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Reprinted from Honest Reporting.
Over the past few days, several photos and videos have emerged of Palestinian men (many of them stripped to their underwear) being detained by Israeli soldiers in various parts of northern Gaza.
In both the mainstream media and social media, these images have elicited a fair amount of attention, with some criticizing the IDF’s measures and others engaging in the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories surrounding this picture are spreading like wildfire.
❌ Mass graves.
❌ Abducted civilians who are never seen again.
In reality, there are already reports that some of these men have been released… pic.twitter.com/tLitHyHGF7
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) December 8, 2023
What Is Happening in These Images?
These images depict military-age men being detained in the northern Gaza Strip.
After intensive fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas terrorists, these men exited nearby buildings and tunnel shafts en masse, surrendering to Israeli forces.
The men were then detained with restraints and, in some cases, blindfolds, and taken to processing areas where it was determined by Israeli security officials whether they were members of Hamas or civilians. If they were civilians, they were then released from Israeli custody.
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirms many Hamas members have surrendered to troops in the Gaza Strip today, saying they have revealed intelligence information on the terror group’s functioning amid the ground offensive.
“In Shejaiya and Jabaliya, terrorists who… pic.twitter.com/Ws2M3VR8lD
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) December 9, 2023
The reason that so many have been photographed in various states of undress is due to the fear that they may be hiding explosives and weapons under their clothing and waiting to ambush Israeli soldiers.
This fear is not unfounded as Hamas is known for its past use of suicide bombers and there have been recorded incidents of terrorists feigning surrender only to attack security forces once they get closer (as occurred with “surrendering” ISIS terrorists in Iraq in 2017).
Also, since it has been over a month since Israel initially warned residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to the south, it is understandable for Israeli forces to be suspicious of any male emerging from hideouts in Hamas enclaves in the north and to treat them as a potential threat until it can be determined otherwise.
As Israeli spokesperson Eylon Levy made clear in a recent interview on CNN, this is the result of Hamas’ choice to embed itself within a civilian population and to have its members fight against Israeli soldiers while wearing civilian clothing with no markers identifying them as combatants (a clear violation of international law).
If Hamas terrorists had “HAMAS” written on their helmets, obviously it would be easier to fight them.
That’s why they dress up as civilians. pic.twitter.com/0kNbECXfEZ
— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) December 9, 2023
Despite the necessity of having detainees remove their clothing to ensure that they are not armed or boobytrapped, the images of Israeli soldiers surrounding near-naked Palestinian detainees have caused quite a stir in both the mainstream media and on social media.
As Ryan McBeth, a US Army veteran and intelligence analyst with a large following on social media, said in a recent video on this subject, “Israel does this because it is the most efficient way of making sure that nobody has a suicide vest. However, the optics of it are less than stellar.”
I guess everyone has already seen the images of the Palestinian detainees that are widely shared on this platform since yesterday.
— Mark Zlochin – מארק זלוצ’ין༝ (@MarkZlochin) December 8, 2023
How Did the Media Report on the Palestinian Detainee Images?
In the days following the initial release of these photos of male Palestinian detainees in northern Gaza, several mainstream news organizations reported with varying levels of nuance and accuracy.
In The Times of London’s coverage, it’s not until the fourth paragraph that it’s mentioned that “some of the men” were reportedly “Hamas fighters who surrendered to the army.”
Then, two paragraphs later, the report states that “Israeli forces regularly strip their captives to ensure they are not carrying concealed weapons or explosives.”
In both its headline and the text of its report, The Telegraph claims that the detained men were stripped and “paraded” through a central square that was once used by Hamas, evoking images of victorious forces flaunting their captive enemies.
However, the report fails to provide evidence for any “parade” and its video evidence merely shows male Palestinian detainees sitting under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers.
🔴 Dozens of Palestinian men captured by the Israeli military were stripped to their underwear and paraded around a central square in Gaza where Hamas fighters used to hold rallies.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) December 7, 2023
The BBC began with quotes from both the IDF spokesperson and Eylon Levy but then gave greater space to those critical of the IDF’s actions, including Palestinian envoy Husam Zomlot, who described them as “savage images” and said that “this evokes some of humanity’s darkest passages of history.”
While the removal of these detainees’ clothes is mentioned, it is referred to as “humiliating” and “horrifying,” with no reason given for why they were made to do so. Thus, the reader is left with an impression of Israeli cruelty rather than the understanding that it is necessary in an active warzone where the enemy embeds itself among the civilian population.
NBC News also seemed intent on discrediting Israel’s counter-terrorism activities by questioning the validity of certain Israeli actions and using a statement by Hamas to refute Israel’s claim that some of those detained were “Hamas terrorist operatives.”
Images from Gaza show dozens of men stripped to underwear and detained by Israeli forces.
Israel says it has detained a number of “military-age men” in the area in attempts to identify any Hamas fighters. https://t.co/jPHuGUK9wO
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 9, 2023
The New York Times gave four paragraphs to official Israeli explanations for the IDF’s activities while over three times as many were given those critical of Israel’s detainment of these Palestinian men.
The New York Times’ description of these detainees as being “tied up outdoors and stripped to their underwear” helps to create a false image of these detainees being cruelly treated like animals by the IDF instead of the reality of them being detained until it could be determined whether they were enemy combatants or not.
For its part, Sky News gave ample space to the allegations put forward by Israel and the IDF and did not color its coverage with language meant to portray Israel’s actions in a negative light.
Overall, the narrative being created by most of these news organizations is one of Israeli retribution and cruel vengeance against Palestinian detainees instead of what it actually is: a concerted effort to protect Israeli forces against attack while also trying to distinguish Hamas members from civilians in an active and fraught warzone.
How Did Social Media Respond to the Palestinian Detainee Photos?
While many on social media pushed the above false narrative about Israel’s conduct in northern Gaza, others went further, spreading both misinformation and conspiracy theories about Israel’s treatment of the detainees.
Some claimed that Israel took these detainees to be hostages, others claimed that the images served as evidence for the “indiscriminate arrest and torture of all Palestinian men” while others even went so far as to claim that the detainees were taken away to be executed.
In one incident, a video of a man being instructed by Israeli soldiers to lay down a rifle on the ground was used by several social media personalities like Muhammad Shehada, Angelo Giuliano, and Max Blumenthal, to claim that it was staged by the IDF in order to serve as a “victory image.”
According to these claims, the existence of two videos of the man laying down a rifle proves that it was done a couple of times for the benefit of the cameras.
However, this claim was quickly refuted by those who proved that there are different rifles in these videos and that the man was probably chosen by the IDF to remove all rifles that were among the group of Palestinian men surrendering to the Israeli military.
So some accounts are spreading fake allegations about the IDF reshooting the arrest of prisoners today🚨🚨🚨.
The claim is, that in one video he holds the gun in his right hand, and in another one, he holds it with his left hand.
The thing is, those are different weapons, he… pic.twitter.com/kaKvMcnjyo
— Ron Shenkman🇺🇦 (@RonShenkman) December 9, 2023
Even though there were Hamas members among the Palestinian detainees and they were forced to remove their clothing to ensure that they were not concealing weapons or explosives, the images of Israeli soldiers standing over half-naked Palestinian men have engendered a storm within both the mainstream media and social media.
The storm over these photos has been wrongfully directed at Israel and the IDF instead of the true perpetrators in these images: the terrorists who hide among civilians, endangering both Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers.
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