Pro-Israel commentators are calling out Reuters for cropping out key details in photographs of Israel's deadly May 31 raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla — specifically, knives in the hands of pro-Palestian activists. They are suggesting that the photo edits demonstrate a strong bias at the British news agency. Here's a brief rundown of Reuters' "fauxtogate" scandal:
What did Reuters do?
In at least two cases, Reuters — which sells news photos to media outlets around the world — cropped pictures of shipboard violence in such a way as to omit knives being wielded by passengers on the raided vessel. (See the photos in succession.) Both shots showed Israeli troops being attacked and bloodied by pro-Palestinian activists, but — in their edited form — did not show that those activists were carrying deadly weapons. The original photos were taken by the Turkish group, IHH, that sponsored the Gaza flotilla.
Why did cropping the photos in that manner make Israel look bad?
The New York Post says the "impact" of Reuters' edits is to make the deadly flotilla raid "look more like an Israeli massacre of innocent civilians and less like an act of self-defense against armed thugs masquerading as humanitarian workers." Charles Johnson, who first pointed out the cropping in his Little Green Footballs blog, says that, given the dispute over who started the violence, "cropping out a knife, in a picture showing a soldier who’s apparently been stabbed, seems like a very odd editorial decision."
Is there an innocent explanation?
Reuters said it did crop the photos at the edges "following normal editorial practice," and that it promptly disseminated the unedited originals after realizing "that a dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images." Reuters points out that it "used one of the uncropped photos on our reuters.com home page, and linked to a slideshow which used both full-frame knife shots."
Why aren't pro-Israel commentators buying that?
This isn't the first time Reuters has published photos with an apparent bias against Israel. In 2006, during Israel's military conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the news service distributed images that had been doctored to highlight the effects of Israel's actions, darkening the smoke pouring out of a building that had been struck by an Israeli bomb. (Reuters dismissed the employees responsible for the alterations.) "Everyone makes mistakes, including journalists, but every time Reuters says it makes a mistake, it does so to Israel’s detriment," pundit Tom Gross told Israel's Haaretz newspaper. Reuters' German Jewish founder, Julius Reuters, "must be turning in his grave at how Reuters is helping to stir up delegitimization against the Jewish state."