A U.N. media official is under fire after tweeting a graphic image of an injured child and attributing it to recent Israeli air strikes on Gaza. While the photo, at first glance, certainly offers up a tragic sense of what war costs the men, women and children who live through it, the image is apparently years old and had nothing to do with Israeli actions.
But before we get into the gritty details, here is the controversial photo:
Khulood Badawi, who Honest Reporting says works as an Information and Media Coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is responsible for sending the photo out on Twitter. In a message disparaging to Israel, she wrote, "Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by #Israel. Another father carrying his child to a grave in #Gaza."
Here's the problem: The photo is apparently from 2006 and has no relation whatsoever to Israel (or violence for that matter). While it was sent on March 10, the tweet is still present on Badawi's account and has been shared by many other users, including activist and filmmaker Diana Alzeer.
On Monday, Honest Reporting wrote that the photo, "...was proven to have originated in 2006 and to have had nothing at all to do with Israeli action. This photo is now the top tweet for #Gaza, with over 300 retweets. It is completely false."
A man named Avi Mayer initially tracked the image and found that it, at the least, goes back to 2009 and seems to be attached to tragedy that unfolded in Iraq (here are the search results showing where the image popped up). Honest Reporting continues:
Further research revealed that the photo was taken in 2006 by Reuters, and that the girl, initially thought to have been killed in an Israeli air strike, was injured by falling off a swing. When confronted with this information, Alzeer stated that the photo was taken last night and forwarded to the press that day.
When Mayer pointed the image's false beginnings out to Alzeer, she denied his claims and initially defended the photo (later, she apologized):
Back in 2006, a corrected caption on the photo read:
"A Palestinian man carries the body of three year-old Raja Abu Shaban, in Gaza August 9, 2006. The three-year-old girl who had been reported killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday actually died of an accident, Palestinian medical workers said on Thursday. Workers at Gaza’s Shifa hospital said on August 10, 2006 that the initial mistake over the cause of death appeared to have arisen because the girl’s corpse was brought in at the same time as the bodies of the gunmen. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES)"
Despite this clear evidence, Badawi has yet to come forward and apologize for tweeting and attributing the image incorrectly. Perhaps her activism and strong allegiance to Palestinian ideals has prevented her from doing so. Or, it's possible she hasn't yet learned of the photo's incorrect designation. Honest Reporting provides more information on her background:
A Google search reveals that Badawi has a history of activism in a range of pro-Palestinian non-governmental organizations, some of them radical and politicized. While this background may not in itself disqualify her from a career with the UN, it is absolutely unacceptable that a UN employee working specifically on dissemination of information to the media and public tweets malicious and false information to libel Israel.
A YouTube video linked from Badawi's Twitter profile provides even more background information, in her own words:
Bizarrely, while she hasn't apologized, Badawi linked out to a blog post from Alzeer on Monday saying that it is a "must read article." The posting, of course, admits that the photo is fake, but goes on to address Israeli "propaganda." The irony -- teamed with the failure to apologize -- is painful at best. Sadly, this isn't the only false photo floating around and being blamed upon current Israeli military action.
(H/T: Honest Reporting)