October 1st, 2005

How Tuvia Grossman got to be a “Palestinian”

In case you missed the story the first time round, Richard Landes of Second Draft has a post at Solomonia on the misidentification of Tuvia Grossman by the press.

Grossman, an American Jew studying in Israel, was beaten by a mob in the Arab section of Jerusalem and rescued by an Israeli policemen. When the photo of the bloodied Grossman appeared, a club-wielding and shouting policeman standing over him,

it was released by the AP and flashed all over the world–including the NY Times–with the laconic caption, “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.” The reader was led to the inescapable conclusion that the Israeli had beaten the defenseless Palestinian youth.

To this day, that misapprehension continues among many, despite attempts at correction. The photo was originally used as propaganda for the Palestinian intifada; it is still used for propaganda purposes by the Palestinians. After all, what are facts when there’s a larger truth to consider?

Landes makes the important point that the misidentification most likely had to do with the expectations of the press that any photo featuring “bloodied youth and Israeli policeman with club” would just have to be of a Palestinian who had been beaten by said policeman. Psychologists have long known that human beings function in the world by setting up such templates as shortcuts to ordering observations.

I became curious to know more of the details of the chain of events involved in this error. Who actually had been responsible for the mistaken caption? Who had taken the photo, for example; had he/she originally identified the people in it, and if so, how? Was the error the photographer’s, or had someone else along the way goofed–or even lied?

It took some digging to find any answers, and at first I found only a fragment. It appeared in this recent article from the Jerusalem Post on the subject of the Grossman photo (Tuvia himself, by the way, has emigrated permanently to Israel, according to the article).

Here’s the passage relevant to the caption’s genesis and evolution:

…a freelance photographer took a shot of one of the soldiers, his club in the air, standing over a bloody Grossman. The Associated Press, in giving a caption for the photo, identified the gas station, outside the Old City, as the Temple Mount and the victim as a Palestinian.

From this we learn that a freelance photographer took the shot, and someone at the AP gave it the caption (we also learn that the policeman in question may have actually been a soldier, although the words “soldier” and “policeman” seem to be used interchangeably at times in articles about the incident, including even this one by Grossman himself. An unimportant distinction, perhaps, but it illustrates what an elusive quarry accuracy can be–as does this whole affair).

So, we still haven’t a clue as to how the AP managed to get the information so very wrong. Even CAMERA, which has a good summary of the development of the story and the differing retractions and corrections along the way (including the AP’s first correction, which again misidentifies Tuvia, this time as an Israeli medic) fails to shed light on the question.

Here is the most complete set of facts describing how the caption came to be written that I’ve been able to find. It’s not perfect, but it will have to do. The link is to a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the NY Times about a week after the story broke. Here’s the relevant quote (note that the soldier [?] has turned back into a police officer):

A picture of Tuvia Grossman, his head bloodied and sitting in front of the approaching police officer, was taken by an Israeli photographer for Zoom 77, an Israeli agency, and sent that Friday, Sept. 29, to The A.P. in Jerusalem with a garbled Hebrew caption that misidentified Mr. Grossman as an Israeli ambulance medic.

The A.P., which had received many pictures of injured Palestinians that day, did not clarify the garbled caption but sent the picture to subscribers with a caption based on the erroneous assumption that Mr. Grossman was a Palestinian. It also misidentified the site, first as the Temple Mount and later as another site in the Old City.

Many newspapers published the picture and erroneous captions based on The A.P.’s information. The New York Times misidentified Mr. Grossman in last Saturday’s issue as a Palestinian and in some copies misidentified the site as the Temple Mount. In a correction on Wednesday, The Times noted that the wounded man was Tuvia Grossman, a student from Chicago, but–using erroneous information from The A.P.–mistakenly said the site of the attack was in the Old City.

So: we’ve learned that the photographer was an Israeli who originally made an error about Grossman’s identification–a different and much smaller error than the one later made by the AP. At least the photographer got the fact that Grossman was a Jew and not a Palestinian correct–and that the policeman/soldier was protecting him rather than beating him. (At the same time we’ve learned why it was that the AP’s first correction of the caption had misidentified Grossman still again, this time as an Israeli medic–the AP was simply using the information supplied by the photographer’s original caption to make its correction. One almost begins to have some sympathy for the AP at this point–almost.)

