While a suspected Iranian spy was in court in Israel on Monday having his custody extended for another eight days, Israeli media focused not so much on the spying allegations but rather whether a photo distributed by the government of the man is real or Photoshopped.
Israeli officials say the suspected Iranian agent, Ali Mansouri, was traveling in Israel as a Belgian businessman named Alex Mans in order to set up a front company to hide his true espionage aims.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service released photographs that it said were taken from the suspect’s camera that included exterior shots of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
But it’s one particular photo of Mansouri standing across from the Tel Aviv beach that’s captured the attention of the Hebrew social media world where some are asking: Did the Shin Bet fabricate the photo?
After the Israeli government distributed this photo, conspiracies on social media abounded.
Notice the shadows of his legs and the lamppost behind him. One Israeli posted the photo with red marker arrows pointing to the different angles at which the shadows fall on the sidewalk, asking how is it possible that the shadow of the man’s legs point toward the camera, while the shadow of the streetlamp appears to point toward the beach.
Uri Misgav of the left-wing newspaper Haaretz also raised questions on his blog, writing “It looks like a particularly bad photo-montage. I hope the Shin Bet won’t try to use this photo to further public relations efforts overseas. Oops, actually it already did.”
Does the apparent mysterious behavior of the shadows prove government tampering with the image? According to examinations conducted in the Israeli media – not really.
The Israeli blog Holes in the Net explains that different shadow angles can be caused by any number of factors, such as if the streetlights are shaped like a T.
“The strange shadow in the picture is the result of that shape and the shading created by another pole, that’s most likely outside the frame. Likewise, it’s unknown what kind of camera captured the photo, what time of day it was taken, where the sun was, etc.,” the blog writes.
An Israeli Facebook user Snir Balgaly posted this photo demonstrating how a T-shaped lamppost could cast an unusual shadow.
Ridiculing those promoting the conspiratorial theory, Balgaly writes, “Take this photo…or is it also Photoshop and I’m just a Shin Bet impostor aiming to confuse people with concrete facts that blind them.”
Doron Fishler who writes the Hebrew column “Photoshop Police” concurs with the Photoshop theory take-down. He used a notepad to sketch his take on the conundrum for Channel 10 on Monday night.
Channel 10's expert whipped out the sketchpad to explain his take on the shadow mystery
Fishler explains that if the sun is above, with a pole standing on one side and a man on the other, the shadows will fall in what appear to be different directions. “It’s a matter of perspective. It’s very, very simple,” he told Channel 10. He said it would be incorrect to conclude that the photo was fabricated.
Holes in the Net reported that the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Aharonot" asked Photoshop experts to examine the picture who also concluded the picture looks authentic.
And the social media storm has already spawned spoofs, like this: