Opinion: The true story behind the most famous story of the second intifada, and the media war

On September 30th, 2000, during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, one photo was all over the news. The photo showed a little boy, crying, leaning against a wall, with his father sitting in front of him, crying as well and trying to protect his son. This photo, of Muhamad and Jamal A-Dura, was taken during a fire exchange between IDF soldiers and a raging Palestinian crowd, and young Muhamad was killed by a stray bullet. That photo, of the boy and his father, became one of the international symbols of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. It presented the IDF as a killing machine, not showing mercy, even for innocent children.

This is not a one- time thing. Our hands are tied when it comes to the greatest war of all: the media war. Our army may be one of the strongest, most powerful armies in the world, but we are helpless when it comes to media publication.

Having been born and raised in Israel, I had constantly been protected by soldiers. Throughout my childhood, I admired the IDF. After serving in the IDF I can say from firsthand experience that the army does not attack without purpose- they are the Israeli Defence Force. Unfortunately, the media oftentimes provides a skewed perspective and portrays the IDF as aggressors.

Most people never stop and ask questions when they watch photos such as this. How did the boy even get there? What did he do at a war-zone? Was he really killed by the IDF? Was he killed on purpose? No one knew. No one cared. And I don’t blame anyone for not digging any deeper, I probably wouldn’t.  In the age of instant messaging where whoever publishes last- doesn’t count, people don’t care about the circumstances. They’re only looking for the results. We are always in a hurry, and need to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible. The newspapers compete for readers, and so they choose headlines that will capture our attention. We don’t have time. We read headlines, and that’s that.

Muhamad’s father, Jamal, showed the world his scarred body. A damage made by the IDF. This attack, he said to the world press, paralyzed his arm and damaged his leg. All that on top of losing his son to the vicious attacks, aimed for citizens for no apparent reason, made by the Israeli army.

Earlier this week, we finally witness a small victory in the ongoing Media War: it has been proven that the damage made to Jamal A-Dura wasn’t the outcome of that so called Israeli attack. His medical file was exposed, and showed that his arm was paralyzed in 1992. This damage was caused by the Hamas, which attacked A-Dura, probably due to his relations with a rival group, Fatach.

I can’t begin to explain the despair we feel every time we watch the international news. It hurts to know that some people receive only partial information.

Even in the age of Photoshop, when it is very clear to us that photos are not a true representative of reality, we still perceive them as such. When we look at a photo, we don’t ask questions. Sometimes we forget the photos are taken by someone with a certain ideology.  As human beings, we tend to feel sorry for the “little guy”. For the defenseless child standing in front of a big gun. This is exactly why Israel is constantly losing every battle in the Media War. We live in a state of our own and we have a great big army. For the international reader- that is enough to call the battle. 

Remember that headlines and pictures are meant to target readers’ emotions- they don’t always show the full truth. As Karl Popper once said, “Put everything to question. Things will be true only when no one can question them anymore.”

Since you can’t see beyond the limits of what you are shown, all I can recommend, and beg you to do, is this: Whenever you hear or read about something that seems to lack explanation, check yesterday’s news. It may help you see things more clearly…

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