have gotten fairly used to hearing about voiceless and humane and justice from people who lack basic integrity, Let's say that, in this particular case, we're not convinced. Anyone with Google can search to see the provenance of almost any published image. It's fairly plain that Mr Omer didn't care to know. Or knew and didn't care to be honest. And there's this additional detail that we have not seen reported elsewhere: his Twitter account shows that he follows Diaa Hadid, the New York Times reporter who wrote the article about the little Gazan boy.

(If we're wrong about any of this, Mr Omer, we would be glad to hear from you: email us at thisongoingwar@gmail.com)

If the little boy in the photos has any sort of future, it will be despite - and certainly not because of - his Gazan, Palestinian, Arab peoplehood and heritage. To be more blunt about it, it will be because here in Israel, a child's life is a precious thing, and not a chip to be coldly bargained with or tossed away.

Are we sounding offensive? That's not our intention but this is a searing tale. In our words, summarizing the AP report, which is our only source for the facts, here's the story behind the photo:
Mohammed al-Farra was born in Gaza with a rare genetic disease and has spent most of his life living in the children’s ward of the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, part of the Tel Hashomer hospital complex, Ramat Gan, Israel. It's one of the finest pediatric centers anywhere, and certainly in the Middle East (here's an impressive CNN video from 2012 that highlights their work among Arabs and Israelis in medical need). "Complications" set in and his limbs "had to be" amputated and were. The article implies the parents are cousins, a major factor in birth defects that come with the Arab world's devotion to consanguinity. They abandoned him - the father threatened to take a second wife if the mother didn’t leave him in hospital and come back home to Khan Yunis. She complied. Somehow (not so clear exactly how from the article, but we are personally familiar with such rescue operations), the afflicted little newborn was rushed to Israel for emergency treatment. His grandfather is with him in Tel Aviv, and cares for him in the hospital. The child's Israeli doctors are attached to him, and fund-raise to cover his bills. The child and his grandfather live in the sunny pediatric ward. He has been fitted with prosthetic limbs, funded by donors, but his future is unknown. And now a direct quote: "Dr. Raz Somech, the senior physician in the Tel Hashomer pediatric immunology department, attributes Mohammed’s genetic disorder to the several generations of cousin marriages in his family... a third of patients in his department are Palestinians and most have genetic diseases that were the result of close-relation marriages... 10.8 percent of {Gazan Arabs] suffer some kind of disability that affects their mental health, eyesight, hearing or mobility..." The article ends with the Gazan grandfather saying of Mohammed: "He needs a home."
The reporter could have added, but did not, that he might find it among the Jews. As for his own people, the Gazans, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Very little in life is black and white. There are good people on their side. There are bad people on ours. But the value systems that lie at the heart of the lives we live over here are world's apart - for whatever reason - from theirs. Glossing over this serves no one. 

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