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
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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,”
“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
Edelstein emphasized that distributing the images through the
GPO would place them in the hands of mainstream media outlets rather than social
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
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.
he supports distributing the pictures, on condition that the victims’ family
“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
My Israel representatives said the pictures were approved for
use by surviving family members “to show the world who our ‘partners’
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.