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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

School Daze: Updated

UPDATE Tuesday:  Margaret Sullivan, the fine NYT public editor, has now weighed in (Please jump to my original post below.)  She quotes from my piece, finds fault with some aspects of the caption but after a few phone calls rejects my claim that it is "disgraceful" and maybe Orwellian--and points to criticism of the photo from another angle, as being an example of "anti-Israel bias" (which she rightly rejects).

I'll offer a full response in stages, and there are already some good comments up at her blog.  For now:  1)  Hicks reports that the school was not, as I suggested, destroyed by a missile but only damaged enough to keep it from re-opening.  I get the difference but the reason I had written that it was destroyed were photos such as this, also from Hicks (go to #19 in the slide show), and especially these (#1, #3 and #4 in gallery),  again from Hicks.  These photos apparently were viewed by Times editors, and now Sullivan.  Note the captions in these (online) cases clearly label the school closed due to damage. 

2)  Sullivan reports:  "Douglas Schorzman, an assistant foreign editor, told me that it wasn’t clear to editors in New York how damaged the building was. 'If it was leveled, we just should have said so,' he said. But 'on deadline and in the moment, we may not have known that.' And in fact, it wasn’t leveled, so it made sense to be cautious."  This, of course, is absurd.  The caption did not even mention that the school was damaged in any way, before jumping to its Hamas focus.

3) "In addition," Sullivan writes, "the brief caption was serving a second purpose – as a way to direct readers to an inside page where several articles were displayed, including one about the prospects for peace talks and the role of Hamas." So the fact that it served this "second purpose" meant the caption could not be accurate and complete?  (Earlier she had cited "the caption’s multiple purpose").  And the articles inside did not cover school closings or damage.

4) Someone at the Times, I hope not Sullivan, has picked as her post's only highlighted Comment so far  one from a reader who hints that the entire photo was a "set up," that the building may not have even been a school, and maybe the girls sent there merely for a photo op.  Now that's disgraceful.

5) Please note my "Orwellian" was preceded by "maybe."

Original post on Sunday:  This image (above) was the top front-page photo, by the great Tyler Hicks, in the NYT print edition today:  kids returning to their school in Gaza and finding it shut down, for some reason.  Disgraceful, some might say Orwellian, Times caption:  "Girls at a Gaza school were stunned to find it closed.  An emboldened Hamas may lead Israel to harden its stance."  Why closed? You had to go to other photos way over at  the NYT site to find out that the school was completely destroyed by an Israeli air strike.  The caption might even suggest to some that Hamas had shut down a lightly damaged school. While prominent placement of the photo might draw criticism from Israelis, the caption seemed aimed at softening that.

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books (see right rail of this blog).  His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is "Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.


10 comments:

Wendy Bandurski-Miller said...

i feel bad that the kids wanting an education in Gaza have to contend with their school being bombed into rubble. They are so sad and shocked and i can hardly blame them..... i care that they have a real school who is fixing this up?

Dennis said...

I'd like to know if the Palestinians used the school as a shield or if Israel was just targeting schools since this was a 'precision' missile.
Getting the entire story on any one site is becoming more and more difficult. I don't see angels on either side of this struggle, everybody is trying to use everybody else and all going for a total win instead of any type of compromise.
It just makes me tired.

Dennis said...

I would like to know if Hamas was using the school for a shield, as they often do or if Israel just used the disturbance to wreck a few schools, hospitals, whatever. I really do not see angels on either side of this struggle. Everybody is using everybody else and their all trying for a total win with no compromises.
It is so hard to get the entire story at any one site anymore. Perhaps that is only to be expected nobody knows everything.

New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership said...

Caption correction, it should read: "Girls at a Gaza school find it demolished by a brutal, apartheid military occupier"

You're welcome

Anonymous said...

Another school obliterated by Israel as it continues its war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Anonymous said...

With the entire block bombed into rubble, would these girls really have been surprised to find out that their (now nonexistent) school is "closed"? Somehow I doubt the NYT asked for their input.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone be surprised that any school in Gaza is closed? It's a war zone, not a school safety zone. Leave the kids at home where they might be safer.

Anonymous said...

Cute little girls in Gaza are victims... because insane Hamas terrorists use Gaza as a launching pad to constantly try to murder Israeli Jewish people, and Israel protects itself.

Those cute little girls should also ask their parents this: "Mommy and daddy, instead of voting for peaceful, sane leaders, why did Palestinians elect crazy Hamas in the most recent national elections?"

Anonymous said...

Dear Dennis,
Unlike Israelis, Palestinians don't have underground shelters to seek safety into. That's why when their homes and neighborhoods are attacked, they seek asylum in public places like schools. So, where would be the best place to aim your "clever" and "precise" missiles if you are targeting such people? Of course United Nation -run schools! Pictures speak of themselves:
In 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2009/jan/21/gaza-israelandthepalestinians
http://friendsofpalestine.wordpress.com/resources-and-readings/image-galleries/photos-of-israeli-white-phosphorus-attacks-on-un-schools-in-gaza/
http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=1507

Anonymous said...

Hamas doesnt need to use a school as a shield. Gaza is so congested and confined that it is difficult if not inmpossible to avoid having innocent civilians near potential combatants. Israel knows this and uses the shield argument as a cover for unintended casualties.