The incident began with the fact that the photographer’s original caption had somehow become garbled (unintelligible? illegible?). But the AP, instead of asking for clarification from the photographer–as it should have if it had any interest in accuracy–seems to have filled in the blanks (just as Landes has suggested it did) with its own expectations and assumptions that the bloodied man had to have been a Palestinian victim of Israeli aggression. All the other papers followed the lead of the AP, not having any reason to suspect a mistake. The Times, when informed of the error (by Tuvia’s father, by the way), continued to err in the first of its several corrections by relying on the already-discredited AP for the location shown in the photo.

A story of astounding carelessness, expectations, assumptions, and multiple misidentifications on the part of the press, particularly the AP–although one that does not seem to include deliberate lying, except on the part of the Palestinian organizations still using the photo even today.

The whole thing would be relatively trivial if the subject matter weren’t so important, and hadn’t been so inflammatory. The photo and caption have already done their dirty work, and I doubt that many of the people who saw the original caption have ever caught the correction, or ever will.

13 Responses to “How Tuvia Grossman got to be a “Palestinian””

  1. SteveR Says:

    Yes, this photo is etched into my memory. I remember seeing it on page 1 of the Baltimore Sun on the morning of September 30, 2000. The caption there was something like “Israeli policeman shouts at wounded Palestian at protest on Temple Mount.”

    It took me about 1/2 second to look at the photo and conclude that (a) the “policeman” was not, at that momemnt, interacting with the “wounded Palestian” at all, but with someone at least several yards closer to the camera, and (b) the location was certainly not Temple Mount. In a nutshell, I knew right away that Something Wasn’t Kosher.

    The photo was accompanied by an article by the Sun’s man in Jerusalem at the time, G. Jefferson Price, III – a guy who never met a Palestian action he didn’t like, or an Israeli action that he didn’t decry.

  2. strcpy Says:

    “I’m not sure I understand the middle portion of your comment, so please forgive me if the following is not apropos to it.”

    He/she is saying a now familiar phrase in a different way “Fake, but accurate”. Look to the story represented and it’s true – after all it must be if it was so easy for them to think such a thing.

    Maybe Anonymous works at CBS?

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    While I think I agree with some of what you wrote I don’t agree that the internet or blogs have done away with the need for news

    Of course it has done away with the need for some guy sitting in an office deciding what the people need to be informed about. It may not defacto eliminate from existence such institutions as newspapers and networks, but it has indeed removed the need for them.

    The whole point of a free press is to inform people in a democracy so that they have the best information so that they can make the best decisions. Bad information=people getting hanged. Right=life Wrong=death

    A democracy survives by sacrificing citizens to bad choices, so that in the future, better choices can be made for future citizens. In war, a democracy survives by sacrificing the young men.

    A despotic regime sacrifices citizens so that the regime will survive, and keep on sacrificing citizens. Chain reaction.

    the overwhelming bulk of which the public now obtains from an apparently irredeemably biased MSM.

    Convenience. Humans use the tool most convenient to use. Common denominator.

    The internet is not supposed to change human nature, you know.

    Neither is democracy for that matter, supposed to make people better, it is only supposed to make people choose better.

    I believe the public needs factual news, supplied by a free press

    Well the thing is, we have no free press right now.. Some people believe we do, but that is an illusion, and a dangerous delusion at that. One of the ironic things is that people in Canada and Britain tell us that our press is not free, and they only say this because the CBC and the BBC told them to say so. I never did trust anything that sounded like the truth, from a government funded propaganda machine.

    If you want to build a free press, you got your work cut out for you. First, you have to demolish every cable/tv network company, then destroy all the newspapers, and start from scratch like in Iraq. Iraq has a free press, Canada, the US, and Britain unfortunately do not.

    We have a “freer” press, but that’s not to say our press is free. A little higher on the energy activation scale, but still, no cigar. There’s some very good reasons I say this, and you can find the first one by reading Michael Yon’s online magazine where he describes how the media propaganda machine in Baghdad works.

    The press is an organization that is classically seen as “official” in some respects or not. That is what I mean by the press and what the press means by the press. It’s not the Main Stream Media, it’s the press I am refering to.

    Anyone and everyone whose job is to dissimilate information to the voters and non-voters.

