How photojournalists fuel the Israeli-Arab conflict

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. That is more true today than ever. In the Internet era, just about anyone can publish just about any claim and win support for his or her cause, without the need to provide evidence.

That phenomenon has given rise to more and more people demanding some form of evidence before they sign on to various claims being true. And what better evidence than that of a photographic nature?

The problem is that photography can be manipulated and falsified almost as easily as written or verbal evidence.

To demonstrate that point, Ruben Salvadori, a young Italian photojournalist assigned to Jerusalem earlier this year came clean about how he and his colleagues were in fact manipulating "conflict" photos in the holy city.

Having studied anthropology at university, Salvadori said he became interested in the role photojournalists play in what has become the theater of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

What he found is that more often than not, the mere presence of so many photojournalists and their expecations of obtaining compelling shots is fueling the conflict to the point of staging violent confrontations.

I'll let Salvadori tell you the rest. Pay special attention to one of the final frames in which an Arab photojournalist is shown putting aside his camera to join his fellow Muslims in prayer:

Photojournalism Behind the Scenes [ITA-ENG subs] from Ruben Salvadori on Vimeo.

There are two sordid dynamics at work here:

  1. The mainstream media needs stories and powerful images of conflict to maintain viewership and keep the ad dollars rolling in. Both Israelis and Palestinians are in essence pawns in this quest to remain profitable.

  2. The world hates Israel. But the truth is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict pales in comparison to any number of other conflicts around the globe. In order to justify the grossly exaggerated attention paid to the Israeli-Palestinian issue (no other conflict group has its own dedicated UN agencies or special UN-mandated memorial days), the media is encouraged to make the situation appear at least on par with such conflicts as Darfur, Afghanistan and, more recently, Syria.

These are the people framing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for most Western viewers. Theirs is not an objective, unbiased portrayal of what is happening here. Their photos and video footage are very much steeped in personal and organizational bias, and they are certainly not beyond resorting to manipulation and falsification.

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