Three major Israeli Hebrew news websites – Ynet (which belongs to theYediot Acharonot newspaper), NRG (Maariv newspaper) and Haaretz – reported on Monday's artillery duel between IDF soldiers and Gaza terrorists in similar fashion: all three featured photographs which are best described as enemy propaganda. They show close-up photos of dead children, with the most gory parts blurred by pixellation.
Similar gory photographs of Israeli victims are rare in Israeli media. Israel Media Watch's Yisrael Meidad commented on whether the Israeli media are purposely undermining morale at home or not.
YM: "The main Israeli media outlets – Haaretz, Yediot Acharonot and Maariv – do not see themselves as part of Israel's public diplomacy effort when it comes to issues such as these. They are in it for the news and today, unfortunately, the motto is "if it bleeds it leads."
- Why don't they show close-ups of Israeli victims then?
YM: "As far as Israeli casualties are concerned, there is an ingrained opposition which started out about a decade ago about having what we call close-ups of Israeli wounded or dead. There have been only a few such instances that I can recall in these years, and usually only due to pressure from the Foreign Ministry to show such pictures.
"The worst pictures of the terror attack at Merkaz HaRav Kook yeshiva, for instance, including the picture of the bloodied garment [tsitsis], were private pictures taken by ZAKA Emergency Services and not by the Israeli press.
"Our press does not view its job as raising the morale via pictures. I've been in seminars with people from Channel 2 and other news outlets. Whenever you ask them about these matters they will give you two answers: the first is to say – 'we are not in the business of morale building.' Then they add: 'and even if we were – had we shown the gory pictures of Israeli victims, we would actually be accused of weakening morale through showing the blood and suffering."
- Okay, why show dead Gazan babies then?
YM: "Because members of the Israeli press corps know it's expected of them by their colleagues from abroad, who will ask them – 'why didn't you show the pictures? You are hiding your government's actions from your populations!'
"It's also a question of editorship. I do remember seeing the close-up pictures of the boy who lost his legs and in Sderot being carried to shelter. I also saw pictures of an injured boy and his sister cowering behind a counter in a store in Sderot. So it's not cut and dried.
"I will, however, definitely say that Israeli journalism will tend to show pictures that prove that our political and military echelons are either stupid or irresponsible and usually will not check the details or the facts."
- Is there no way that pressure can be brought to bear on these journalists?
YM: "No, it's too wide open. We do not have a sufficient economic or political strength for a boycott of new outlets, unlike the Haredim, who can successfully put economic pressure on a chain like AM/PM and force them to stop opening on the Sabbath.
"The top media editors move in a very rarefied atmosphere of politicians, rich businessmen and award ceremonies. They are not up for election like a politician. They know nothing will hurt them. However, Israel Media Watch is launching a new campaign in which we will encourage people to put stickers on newsstands saying – 'Warning: reading these newspapers is harmful for your moral health.'
"Perhaps if someone were to invest in a website which would give annual awards to 'the worst journalistic story of the year', the 'worst journalist, the 'worst photograph' etc., it would attract attention and bring pressure to bear on these people."