(Updated) Nailed Again: IDF Description of Suspicious Photo It Distributed Is Retracted

Update: The subject of the photo has been identified. Reader el_sirio writes: “The guy in the picture is Yemeni lawmaker Mohammad al-Hazmi, showing his ceremonial dagger (known in Yemen as Jambiya), which is carried by every single man in Yemen and is an essential part of the traditional Yemeni dress. Al-Hazmi was detained by the Israelis along with 2 other Yemeni MPs who were on the flotilla. One of them told Yemeni newspapers that the picture was taken long before the Mavi Marmara was attacked by the Israelis. Al-Hazmi was showing off his ceremonial dagger to curious journalists and foreigners on the ship. In this link [Arabic] MP Hazza al-Maswari says that at the time of the Israeli attack, al-Hazmi did not have his Jambiya on him.”

On May 31, the IDF Spokesman’s Office distributed a photo of a bearded Muslim man with a knife surrounded by reporters. Daylight was pouring in from a window or door behind the reporters. Offered without context or explanation, the photo played up a classic Orientalist stereotype of violent, fanatical, and even suicidal Muslims determined to kill Jews. It was included in an article based on testimony from anonymous commandos with the following title: “Israeli Navy Commandos: Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us.”

The IDF apparently told Haaretz that the photo was taken immediately after its Naval commandos raided the Mavi Marmara and other flotilla ships — at least, that’s how Haaretz described the photo based on an IDF source. Yet the raid was conducted under the cover of darkness. How could a photo obviously taken during daytime have portrayed an event that took place during the late evening? Do Muslims have magical powers that allow them to turn night into day? And why were reporters standing around, casually taking photos when commandos were supposedly getting “lynched?” Once again, the IDF’s story was highly suspect.

The original IDF-sourced caption — “holding a knife after” commandos boarded — is below:

The original Haaretz caption claims the photo was taken after the Navy commandos raided the Marmara

The original Haaretz caption claims the photo was taken after the Navy commandos raided the Marmara

I called the IDF Spokesman’s Office to inquire about the photo. Why did the IDF claim the photo depicted an event that took place after the commandos raided the flotilla when it was clearly taken during the daytime? I asked.

idf-lie-knife2

After I questioned the IDF's claim of the photo's timing, Haaretz quietly changed the caption, removing language about the photo being taken after the raid

Spokesman Sgt. Chen Arad told me he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after the commandos landed on the Mavi Marmara. “It could be that the claim was made by commandos in the interview,” he maintained. I reminded him that Haaretz’s source for the photo was not the commandos, but the IDF Spokesman’s Office. After confirming that his office released the photo, Arad said, “It is reasonable that it was before the actual takeover but I’m not sure what was claimed with Haaretz.”

Soon after I spoke with Arad on June 8, Haaretz scrubbed its caption of the suspicious photo, removing the phrase, “holding a knife after Israeli commandos boarded their ship.” However, Haaretz did not mention the retraction, probably assuming no one would notice. The retraction raises disturbing questions about the level of coordination between the IDF and the Israeli media. Did the IDF Spokesman’s Office tip Haaretz off after I called them? And why does Haaretz accept the IDF’s version of events on the Marmara at face value? Besides casting a shadow over Haaretz’s coverage of the flotilla raid, this episode once again proves that nothing the IDF says can be trusted.

38 thoughts on “(Updated) Nailed Again: IDF Description of Suspicious Photo It Distributed Is Retracted

  1. spuxx

    The same photo is featured on aliabunimah and shows that the gentleman is infact sitting, but the photo has been cropped:

    http://aliabunimah.posterous.com/hasbara-comedy-video-further-exposes-idf-knif

    It’s pretty interesting in light of the criticism that Reuters has gotten for using cropped photos of the Israeli commandos being captured:

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/reuters-under-fire-for-removing-weapons-blood-from-images-of-gaza-flotilla-1.294780