    I believe the public needs factual news, supplied by a free press

    The public needs FACTS and good information, PERIOD.

    This obsolete idea that you need a press, free or not, is just too out of date. It’s isolated in the belief that nobody but this institution can solve the problems of yesteryear. It’s stuck on stupid, honestly.

    Look, FedEx, Amazon, and WalMart are in the 21st century. Our government is still in the early 20th century. I’ll let you decide which one is “more effective” considering recent events. The problems have not changed in 100 years, only the solutions have.

    It is depressing to realize that a lie often seems to have an advantage over the truth.

    Of course it is, because we all realize that if people can be convinced of B, then it does not matter how much A is being produced on the battlefields by the blood and sweat of our patriots.

    It has a taste of injustice.

    That is why you fight fire with fire. Our military is better than the guerrilas. So why are we losing or appearing to lose? Cause we are not better at psychological warfare. Or at least, if we are better at psychological warfare, not attacking the enemy’s psychological mosques gives them an unfair advantage. Just like not attacking the enemy’s real mosques gives them an unfair safehouse.

    If you gave the Special Forces Groups full Presidential Orders, on a black ops schedule, to destroy and nullify Al-Jazeera, Al-Jazeera would be gone in a few months.

    If you modified these orders to “Convert Al-Jaazera propaganda to pro-American propaganda”, you would no longer need to destroy Al-jaazera. Cause Al-Jazeera would be working for us. Whether they wanted to or not.

    The reason why America doesn’t do this is because we are not desperate enough. But like Churchill said, if you don’t fight when you don’t need to fight, then you will have to fight when your existence depends upon the outcome. Pre-emption is survival.

    We are still the Great Satan, the Imperialist Colonizers, the Corporate Tree-Murderers, and whatever other dumbass labels the utopian loons can think up.

    Trust the Romans when they say that it is better to be feared than loved.

    It is depressing to realize that a lie often seems to have an advantage over the truth.

    Remember this, the best defense is a quick and effective offense. The world press is expert at getting things done in a quick and dirty kind of way.

    Pre-emption, preempting the propaganda, is just as important in the psychological realm as it is in the invading the nations realm.

    “Israel has a moral obligation to lead the way, and demonstrate that peaceful methods will lead to improvement for all”

    Israel has an obligation to show the Arabs that they got a pair of balls, and either spread nuclear radiation on the borders to seal off Israel, or actually go into Gaza/West Bank and make it into a REAL OCCUPATION where the Israelis control the social services and government institutions instead of Hamas and Hizbollah.

    To be honest, Israel has an obligation to either take a dump, or get off the pot. They seemed to have chosen to get off the pot.

    I wish Israel would show some insanity, so that some other nation than the US can be blamed for being a war monger.

    But, if Israel hasn’t gone insane with rage in 50 years, I guess they aren’t ever going to. *sighs*

    It would be interesting to see what would have happened had Americans been colonizing Israel instead of the Jews.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Cosmic X: Thanks for the information. I figured someone would be able to figure it out by the uniform–and there you are!

    Anonymous at 7:17 AM: In the light of what has happened in the last five years in particular, since the second intifada began, I find your statement “Israel has a moral obligation to lead the way, and demonstrate that peaceful methods will lead to improvement for all” mindbogglingly out of touch with any sort of reality. You sound quite a bit like Gandhi, and in this case that’s not a compliment, although you might find it so. Please read up on some history of the region.

    I’m not sure I understand the middle portion of your comment, so please forgive me if the following is not apropos to it. But, as I interpret it, you are trying to say that the fact that the AP had received other pictures involving wounded Palestinians would absolve the AP of its duty to identity this particular photo properly. I fail to see how–not to mention the additional question of how, when, and why those Palestinians had received their wounds. At this point, with the evidence of incidents such as Mohammad al-Dura, and the “corpse” that jumped off its stretcher and other examples of deceptive Palestinian propaganda offered in evidence at the Second Draft site, it is simply realistic to be skeptical, and to make extremely certain a picture and a situation is what it purports to be.

    If in the Grossman case the caption was garbled or difficult to understand, a wire service that was actually in the business of disseminating news rather than propaganda or rumor would have a duty to do at least a moment of research and find out what the situation is that is being depicted in this particular photo.

