After my piece Thursday morning asking why mainstream media outlets aren’t showing photos of Hamas fighters in Gaza, The New York Times offered me this response: We don’t have any.
Of the 37 images that make up the Times’ most recent three slide shows of photos from the conflict, there’s not a single shot of a Hamas rocket launch (though more than 2,800 rockets have been fired at Israel) or of Hamas fighters using mosques, schools or hospitals as bases of operation.
Why not? After all, Hamas attacks against Israel are crucial to understanding what’s underpinning this conflict.
Here’s what Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications, says:
Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground. It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.
I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants. We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.
Now, I’m no war reporter. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take, and I commend those who do. So I’m hesitant to question the work of reporters in Gaza right now.
But here’s what I don’t get: With the hundreds of journalists there, including numerous photojournalists with experience covering bloody conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan, how is it that they aren’t able to get any images of Palestinians fighting the Israelis? We know these images exist — unless you believe the Israel Defense Forces is fabricating its footage of Palestinian fighters using ambulances to transport rockets, firing from hospitals and mosques, and launching rockets at Israel.
It’s certainly important to show the human and structural devastation in Gaza. But with more than 2,800 rockets fired at Israel thus far from Gaza, and plenty of other fighting there, you’d think media outlets would be able to document some of it. But they haven’t. (Israeli news outlets are barred from Gaza, so they get a pass.)
Maybe they’re not looking in the right places? By all accounts Hamas is running a command center out of the basement of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. How about showing us that? Three UNRWA schools so far have reported finding Hamas rockets on their grounds. How about showing us that?
Here’s what Times photographer Sergey Ponomarev, who is in Gaza, recently told the paper’s Lens Blog about his routine covering the conflict:
You leave early in the morning to see the houses destroyed the night before. Then you go to funerals, then to the hospital because more injured people arrive, and in the evening you go back to see more destroyed houses.
It was the same thing every day, just switching between Rafah and Khan Younis.
Maybe it’s time to switch it up a little?