  2. bea

    That photo is simply not credible in any way. It appears to be an obvious photoshop job. The people standing in the background look relaxed and happy – the guy on the front right is even clapping! Their cameras are aimed over the head of the rabid lunatic standing in the front with the knife at some entirely disconnected point. The person in the photo is holding a knife of the sort that is found in Arabian Nights, not on the Mavi Marmara. (The only knife that was found on the ship as far as I know was a little serrated kitchen knife with a black handle that appeared in another photo of an injured soldier.) If someone with such a knife were truly in their midst, would the crowd of journalists (not activists by the way) behind him look so jolly? And besides, as you pointed out, it’s broad daylight – afternoon. By the time it was this light in the Mavi Marmara incident, the entire ship was commandeered by the Israeli forces and there would have been no such opportunity for brandishing before the cameras. Not to mention – as we know now, several who dared to take photos during the episode got bullets to their heads.

    The image strikes me as an evident fake. I’m interested to know if others see it this way?

  3. bea

    Mmmm – my post might have been a bit unclear on one point. I meant that to me, the cameras appear to be aimed at a point far ahead of the man with the knife; they are not aimed at him. As if he was superimposed and pasted onto another photo. The two are like separate narratives that don’t connect.

  4. el_sirio

    The guy in the picture is Yemeni lawmaker Mohammad al-Hazmi, showing his ceremonial dagger (known in Yemen as Jambiya), which is carried by every single man in Yemen and is an essential part of the traditional Yemeni dress. Al-Hazmi was detained by the Israelis along with 2 other Yemeni MPs who were on the flotilla. One of them told Yemeni newspapers that the picture was taken long before the Mavi Marmara was attacked by the Israelis. Al-Hazmi was showing off his ceremonial dagger to curious journalists and foreigners on the ship. In this link [Arabic] MP Hazza al-Maswari says that at the time of the Israeli attack, al-Hazmi did not have his Jambiya on him: http://bit.ly/9SL8SE.

  5. gabi

    Thanks, el_sirio, for the clarification. So, in conclusion, the photo itself is not fake, just the timing of it as specified in the first caption, was incorrect; but the amended version of the caption is entirely accurate. It is a big difference between an incorrect description of a photo, and an intentionally altered photo itself (see Reuters) — isn’t it?

  6. Rowan Berkeley

    I have a theory about sub-editors, or “subbies” as they are known in Britain. Subbies write the headlines, not the journalists who write the articles, who may suggest headlines but have no control over them. Now, I have noticed that a fairly high proportion of the misleading claims I find in the online press (I cannot comment on the print versions) are in the headlines, not in the articles. From time to time I add a comment to an article, whether in the British or in the Israeli online press, saying “the claim in the headline is not supported in the article.” These comments are always left in place, but I have found once or twice that if I explicitly accuse ther sub-editors of dishonesty my comments are removed.

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  8. E

    Oh My God! Just when you thought Max couldn’t get any more dishonest!!!

    Got to love this one
    “The IDF APPARENTLY told Haaretz that the photo was taken immediately after its Naval commandos raided the Mavi Marmara and other flotilla ships — at least, that’s how Haaretz described the photo based on an IDF source.”

    Max himself knows that he has no idea whether the incorrect CAPTION on Haaretz article is sourced to the IDF – he simple makes it up which is why he includes the words APPARENTLY. No one at Haaretz told him that the IDF said that otherwise he would have mentioned it, the IDF office didn’t tell him that they originally said that –

    Max – can you read? Basic reading comprehension here: Follow it with me now – “photo PROVIDED by IDF spokesperson office.” Lets say it again now for those who are a little slow: “photo PROVIDED by IDF spokesperson office” – the IDF distributed the photo – there is absolutely NO indication whatsoever that the IDF had anything to do with the caption on the website. In fact – YOU YOURSELF SAY OF THE PHOTO – “Offered without context or explanation.”