    There is no question in my mind that there was no other photo even remotely like this one that day–the seemingly-menacing Israeli standing with a club over the bloody “Palestinian.” It was probably the most potentially inflammatory photo (at least in their eyes) that the AP received that day. Thus, the decision to highlight it. Do you think that, had the AP known the photo was actually of a Jew who’d been beaten by Palestinians and was being saved by the policeman, that they would have run it? I highly doubt it, given their track record.

  5. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “Israel has a moral obligation to lead the way, and demonstrate that peaceful methods will lead to improvement for all.”

    “Anonymous” can take his/her moral obligations and stick them up his/her ass.

    I’m sick of people demanding that we must hold the “moral high ground” at all costs. We’ve held the moral high ground ever since the abolition of slavery, something that the Arab countries STILL have not done, and what good has it done us? We are still the Great Satan, the Imperialist Colonizers, the Corporate Tree-Murderers, and whatever other dumbass labels the utopian loons can think up.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Your point is well made in a very interesting and balanced piece.
    I do feel that the comment “The A.P., which had received many pictures of injured Palestinians that day, did not clarify the garbled caption” speaks volumes.
    Most of the images coming from Israel/Palestine are of the type that the subject photo was wrongly interpeted as.
    Israel has a moral obligation to lead the way, and demonstrate that peaceful methods will lead to improvement for all.

  7. Cosmic X Says:

    To clear up the policeman/soldier confusion:

    It seem to me that the officer in question is wearing the uniform of the Israeli Border Guard(Mishmar HaGvul in Hebrew).

    Some young Israelis, instead of being drafted into the IDF, are drafted into the border guard. They perform their obligatory military duty as policemen in the border guard. Hence the confusion.

  8. Dymphna Says:

    Ed Driscoll has a similar framework for a different story. See his linky post on Associated Press Deficit Disorder.

    http://eddriscoll.com/archives/cat_oh_that_liberal_media.php

    He has links to the original…

  9. john moulder Says:

    Ymarsakar wrote: “With the advent of the internet, we don’t need a free press anymore.” I assume by “free press” you mean a component of the Mainstream Media. While I think I agree with some of what you wrote I don’t agree that the internet or blogs have done away with the need for news, the overwhelming bulk of which the public now obtains from an apparently irredeemably biased MSM. I believe the public needs factual news, supplied by a free press, in order to make informed decisions. Obviously, an un-free press would be ill-equipped to supply fact-based news.

    I do agree with this, which I found at your blog: “ … those who only report on policy should not buy into, regurgitate, or design their own propaganda projects.”

    CAMERA was part of my blogger-induced education on the biased & error-filled reportage of the Middle East in general & the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.

    On the question of whether the AP & those that ran the photo & erroneous caption are guilty of deliberate fabrication in this specific instance: maybe not, but perhaps the reason they erred so easily was because the ‘template’ had already been in place for some time & in my opinion the placing of templates is conscious & deliberate. Of course once the template takes hold conscious rationales probably aren’t needed anymore – every decision becomes automatic – the pilot engages automatic pilot & the slanted newsplane flies itself to its dogmatic destination.

    I wonder if someone would have checked for accuracy if the correct caption had been clear in the beginning. I can see an AP editor mumbling to themselves, “This can’t be right – an Israeli policeman defending someone from the Palestinians – I’d better call him & ask.”

    And if the correct circumstances had been found out in the beginning I have my doubts as to whether the picture would even have been used. My suspicion is that some sort of rationalization would have floated to the surface that would have resulted in the photo never being seen by the public.

    Another thing that struck me as I finished reading this excellently researched post was that it only takes a biased MSM, a template & one garbled caption to create a monstrosity of an error but it takes many words & many hours of research to correct the record. And as you pointed out, most who saw the original incorrectly captioned photo will never see anything that corrects the misinformation they viewed & internalized. It is depressing to realize that a lie often seems to have an advantage over the truth.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    I actually just wrote a blog post about propaganda, in the same vein, though not in the same subject as Arab-Israeli.

    Link

    The thing is, I differentiate between propaganda done well and propaganda done not well. In this case, I would have to say that the AP bungled the project. First, by mistaking the photo to be pro-Palestinian without the intention of making it pro-Palestinian. Thus, they bought into their own preconceptions, and in the end, their own propaganda.

