Discern between perception and truth
AND SO ON
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012 19:02
"FAKE! This is NOT an Israeli soldier!"
If you were on Facebook last Wednesday and have a significant number of Jewish "friends," then you may have seen those red words glossed on a photo of a soldier-type individual pointing a gun at a child. In fact, you might have seen it more than once. Perhaps it popped up incessantly on your news feed all day long, as it did for me.
At first glance, the whole thing seems like a textbook case of noble, pro-Israel fact correcting. But it might have been something else. In part, it might reveal a more notable reservation about the Israeli Defense Forces from among even the most ardent Israel supporters.
In case you missed it, the photo shows an individual in military garb (from the waist down) pointing a rather big gun at a rather little girl who is lying on the ground and upon whom the armed individual has also placed his booted right foot.
Equally prominent in the picture, to the right of the action, are the aforementioned words. Below, in the same loud red font as the earlier words, are two detail-specific clarifications that point out the ways in which this picture just cannot possibly be one of a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Some background: An earlier version of the photo apparently began making some viral rounds on Facebook earlier in the week.
According the English language website of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in that earlier form, users posting the picture purported it to be of an Israeli soldier threatening a Palestinian girl.
This was a lie.
Fervent Internet users/Israel-defenders were quick to point out the extents to which the photo was a phony, resulting in the creation and widespread dissemination of the image covered with corrective red text.
According to the text of the counter-fake-picture iteration of the image, there were two very specific details that plainly proved the picture was a forgery: The alleged Israeli solider is holding an AK-47 assault rifle that is not used by that country's army. And Israeli military uniforms have full jacket zippers, different from the one worn in the posted picture.
Eventually, an uncropped form of the photograph surfaced, proving with further finality that the photo was definitely, definitely not one of an Israeli soldier.
So was this just a case of active grassroots defense of Israel in the face of some increasingly anti-Israel world? Or was there something about the rampant postings that is telling in a different, more sobering way?
It's impossible to really discern why any one person felt compelled to repost the corrected image. It's the type of thing that even a well-worded poll wouldn't truly capture. But having unwittingly seen the variety of ways in which people posted it, my hunch is that no single reason will suffice.
The "gotcha" mentality seemed quite prominent, as there's quite a thrill in exposing an enemy's blatant lie. For any pro-Israel activist of any sort, this seems to have been quite a win. The picture was a shabbily cropped forgery, and that's that. It was an easy, indisputable victory among an endless cyber-world riddled with bogus allegations.
However, for some it seemed more as though reposting this picture was something of an awkward relief.
On Wednesday, we had the chance to see an image that was fortunately fallacious. But in some strange way, it was almost little more than a comforting coincidence—because if people look hard enough, they can find the real versions.
I'm not talking about some alternate original of this counterfeit. And I don't mean to say that there exists some corresponding, real photograph of an Israeli solider stepping on and pointing his weapon at a Palestinian child—I gladly know of no such photo.
But Israeli military activity in the West Bank and Gaza over the last many years has provided far too many verified images and accounts of Israeli soldiers in less-than-flattering scenarios. What we saw on Wednesday just wasn't one of them.
And perhaps therein lies a whole different set of problems—problems that cannot be posted, shared or liked away. Or perhaps we all need spend just a little bit less time on Facebook.