    You yourself said that the IDF distributed the photo “without any context or explanation.” The only thing that the Haaretz website says is “photo PROVIDED by IDF spokesperson’s office” – and then you simply LIE and suddenly make the claim that “the IDF APPARENTLY told haaretz this was taken after they boarded the ship” Am I missing something here? How is the photo distributed “without any context or explanation” but then the IDF explains when and where and the exact timeline that the photo was taken?

    Your own conversation you quote is a lesson in dishonesty:

    “It could be that the claim was made by commandos in the interview,” he maintained. I reminded him that Haaretz’s source for the photo was not the commandos, but the IDF Spokesman’s Office.”

    SOURCE FOR THE PHOTO – NOT FOR THE CAPTION – YOU YOURSELF KNOW THIS AS EVIDENCED HERE! Haaretz’s source FOR THE PHOTO – nothing whatsoever about the caption.

    “After confirming that his office released the photo, Arad said…”

    Office released the photo – THE PHOTO…NOT THE CAPTION…say it with me again now…THE PHOTO…NOT THE CAPTION…just like you said YOURSELF – “released the photo WITHOUT ANY SORT OF CONTEXT OR EXPLANATION.”

    The IDF didn’t RETRACT anything because they never made the claim in the first place and AMAZINGLY you LIE and insinuate that they did and that the CAPTION (not photo) was sourced to the IDF without any sort of proof whatsoever that it was anything other than a sloppy haaretz web/graphics editor making an unwarranted assumption.

    TOTAL JOURNALISM FAIL

  9. E

    Hey Rowan – weren’t you the one who said on his blog that certain “Nazi claims were true such as Jewish finance enslaving nations?” Perhaps you should stop embarrassing Max by commenting in support – I’m not sure having neo-Nazi commentators is helping the cause here.

  10. Rowan Berkeley

    I said they might be true. One does not have to be a “neo-Nazi” to observe that this can happen. It seems to have happened to the USA. But my point in the comment on my blog, which was in response to a more right-wing-inclined person than myself, was that Jewish leftists find it hard to examine such claims objectively. Myself, I am a marxist in economics, and this is no contradiction at all: Marx himself was very explicit about the effects of Jewish finance in his journalism.

  11. bea

    Regardless of the party responsible for the error, whether deliberate or not, if the information that el-sirio provides is correct, then the photo and the caption are still misleading and wrong. This apparently did not occur on May 31, and had nothing to do with a confrontation or threat of any kind. As such, it constitutes a serious inaccuracy if not a deliberately misleading portrayal, and the paper should write a prominent and visible retraction.

  12. bobrect

    Here’s the guy, no? http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/04/yemen-fierce-opposition-to-child-marriage-ban-persists-among-conservatives.html

    “Sheik Mohammed Hamzi, an official of the Islamist Yemeni opposition party Islaah and the imam of the Al-Rahman mosque in the Yemeni capital of Sana.”

    Conveniently pictured with the ever present ceremonial dagger, too. There’s no way the IDF photo came from the Mavi Marmarra. Those reporters are smiling, and he’s obviously interacting with someone on the other side of the room. If he was weilding his dagger, the reporters wouldn’t be so happy, and the IDF would be shooting him, not standing on the other side of the room for a photo-op.

  13. el_sirio

    The I”D”F (and Haaretz) lied for the following reasons

    1. They knew, of course, that this was Yemeni lawmaker Mohammad al-Hazmi. They did kidnap him and interrogate him like everybody else. However, they did not reveal his identity because they wanted to enforce the stereotypical impression that his appearance implies: a militant.

    2. The I”D”F or Haaretz DID CROP the original picture (as revealed by Ali Abunimeh), trying to confuse readers about the context in which it was shot. The full picture shows without doubt that the man is sitting and shows his full traditional Yemeni dress, with the typical dagger sheath on his waist. They probably wanted the dagger to look like a smuggled weapon rather a part of a traditional dress.

