Browsing Facebook this morning as I munched my marmite I found myself faced with a photograph of the blood splattered bodies of Palestinian children lying dead on a pavement. It’s not the first time in recent weeks that friends have felt it necessary to remind me of what is going on in the world in such a graphic way.
Wars appall me. And the situation in Gaza is no exception. I do not need these photographs to remind how inhuman this violence is. I’m told that the pictures are being circulated because if this were on a street in the West we would all know, because the media is ignoring what is happening in Palestine and Israel. Are either of these claims really true?
If children where murdered on a street in Brighton, would we see their blood covered bodies on our TV screens? Would they be on the front page of the Daily Mirror? No, they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t because to do so would be pointless. What happens to people when they see such images? They turn off, they turn away. Is that what you really want—to have people turn away from the plight of Palestinians?
Stop a moment and think about the most powerful war photograph you have ever seen. Got it? I’m guessing the vast majority of you are thinking of Nick Ut’s image of a naked girl running away from a nepalmed village in Vietnam. Why? What is it about this image that moves everyone who sees it? That sticks in their minds for years to come? There is no blood. No gore. The horrific injuries, that still scar the girl in the picture today, are not in shot. The power is in the emotion that is captured and the story that is told. Good photography draws us in. Makes us want to look again. Moves us in powerful ways, touches our humanity. Snapshots of dead bodies just make us turn away. Who wants to look at blood over breakfast?
Is the media really ignoring what is happening in Gaza? I think not. A few days ago I heard the BBC report that the number of Palestinian deaths had now reached 100. This statistic was poignantly followed with another clear, factual, unambiguous statement. Three Israelis had died during the conflict. A powerful message delivered without gore. Yesterday the BBC’s More or Less tore into some of the Israeli Defence Force’s casualty statistics (starts about 12:40 into the programme), and Owen Jones’ appearance on Question Time was hardly brushing the issue under the table.
There are powerful images too. Images that tell a story of human suffering without showing us blood and gore. Who could not be moved by the pictures of BBC worker Jihad Misharwi crying with grief at the death of his 11 month old son?
This is a conflict that is getting more coverage in the UK media than any other that doesn’t involve UK troops. It is not being ignored. Powerful messages that engage people are being made. But bloody images of dead children threaten to undo all that good and turn people off. Think before you share this horror.