Israelis all over the country were putting up their defensive guards this week, as a photograph surfaced on www.facebook.com with the caption “An Israeli soldier holding down a Young Palestinian Girl”. Posted by a user named Wesley Muahammed, the top half of the photograph was cut off, no spectators could be seen, and it was to be assumed that the green uniformed pant leg of the soldier was that of the IDF. (The Israeli Defense Forces) The photograph was touted as recent.
There was an immediate outcry by Facebook users and mass Israelis alike, who saw the photo multiplied and posted throughout the web and on Israeli news sources, and who believed the photo could not be as described, since the weapon pictured was not one issued by the IDF, and what could be seen of the jacket trim was also not IDF issue. Facebook did eventually remove the posted photo, but only after it had spread throughout both that site and the web, both in its original version, and with notes depicting its falsity.
Blogger Omar Dakhane posted a version of the original photo which also spread like wildfire, and depicted a wildly different scenario. The full photo reveals the homemade “IDF” uniform, with an Israeli flag patch sewn onto it, as well as a crowd of spectators, who are in no way involved in the scene. Omar adds that the photo, rather than being a recent depiction of IDF action as advertised, is actually of a 2009 Bahrain street theatre performance and that people should “not believe everything you see on the internet.”
As further details emerged, it seems this photo has seen the light of day before, albeit in association with a different conflict. The same cropped photo was circulated about 6 months ago on twitter with a #Syria hashtag, and its poster suggested that it portrayed events during the revolution going on in that country. The photo did not make the rounds as hoped then, but has seen much wider circulation this time around. The original poster is probably disappointed however, in that the photograph has been posted more often with notes depicting its falsities than in its original form, and with the assertion that an Israeli soldier was not being depicted.
In a time when Israelis are feeling (a new and unsteady) respite from terror attacks, this is an example of the new front which they must learn to defend. In addition to recent attacks on the Israeli stock market site and El Al’s website by hackers, there is a PR battle being waged on the internet, wherein attackers are attempting to prove that a picture is indeed ‘worth a thousand words’. Fortunately in this most recent example, sources were quick to notice the picture and highlight its falsities, but the potential damage such a photo could wreak unchecked is worrying, and points to an entirely different methodology against which Israel must defend itself.
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