Israel may have reached a historic turning point Sunday in the popular media battlefield when the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry worked through the Government Press Office to release graphic photographs of the murdered members of the Fogel family.

A number of organizations said that surviving family members had given their consent to the publication of pictures of the scene of the attack on the condition that the victims’ faces be blurred. In the hours after the end of Shabbat, videos and pictures of the family, including of the carnage, were uploaded to social networking sites including YouTube and Facebook. Israeli newspapers, however, did not publish the most graphic material.

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For years, Israel has refrained from releasing photographs of terror victims, with officials citing respect for the dead and concerns over surviving family members’ sensitivities.

But on Sunday, GPO Director Oren Helman received instructions from Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein to publish the images following the approval of the family.

“We have never done anything like this before, but only these horrific pictures can make the world realize who Israel is dealing with,” Edelstein explained.

“I have never had a meeting overseas on the subject of public diplomacy in which I wasn’t asked why the images representing the Israeli side are so sterile, while those of the Palestinians are quite graphic. This is a very serious incident for us, but for too many people in the world, there is a neat and cozy picture of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this can help those people understand with whom we are doing business.”

Edelstein emphasized that distributing the images through the GPO would place them in the hands of mainstream media outlets rather than social media websites.

Edelstein will participate Monday in a meeting of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Public Diplomacy Committee that was scheduled weeks in advance to discuss “Public Diplomacy in an Age of Facebook and YouTube.”

Committee Chairman Danny Danon (Likud) announced Sunday that the central issue for discussion will be the question of whether to publish the graphic pictures from Itamar to further public diplomacy.

Danon said he supports distributing the pictures, on condition that the victims’ family approves.

“Only if we publish the pictures will the world know what kind of human-animals we must deal with.

Israel must invest funds to improve public diplomacy, especially following incidents such as these, that can change world public opinion quickly and efficiently,” Danon said.

“The time has come for us to understand that this is the Middle East and not Switzerland, and in the Middle East, you speak the language of the Middle East and act according to the rules of the Middle East,” he said.

Although videos with images of the attack were viewable on YouTube, one organization, My Israel, complained that the site had dropped the video it had made using footage and stills of the carnage in Itamar.

The organization edited the three-minute-long English-language video, which it hoped would be distributed worldwide, on Saturday night. It included pictures of family members while they were alive, as well as pictures from the scene of the slayings, with the victims’ faces blurred.

My Israel representatives said the pictures were approved for use by surviving family members “to show the world who our ‘partners’ are.”

After thousands viewed the video, it was removed from YouTube and, according to the organization, from Facebook by the websites’ managements, with the explanation that it “offended users.”


My Israel cried foul, complaining that equally graphic videos are often posted in support of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.

YouTube representatives said it was company policy not to comment on specific cases.

“With 35 hours of video uploaded every minute, we count on our users to flag content they believe violates our terms and conditions,” YouTube responded in a statement. “We review all flagged videos quickly, and if we find that they do violate the Guidelines, we remove them.

“Occasionally, content is misidentified as being in violation of our policies and mistakenly taken down. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that had been removed,” it said.

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