“Layla al Ghandour is the face of the massacre in Gaza”, titled al Jazeera, inflaming the anger of the Arab-Islamic world. The photo of the eight-month-old Palestinian girl who died on May 14 at the border with Israel immediately made the rounds of all the Western media, including Italy's largest newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, which printed her photo on the front page.
Nobody could resist: “Massacre in Gaza, even a newborn”, a press agency said.
“A girl dies in the Gaza haze”, the Los Angeles Times wrote.
“A child from Gaza dies, a symbol is born” the New York Times reported.
“Horror” continued the Huffington Post.
“The angelic face of an eight-month-old girl killed by tear gas in Gaza”, the Mirror warned.
“Mother cradles baby killed by Israeli soldiers”, the Daily Mail headlined.
And Abu Mazen, the “moderate” president of the Palestinian Authority, was photographed in a hospital while he was leafing through the Arab press with a front-page cartoon depicting an Israeli soldier suffocating a child.
On the Rai Italian public television, Massimo Gramellini compared the photo of Layla to “a painting by Caravaggio”.
Then Gaza's Ministry of Health under the leadership of Hamas said that it had removed the girl's name from the list of people killed in clashes with Israeli troops. It is the same ministry that, a week earlier, had said that Layla had “died from inhalation of tear gas”. The ministry spokesman, Dr Ashraf al Qidra, said that an investigation was carried out and that “Layla al Ghandour is not listed among the martyrs”.
The media could have been more cautious from the beginning, as a Gaza doctor had told the Associated Press the day after she died that the child had a pre-existing illness and he did not believe her death was caused by Israeli gases.
But the newspapers were excited by the blood and the dead, they didn't have any criticism for those Palestinian parents who brought the children to a fight where they knew that there will be tear gas and the smoke of burnt tires.
Nobody wanted to doubt the truth established by “Palestinian medical sources” when, after all, we know how much freedom, truth and transparency there is in that region.
But Layla was no longer a child, a human being, but a political symbol, a cause. The American lawyer Alan Dershowitz called it “the dead child strategy”. Israel has been transformed into a “babykiller”, by those same media who have glossed over the Israeli children of Sderot, Sbarro, Maalot, the Fogels, the Hatuel, the victims of Arab terror.
For them there is never a Caravaggio. The next World Press Photo award is ready for Haitham Imad, the photographer who has immortalized Layla in her mother's arms.
“There is a war and we are not even on the battlefield” Michael Oren, an Israeli deputy minister for diplomacy, said a few days ago about the media. Journalism played a central role in the attack on Israel's legitimate right to defend its counters and citizens.
Did the media make amends when that new information came to light? It takes too much courage to admit that you were wrong. Western media fomented anti-Semitism with their false headlines. Jews in Europe will pay for that media amorality.