April 1, 2024

Israeli Military in Gaza: Are You Going to Believe Us, Or Your Own Eyes?

An Israeli soldier stands in an apartment during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Photograph: Ohad Zwigenberg/AP Photo

Despite the Israeli military’s attempts to control the narrative and censor coverage of their operations, photojournalists continue to make images that see through the propaganda.

I can only imagine the Israeli soldier’s offense as he realizes he is being photographed. The IDF was leading journalists on perhaps the most high-profile embed of the Gaza war, intent on justifying Israel’s extended assault on the Al Shifa hospital complex.

The New York Times article detailed the constraints:

In order to enter Gaza, two reporters and a photographer for The Times were obliged to remain with Israeli troops for the duration of the visit. They agreed not to photograph most soldiers’ faces, landmarks, maps and certain details of weapons…. The Times journalists were allowed to see only a portion of the sprawling Al-Shifa complex. The military refused to let the journalists explore the hospital, or see or interview patients and medical staff who remain in the facility, saying it had not been fully secured and that Hamas combatants might still be there.

The Cyclops-like figure and intense side-eye glance, framed by the protruding trigger finger, say everything about daring to look and having the audacity not to submit to the aggressor. Thankfully, The Times did not allow the Israeli military to screen its coverage before publication.

Lt. Col. Ido stands in a damaged bedroom, which is located, as he claims, above a workshop that was used for weapon production inside a residential building amid the ongoing ground invasion against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, November 8, 2023. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

This photograph comes from another tour of journalists to a building in Gaza the Israelis pounded. The IDF insisted that there was a workshop under this apartment producing weapons for Hamas. The Reuters caption and their report, which includes a video and a slideshow, is diligent in reminding us the charges remain unsubstantiated.

Like the photo leading the post, the soldiers display a complete lack of urgency or any concern for the eyes on them. Juxtaposing the obliviousness with the evidence of extreme violence in such an innocent space, and a female one, not only highlights the domination but a gendered kind. Again, I credit the photographer who captured a maniacal piece of documentation, the way the soldier is captured in shadow, his gaze strangely fixated on the bed, while freezing the mid-air gesture of the soldier dropping a limp, long-haired doll onto another.

Despite the allegations of a smoking gun or civilians at risk, the visual narrative on this floor, in this room, with this view, also powerfully evokes the thousands of domestic spaces violated and destroyed in the ongoing Gaza campaign. Standing in the middle of the pink-shaded bedroom ransacked down to that open top drawer, the mirror smashed, its walls punctured, and the view outside a hellscape of rubble, what this calls out more than a homegrown threat is the displacement and extreme trauma incurred by the Palestinians, including the 25,000 women and children already killed.

As you witness the news images from Gaza, pay special attention to the edges, seams, and the difference between what you’re told versus what you see. And appreciate how brave and insightful photojournalists, seizing every opportunity to shed light on Israeli minding and control, persist in exposing the censorship, the orchestration, and the decimation of Gaza for what it is.

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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