Captions worth a thousand words

The art of writing anti-Israel skewed photo captions is another step on the slippery slope unobjective journalists and their anti-Israel editors have chosen to slide down.Op-ed.

Stephen M. Flatow ,

Mass media
Mass media
iStock

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are the words under the picture worth?

Plenty—to those who want to turn international public opinion against Israel.

The Reuters news agency recently distributed a dramatic photo of—according to its caption—“a Palestinian jumping next to a barricade with tires during an anti-Israel protest over cross-border violence between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israeli military.”

Wow. How many facts can you distort in a single caption?

Let’s start with the phrase “a Palestinian.” The young man in the photo is not just “a Palestinian.” For starters, he’s wearing the kind of headdress favored by Palestinian teenagers who are hoping the Israeli police won’t be able to identify and arrest them. That’s not a Covid mask. Law-abiding citizens don’t wrap their entire faces in cloth. Of course, the fact that he’s leaping through the air should make it obvious that he was not just an innocent civilian out for a stroll.

And how about all the black smoke billowing behind him? It’s obviously the scene of a riot. The caption calls it a “barricade of tires.” They’re not just a “barricade.” They’re on fire—which is why there’s so much smoke. Palestinian Arab mobs roll flaming tires at passing Israeli automobiles. They burn piles of tires in the middle of roads in order to force Israeli motorists to slow down, so they can ambush them with rocks and firebombs.

They should be called “Palestinian terrorists.” Or at least “Palestinian rioters.” But certainly not just “Palestinians.”

Why were they rioting that day? According to the caption-writer at Reuters, it was a “protest over cross-border violence” in Gaza. In other words, the rioters with the flaming tires were actually peace activists. They were violently protesting against violence!

The Reuters editors evidently don’t consider Hamas or Islamic Jihad to be terrorists, even though they are on the official list of terrorist groups maintained by the United States and other governments around the world. And even though they fire rockets into kindergartens and blow up buses—including the one on which my daughter Alisa HY”D was riding in 1995. No, they’re just “militants.” Never “terrorists.”

And, finally, there is the caption’s outrageous characterization of the Gaza wars: “cross-border violence between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israeli military.” Are they kidding? Hamas fires rockets; Israel shoots back. That’s “cross-border violence?” In the 1941 version, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, America shoots back, and the Reuters caption reports “naval clashes between Japanese militants and the American military.”

An even worse photo caption came out of the Middle East last week, courtesy of the Jerusalem-based “Flash 90” photo service. It read: "Palestinian worshippers gather rocks to throw at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City."

Have you ever been to a synagogue--or a church, or a mosque, or a Hindu temple—where the congregants worshipped by trying to stone their neighbors to death? I haven't.

A cynic might say: Yes, whoever wrote that caption actually got it exactly right, because these violent Palestinian Arabs have made a religion out of trying to murder Jews—they "worship" with rocks, knives, guns, and bombs.

But that would be letting the caption-writer off way too easy--and missing an important lesson.

The Flash 90 photo showed five young men, two of then wearing the classic rioters’ face-masks. While the caption claimed they were "gathering rocks," two of them are clearly poised to throw the rocks and we can assume the others were doing likewise.

Anybody with even minimal knowledge of Israeli history—or just a modicum of common sense—knows that a rock, when hurled at a person or an automobile's windshield, can maim and even kill. We know that because it's happened so many times. By my count, at least 14 Israeli Jews, and two Israeli Arabs mistaken for Jews, have been stoned to death by Palestinian Arabs since the 1980s. Thousands upon thousands more have been injured, some of them permanently maimed, in such rock attacks.

So, when young Arab men are “gathering rocks to throw,” as the young men in the Flash 90 photo were doing, they were doing so with the full knowledge that they were engaged in attempted murder. Of course, they were not trying to murder fellow-Arabs. They were throwing the rocks at Israeli Jewish police officers. Meaning, they were trying to stone Jews to death.

Why would caption-writers call a riot a “protest,” describe Israeli self-defense against Hamas aggression as “cross-border violence,” and characterize rock-throwers as “worshippers”? And why would their editors approve such language?

It can’t be that they don’t know the difference between riots and protests, between aggressors and victims, between terrorists and worshippers. So that leaves just one plausible explanation: Hostility to Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs. They may claim to be responsible editors and objective reporters and caption-writers, but in reality they have a political agenda. Their agenda is to hurt Israel.

And the captions under the photos—the captions that, in their own way, help shape public opinion—are just another vehicle for achieving that despicable goal.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” and an oleh chadash.



top