[Make sure to read Robert Spencer’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
Since Oct. 7, the public has been inundated with allegations of Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Israel, we’re told, is committing a “genocide” in Gaza, and, in fact, has been through all the years in which the Gazan population has grown steadily. The strange story of one young woman, or really, one photograph, is an object lesson in why such claims of Israeli evils should be taken with a large grain of salt.
On X, a poster who identifies herself as Hagit on Sunday posted a highly illuminating thread about a girl with “6 different identities,” and “all of them suffered from the IDF!” This is, said Hagit, “proof of how the Arab media blatantly lies regarding the ‘crimes of the occupation.” Is it really? Let’s see.
Back on June 2, 2016, the Arabic-language Palestine News Network published an article about a child prisoner, Salwa Taqaqta, who had been arrested “under the pretext that she was carrying a knife,” and to whom the Israelis were refusing to grant early release, despite the fact that she was only fourteen years old. Accompanying the article was a photo of a girl, presumably Salwa Taqaqta, surrounded by soldiers. She is wearing a hijab, kneeling on the ground, blindfolded and with her hands cuffed behind her.
Adding to the impression that this was not simply a stock image is the fact that on June 28, 2016, another Arabic source, Wattan.net, published an article about a “minor prisoner, Salwa Taqaqta (13 years old), from the town of Beit Fajjar, Bethlehem District,” whom the Israelis had sentenced to four and a half months in prison. Accompanying that article was the same photo of a hijabed girl kneeling handcuffed and blindfolded.
Then on Feb. 5, 2017, the Palestine Chronicle reported that an Israeli court had “sentenced a teenage Palestinian girl from Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem to six years in prison after she was charged with knife possession and planning a stab attack.” She was identified as Manar Majdi Shweiki, and the article included a photo with the caption, “Manar Shweiki after her arrest.” It was, however, exactly the same photo that Palestine News Network and Wattan.net had used of Salwa Taqaqta.
The same photo showed up again on Sept. 23, 2018, when another Arabic source, Sebafm.net, reportedthat “the Israeli occupation forces arrested the child Tasnim Basem Maatouq (15 years old) from the town of Al-Eizariya, east of occupied Jerusalem, to force her brother to surrender himself to them. Then on Dec. 8, 2019, Felesteen News reported that Israeli forces “arrested the child Afnan Abu Sneina (14 years old), on her way to her school, at the ‘Abu Al-Rish’ checkpoint, claiming that she possessed a knife.” Once again, the same photo is supplied. The official Palestinian Authority news agency, WAFA, put out the same story with the same picture.
On Thursday, a Palestinian lawyer, Qays Sediqi, posted the photo once again, with the caption “Young PALESTINIAN girl under the ‘care’ of ISRAEL.” The following day, another Arabic news outlet, AlTasrih.com, used the photo yet again to accompany a new story about the Israelis arresting an unnamed Palestinian girl in Gaza. Here yet again, as in all the other uses of the same photo, there is no indication that it was being used as a stock image; it was presented as a photo of the arrested girl in question.
So who is the girl in the photo? Hagit concludes that she is “Sabreen Mujahid Sanad, arrested on December 1st, 2015 when apparently she was 14 years old. According to Israeli media, which I trust 1000 times more than I do the Arab media or any ‘Human rights’ related reports (now even more than ever) – she was detained after being suspected of planning a stabbing attack. She was released after a month, not before accusing the soldiers of incriminating her and even trying to murder her.” That may be, but Hagit includes a screenshot not of an Israeli source, but of another Arabic media outletthat identifies her as Sabreen Mujahid Sanad, although it uses a different photo, and so it must be conceded that they could be lying as well.
It appears as if there was one incident in 2015 of a Palestinian girl who was arrested for carrying a knife, and the Palestinian media made this into at least five more incidents, reusing the original photo each time. This would be comical were it not for its potentially lethal effects: the international media is far too uncritical when reporting from Palestinian sources. The low opinion that Western leftists generally have of Israel is a direct result of the negative coverage the Jewish state routinely gets in the establishment media, and that coverage depends in large part on what Palestinians tell Western journalists. Whoever Sabreen/Salwa/Manar/Tasnim/Afnan/anonymous really is, she could end up putting more than a few innocent people in danger.