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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Culture Wars & Censorship, Israel

Published on May 12, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Photos That Lie: Building the Case Against Israel, Article by Article, Day After Day


For fifteen years, (1993-2008), Charlie Bernhaut of Americans for a Safe Israel has been sending Open Letters to the staff at the New York Times. Charlie loves Jewish cantorial music and Jewish jokes. He is an amiable, sociable man. So, what has driven him to launch such a lonely, one-man crusade?

I doubt he can stop himself. Perhaps the Biblical bush burned for him too, perhaps, like Moses, he could not refuse the mission–which consists of documenting and protesting the newspaper's contemporary "use of photographs to prejudice their readers against Israel." He was at this long before CAMERA, MEMRI, or HonestReporting saw the same burning bush. The Times has never acknowledged Bernhaut's letters–nor have the Jewish media and organizations who also received copies.

Of course, as the author Laurel Leff, (Buried By the Times. The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper), has documented, the Paper of Record did not cover the Holocaust either, they did not document Jewish suffering or genocide.

The photos Charlie brought me were all taken by Rina Castelnuovo. Google her and you will find sixteen pages devoted to her photos in the Paper of Record, and to her gallery exhibits and prestigious awards. Castelnuovo was born in Tel Aviv but her focus is mainly upon the suffering of Israel's non-Jewish Arab citizens and that of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. A minority of her photos focus on positive Israeli realities but there is no real balance or complexity to her photojournalism. Of course, the articles that accompany her work are similarly unbalanced. One might conclude that she has been asked to focus only on Palestinian grief and to avoid Israeli grief altogether.

Castelnuovo's photos enjoy prominent placement and sometimes occupy an incredible one-third of a page. Obviously, so do the articles that her photos illustrate. Bernhaut believes that some, if not all of her work, is staged; it therefore pre-dates the kind of faux-tography that characterizes the full-steam-ahead Arab, Palestinian, and Islamist visual and narrative brainwashing of the world's masses that gathered force during the al-Aqsa intifada.

Stay tuned for an interview with Phillipe Karsenty, the hero who has been battling France's media over their use of the quintessential staged, fake event known as the Mohammed Al-Dura"Affaire," in which a small Palestinian boy was "seen" being shot to death in his father's arms by Israeli troops at the Netzarim junction.

It turns out that the Israelis did not shoot him. Actually, the boy was neither shot nor killed. The poster child and father for the al-Aqsa intifada were… actors. The harm is done. It cannot be repaired. But, perhaps the families of all those Israelis who were martyred between 2000-2008 can sue France's Channel Two, the Palestinian Authority, Arafat's estate, and the world media for damages.

The propaganda against the Jews and Israel is relentless and effective and has reduced the truth to a lie. After forty years of manipulating the truth, millions, perhaps billions of people view Israel as the "Nazi, apartheid, occupier" of noble, oppressed, and suffering Palestinian people.

They do not understand that the Palestinians have never existed as a group or as a nation-state; that early Zionist pioneers and Israelis improved both the non-Jewish Arab standard of living and life expectancy so much so that more and more family- and clan-identified non-Jewish Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians gravitated to Jewish lands; that, in 1948, the Arabs who occupied villages in Gaza and on the West Bank were not forced out by Israelis but rather by their own Arab leaders who wanted to use their homes for battle-purposes and who were absolutely convinced that they would drive the upstart Jews into the sea.

They failed to do so. However, thereafter, the Arab High Command and individual Arab tyrants refused citizenship to all "Palestinian" refugees and also kept the enormous sums donated to alleviate their suffering for themselves and for weapons. The Israelis wanted mutual cooperation and peace with their non-Jewish Arab neighbors. The Arab and eventually the "Palestinian" leadership only wanted to use the "Palestinians" as human fodder in their eternal war against the Jews and against the West.

Read Ephraim Karsh's excellent piece on this very subject in the latest issue of Commentary magazine.

The first Castelnuovo photo that Bernhaut showed me appeared on February 17, 1993. It showed Muslims in full prayer position outside a mosque in Bir Nabala which the Israelis had "sealed." The photo caption, the article , and the headline do not explain that Hamas was using the mosque to store weapons and that the Israelis had raided it for that reason. The fact that the Israeli government is a faithful protector of religious shrines of all religions is never mentioned–nor is the Arab and Muslim shameful record of burning down, building over, or using the religious shrines of non-Muslim faiths as garbage dumps.

On March 21, 1996, we see sorrowful, patient Palestinian women and children who have cancer "waiting for permission to go to Israel for treatment." Not shown are the scores of Palestinian patients who are routinely treated in Israeli Jewish hospitals. Even Arab and Muslim "militants"/terrorists who are captured in battle are treated in Israeli Jewish hospitals. The Times provides no photos of them.

On September 11, (!) 1998, Castelnuovo provided a photo of the grieving family of a Palestinian woman shot "by accident." It did not balance this photo with that of a grieving Israeli family whose civilian member was shot "on purpose." As Bernhaut phrased it in his letter to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. in April, 2000: "Of course, Jewish suffering is nonexistent (irrelevant).

Bernhaut's latest letter is dated May 9, 2008 and addresses the two Castelnuovo photos that accompany the May 7, 2008 headline: "After 60 Years, Arabs in Israel are Outsiders and Their Anger is Growing." Pictured is a traditionally dressed 84 year old Arab who is touching the door of Hittin, a former Arab village in the north of Israel. Bernhaut suggests that Castelnuovo must have said: "Go over to the wall and face the door..that's it. Now, raise your hand…no, not the right hand, it will hide your face. That's it, the left hand, raised. Now, look longingly at the wall..Perfect. Here's the payment for your services."

Yes, western journalists routinely pay for such theatrical participation. I am not saying that Castelnuovo did so in this particular instance.

Bernhaut brought me one other article, which was dated April 23, 2000 and which concerned the photo which, much earlier, depicted the evacuation of people from the roof of the American Embassy in Vietnam. According to New York Times journalists Fox Butterfield and Kari Haskell, this photo became the "most remembered photo of the fall of Saigon." However, the caption in the New York Times was "wrong." Those boarding the helicopter to flee Saigon were not Americans; they were Vietnamese." Butterfield and Haskell write: "In it's way, the photo is a metaphor for all the misunderstanding that plagued the Vietnam war."

Bernhaut writes that perhaps one day the New York Times will also write: "In it's way, the photographs that the New York Times featured to bias the public against Jews are metaphors for many of the misunderstanding that plagued the tiny, beleaguered Jewish state."

I think Bernhaut is far too optimistic.


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