The caption on this photo which was carried by major news outlets such as the New York Times and Boston Globe read, “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.”
The Associated Press (AP) sent out to countless papers around the country a grossly miscaptioned photo on Saturday, September 30, 2000. The photo showed a dazed, bloody young man slumped on the ground, with a fierce looking Israeli soldier standing behind him, raised baton in hand. However, the wounded young man is not a Palestinian but an American Jewish student named Tuvia Grossman. The attack did not take place on the Temple Mount, but on a street in Jerusalem, and the Israeli soldier, contrary to the impression left by the picture, is not attacking the young man, but is protecting Tuvia from an Arab mob who had dragged Tuvia out of a taxicab and had beaten and stabbed him.
As well as appearing in the NY Times, this photo was published in the Boston Globe on the front page, above the fold, in color. No doubt this arresting photo appeared in numerous newspapers across the country. It has left a lasting and false impression of supposed Israeli brutality.
Tuvia Grossman tells in his own words how Palestinians tried to lynch him, and how this event highlights the power of the media to influence public opinion. I was thrust into the international limelight when The New York Times and other major media outlets published a photo of me — bloodied and battered — crouching beneath a club-wielding Israeli policeman. The caption identified me as a Palestinian victim of the new intifada. In fact, however, I am a 20-year-old Jewish student from Chicago, studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Here’s how it all happened:
It was the eve of Rosh Hashana, and I hailed a taxi with two of my friends to go visit the Western Wall. Along the way, the driver took a shortcut through one of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. We turned a corner and suddenly there were about 40 Palestinians surrounding the car. Before we knew it, huge rocks had smashed all the windows of the taxi. Some of the Palestinians pulled open the door and dragged me from the vehicle. About 10 attackers jumped on top of me, punching and kicking me. I crouched to the ground, and tried to cover my face to protect myself as much as possible. All I could see were a flurry of sneakers kicking me in the face.
Then I felt a strong pair of hands grabbing me, and I uncovered my face because I thought someone was trying to help me. But it was just another Palestinian; he held the back of my head and punched me square in the face. I fell flat on the ground and the Palestinians jumped on top of me again. One of them stabbed me in the back of my leg, ripping through muscles and tendons. Two other Palestinians held my head so I couldn’t move, while two more bashed rocks onto my head… again and again and again.
“[When I saw the mis-captioned AP picture] I was extremely, extremely upset. People see a picture of a youth and they think that it’s a Palestinian being beaten by Israelis, it changes their world view and makes them think that it’s the Israelis beating up the Arabs. I was extremely upset. It was totally the opposite. That policeman was yelling at the Arabs to back off, and was protecting me from them – so to change it around and to say that he was beating me, that’s just total distortion, and the world must be notified about how this is not true – the Jews are the ones suffering at the hands of the Arabs.”
In response, the New York Times published a half-hearted correction which identified Tuvia Grossman as “an American student in Israel” — not as a Jew who was beaten by Arabs.
The AP reporter or editor responsible for the misidentification of this vivid photo has caused untold harm, fueling stereotypes about the conflict. Unfortunately, the false labeling underscores the press’s automatic willingness to assume that every victim in this conflict must be a Palestinian and every perpetrator must be an Israeli. It should be noted that Palestinians injured or killed in the conflict were hurt in the midst of violent riots initiated by Palestinians and escalated with their use of rifles, firebombs and stones. Most of the Jewish victims, many of them civilians such as Tuvia, were not involved in any way with the riots, but were rather brutally attacked as they were going about their daily business, e.g. riding in a cab or changing a tire.AISH
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