On Media / Pop Culcha

Jewish World Review March 24, 2003/ 21 Adar II, 5763

David Bedein
The "peace activist," shown above burning a mock U.S. flag
during a rally in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 15, 2003.

GOTCHA! How Reuters transformed an accidental death into homicide

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | On March 16th, college friends Joe Smith and Rachel Corrie came to Gaza to protest against terrorist home demolitions as part of the former's activity with the International Solidarity Movement.

Both Joe and Rachel had studied at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington.

Joe witnessed Rachel's tragic death late that afternoon, and described what he saw to my colleague. He recounted that

Rachel "was sitting on a mound of earth in front of the bulldozer. The earth started to move under her when the bulldozer digs in. You have a couple of options you can roll aside --- you have to be very quick to get out of the way. You can fall back, but she leaned forward to try to climb up on top. She got pulled down, and the bulldozer lost sight of her …Then, without lifting the blade, he reversed and she was underneath the blade."

Joe Smith did not sound accusatory nor vindictive against the Israel Defense Forces bulldozer driver.

So why did the world have a different impression of what had happened?

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The picture distributed by the Reuters News Agency showed Rachel Corrie standing in front of the bulldozer with a megaphone. That is the picture that appeared on page three of the New York Times on March 17, 2003.

The Reuters caption stated what the picture said that this picture was taken before Rachel Corrie was crushed by this bulldozer, giving the reader the distinct impression that Rachel Corrie had been standing with a megaphone in clear sight of the bulldozer.

That would have made this act some kind of homicide.

The next photo distributed by Reuters showed Rachel lying in front of the bulldozer.

And then I began to notice something.

Click here to view the sequence of pictures. (Pay particular attention to pictures #15-17.) While now noting -- at least at Yahoo -- that these pictures were the work of non-Reuters employees, they still don't identify the source as a political group.

The lighting of the Gaza sky was different in both pictures of what were supposed to be sequential shots.. The landscape in each picture was different.

I checked with Reuters to find out about the discrepancy of the picture sequence.

The Reuters photo editor said, however, that these were NOT their pictures. They were sent by the International Solidarity Movement. Indeed, these pictures did appear on the ISM web site at www.palsolidarity.org. The Reuters photo editor assured me, however, that the pix were clearly labeled as ISM pictures. A check with the Reuters web site showed that they were labeled as Reuters pix.

A call back to Joe Smith about the sequence of the pix revealed another unknown fact. Smith said that no one was on the spot with a camera before Rachel Corrie was mauled by the bulldozer, and that the picture of Rachel with the megaphone had been taken many hours earlier..

I placed a call to Tim Heritage, bureau chief of Reuters, and asked him about Reuters policy in using pictures from political groups that might manipulate the media..

I gave him a heads up about the fact that Reuters had issued the photo of Rachel Corrie standing alongside the bulldozer with a megaphone.

Heritage said that he would look into the matter and asked for a call back.

I called back an hour later. Heritage was not available. However, all of the Rachel Corrie/bulldozer pix had been wiped off of the Reuters web site.

Yet the damage was done.

The indelible image of a mauled "peace activist standing with a megaphone" will not leave people's minds for many years to come.

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JWR contributor David Bedein heads the Israel Resource News Agency, Jerusalem, Israel and the Center for Near East Policy Research, Wellesley, Mass. Comment by clicking here.


© 2003 David Bedein