    Now, there is a certain consistency in believing in anti-Americanism, for example. That consistency allows you to be seen as heartfelt and sincere. But if you wanted to propagandize anti-American activities, you would be required to distort reality in such a way, that the bad of America will be emphasized and added, while the good will be demolished and subtracted.

    Someone who is a true believer, will almost certainly believe in the distorted lies, only a method to a goal.

    That, however, interferes quite badly in the process. When the AP made a correction, knowing now that they made a mistake, they are diminishing the effect of their propaganda by providing us with an example of where they were wrong.

    For them to tell the Big Lie, that Israelis are the terroists instead of the Arabs, they must do so consistently, and without ever saying they are wrong. To admit they are wrong, when they make a mistake and are wrong, diminishes their power over people.

    In the end, the AP are true believers trying to propagandize things that a true believer should not be involved in. And therein lies the problem, if the AP can no longer distinguish their lies, the Palestinian lies, and their own fabrications and mistakes, just why does the AP exist?

    The best propaganda is when the operator knows what goal he wants to perpetuate in people’s minds, that America is good, but is not bought in the necessary lies that form part of the solution. Churchill had to lie, rather than evacuating a town because that would give away the Enigma secret. But it is only right, because he didn’t believe his lie. In fact, that question was actually posed in Knights of the Old Republic I, but nevermind.

    A lot of people are going to get killed because democracies like Israel and America, and pacifism philosophies like Judaism, won’t get down in the mud and fight fire with fire. People are too worried that we will stain our hands, and that it will make us “dirty and immoral”.

    Counter-propaganda is the missing component, if you do not have this component, you will be fighting the same enemies until you become extinct. Somewhat akin to the Jewish fight, when everyone uses propaganda against the Jews and the Jews stay in their social cliques and avoid the outside world.

    The Grossman incident would have been a perfect way to create a counter-propaganda campaign in which resistance is championed to save innocents like Grossman from the barbaricism of the Arabs.

    It’s one thing to lack will and resolve in a fight, it’s another thing to be so lazy and weak that you won’t want to increase your people’s will and resolve through propaganda.

    In war, the moral is to the physical, as 3 is to 1. Meaning, you win by using 3 psychological attacks with 1 physical attack. The object is not to kill every single enemy, as your arm will get very tired, but to break their will to fight.

    A necessary prerequisite to that, is increasing your side’s will to fight.

    When the youths of Israel talk about how they want a peaceful and prosperous relationship with their Palestinian counterparts, when their Palestinian counterparts want to eviscerate every single Israeli, that may sound “commendable”, but never in my existence has WEAKNESS ever appeared Good or commendable or desirable.

    There is an inherent weakness to democracies and public opinion/relations. One of them is the ease to which information can be manipulated, and hence the public manipulated.

    With the advent of the internet, we don’t need a free press anymore. The free press is obsolete, their original goal of informing the public so that the public isn’t just limited to government perspectives, has been taken over by the information superhighway.

    There is no reason whatsoever, to prevent the military and the government from feeding the press BAD information so as to shape the propaganda campaign. The military already gives the press their daily body counts of American casualties.

    Isn’t it time that the public institutions start looking out for the public instead of their own appearances?

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    While the correction reaches fewer people than the original story, it has two effects, mitigating the smaller numbers.
    The first effect is to correct the information.
    The second is to reinforce distrust of the media, especially with regard to the ME, and most everything else.
    The second effect will be more important in the longer term.

  12. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    It is never the single picture, but the cumulative effect of such impressions. Keep plugging. Keep teaching. Few of the Roosevelt Democrats, Kennedy Democrats, or Boomer moonchildren will ever get it. But a few will, and the generation that follows is wiser than we in many ways.

  13. Steve M Says:

    I’m sure you’re right that many people will have seen the original caption but will never have caught the correction.

    In view of the difficulties and inconvenience of downloading Richard Landes’ excellent movie, many people may never see that either.

    Perhaps what is required is a web-based slideshow or picture gallery with these photos, their AP sub-texts (or equivalent) and a brief account of the truth. This might be a form in which the information is more easily and powerfully disseminated.

    Look how many people saw that ‘We are sorry’ thing post GWB’s re-election. Perhaps the time has come, and Mr Landes (amongst others) knows this, for propoganda to be turned and used against the propogandists. The question is how this may be best achieved.

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