Washington Post defends picture of dead Gaza child after complaints from ‘Jews in large numbers’

On Nov. 14, an Israeli warhead struck a house in Gaza City and killed an infant, Omar Masharawi, 11 months old. His father Jiwad Masharawi works for BBC in Gaza. A photo of him grieving his son’s death, taken by the AP (below), was widely circulated and appeared on the front page of the Washington Post on Nov. 15.

Washington Post photo

Today the Washington Post ombudsmanPatrick Pexton, whom we have praised before for straightforwardness, defends the publication of the photo, saying there were no photos of Israeli child deaths to “balance” this image. And who was complaining? Pexton refers to complaints by “American Jews in large numbers.”

But many Post readers saw it differently. Jewish groups and American Jews in large numbers wrote to the ombudsman and to Post editors, protesting the photo as biased…

[They] asked why The Post didn’t balance the photo of the grieving father with one of Israelis who had lost a loved one from the Gaza rocket fire. That’s a valid question.

The answer is that The Post cannot publish photographs that don’t exist. No Israeli civilian had been killed by Gaza rocket fire since Oct. 29, 2011, more than a year earlier. The first Israeli civilian deaths from Gaza rocket fire in 2012 did not take place until Nov. 15, when Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, began firing more accurate and deadly missiles in response to the Israeli offensive that had begun the day before. There were no recent photos of Israeli casualties to be had on the night of Nov. 14.”

The front-page photo on Nov. 15 told not the whole story of the Gaza conflict, no, but certainly a telling and important part of the truth.

Let’s leave aside the overwhelming ratio of Palestinian civilian deaths to Israeli civilian deaths in Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud, the last two Israeli conflicts with Gazan militants, and what that says about this “biased” photo. 

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