Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 1, 2015

Why We Saw the Photo of the Israeli Solder Giving the Palestinian Boy a Headlock … Not Fighting a Girl

Of the set of pictures taken at a protest against Jewish settlements outside Ramallah last Friday, it’s understandable the media more widely distributed the one of the Israeli soldier putting a Palestinian boy in a headlock. Beyond its immediate circulation, the photo earned notice in several “photo of the week” galleries. Adding to the impact, if you haven’t already seen it, you’ll notice the boy’s arm was in a cast. (He’s under the soldier’s leg above.)

Given how much the Israeli government and the Israeli mission is propositioned around the attributes of potency and muscularity, it would have been just too brazen, I assume, for worldwide media to highlight the images of the soldier wrestling with, and in one of the photos, raising his fist to Palestinian women and girls.

As much as we, in the west, at least (as well as the Israeli army), aspire to gender-neutrality, there is obviously a different meaning and resonance to violence against women, compounding the morality and the Israeli-Palestinian power imbalance that comes across so simply and starkly in the headlock photo. What also disturbs is taking on a children’s cartoon character (even if Tweety Bird is known for holding its own with the hunter and the bulldogs, its creator and Looney Tunes leaving it ambiguous whether the character is just a baby or a girl). It’s not just man vs. child, especially female child, that exposes the state, however. It’s also the sense the otherwise omnipotent soldier might actually be over his head, the veneer of the iron man literally ripped as he loses his mask … it suddenly looking a lot more like stocking material or cammo-hosiery.

Full 5 photo Haaretz post here. Larger Reuters edit, leading with the boy.

(h/t: Gastropoda. photos: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters caption: Palestinians try to prevent Israeli soldier from detaining a boy during a protest in the West Bank village Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. linked photo caption: An Israeli soldier detains a Palestinian boy during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah August 28, 2015.)

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