    3. The I”D”F and Haaretz lied about the date and time of the picture. Even a layman who read the newspaper on May 31 would notice that the caption is inconsistent with news reports on the raid and the official Israeli account. If it was a simple mistake by the I”D”F, why didn’t Haaretz question this? The “amended” caption is still wrong. This picture was not taken on May 31 before I”D”F pirates boarded the ship, as evidenced by the bright sunlight in the background. It’s very difficult not to believe that there is some sort of coordination between Haaretz and the I”D”F.

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  16. mylittlepwny

    The photo is legit, but the original timeframe from the IDF is obviously out.

    Further to points about the knife in question:

    “Despite the significance of the jambiya, it is still a weapon. Although people have used it in times of dispute, there are societal norms that must be followed in order to avoid defamation. The jambiya should only come out of its sheath in extreme cases of conflict. It is also commonly used in traditional events such as dances.”

    Above is from a wiki page, I have spoken with a few tribes in Oman whilst over there on a military exercise and they did mention that if they drew their knife, blood would be spilt. At the time I got the impression that this rule applied to prevent people from brandishing the knife at the drop fo a hat. Whether or not this applies in Yemen is another story.

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  23. Ariely

    * Not Ataturk legacy *
    Islamic revolution
    Erdogan Islamic evolution

    Who are Erdogan political partners?
    1: Endogen considers Hamas a sister party
    Hamas agenda is Islam rules the world and kill Jews
    Details in Hamas chart: http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm

    ** Hamas charter is every think opposed by ATATURK

    2: Erdugan government shelters IHH which is part of the global Jihad network
    According to Danish and French intelligence reports:
    IHH helped AL QAIDA attack on LA airport, send manpower, arms and money to areas engaged by Islamist
    Detailed in the following link:
    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=689705&ct=8419873&tr=y&auid=6424584

    ***** Was ATATURK dream for Turkey to integrate into global Islamism?

    3: Erdugan is binding Turkey to the Iran Islamist theocratic regime
    The Iranian theocratic rulers desire to replace the western civilization- including the end of democracy and western life style.
    3 decades ago, the slogans on Iran streets calling “death to the USA satin”, where considered gimmicks by the west.

    **** Erdugan policy -NOT ATTATURK DREAM****
    ———
    What Arabs&Israel done for Turkey
    1: Teaching of modern sciences in Turkey was established by 300 Jewish professors (read the Jews of Bosporus)
    2: After the Earth quick disasters Israel provided massive help to Turkey
    3; The Arabs revolt was one of the key factors in WW1 Turkey defeat
    4; Arabs help to Turkey was insignificant

    ***Erdugan Islamsit policy- everythink Ataturk opesd*****

  24. poyani

    Max wrote “How could a photo obviously taken during daytime have portrayed an event that took place during the late evening? Do Muslims have magical powers that allow them to turn night into day?”

    Not Muslims Max. Islamist Terrorists (a set which includes all Muslims from birth)! Islamist terrorists have lots of magical powers; didn’t you know?

    According to the US and Israeli government, Hezbollah attacked the US Marine Barracks in Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah, which was founded in 1985, attacked the US military in 1982.

    They clearly used the Jihadist-anti-freedom-time-traveling technique. It’s very similar to the Islamofascist-anti-democracy-turn-day-into-night spell.

    Hamas also uses the same spells. As we all know, Hamas is the real cause of this conflict and Israel is only trying to defend itself. Hamas clearly used the terrorist-time-machine, to travel back in time (before 1988 when it was founded) to start the conflict.

  25. poyani

    Ariely wrote “decades ago, the slogans on Iran streets calling ‘death to the USA satin’, where considered gimmicks by the west.”

    Ahhhh! I remember those days. I was traveling through Iran at the time. Purple colored Indian silk was all the craze but the monarchists insisted that the silk be processed into orange colored satin in American factories before being used as drapes in the country.

    So the people rose up with with slogans like “death to the USA satin”, which, by the by, I thought was a stretch too far. I thought they should just ignore the law and buy the purple silk. But those Iranian are just crazy (about their fabrics).

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