Sunday, June 06, 2010

Know your enemy

The above image has been put about as depicting Sheik Mohammed al-Hazmi, a Yemeni MP and delegate to the Gaza Aid Flotilla, wielding a dagger with intent to do harm to allegedly well-meaning Israeli commandos as they stormed the Mavi Marmara, a vessel in the Flotilla.

Presented as a poster boy for your worst nightmare about the Islamist bogeyman, the image has been posted on various sites such as here, here and here. At all of these sites the image is invariably accompanied with the following text:

Prominent activists in the Yemeni flotilla delegation were three MPs from the Al-Islah party, an Islamist party that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. One, Sheikh Muhammad al-Hazmi, was photographed on the deck of the Mavi Marmara brandishing his large curved dagger.

The image and text have almost certainly all been sourced from this page at the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). It seems to be a quick cut’n’paste from your one-stop shop for all your pro-Israel propaganda needs.

MEMRI itself sources the image from this page of an online Arabic news source. Unfortunately the page is in Arabic and MEMRI unhelpfully does not provide a translation.

Those such as myself who don’t have Arabic may try running the url through google’s online translation engine. Although the output yields a somewhat mangled rendering, it seems to say something about the image having been published by Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, suggesting their use of it to be “defamatory.”

Well sure, they probably would say that, wouldn’t they? But at any rate, a quick search of the Ha’aretz site yielded nothing on al-Hazmi. It could be that the Arabic news source was mistaken; or that Ha’aretz indeed did publish the image, then took it down for some reason.

In any event, the ultimate source of the image, and the circumstances in which it was photographed, have not been satisfactorily established by anyone. Even the size and aspect of the image suggest it has been edited from a larger image, thus removing any further detail or context which may illumine its meaning.

And its meaning has, of course, been readily construed by hawkers of pro-Israel propaganda according to their own purposes.

You can read more about al-Hazmi in this puff-piece from The Yemen Times, and in this more critical piece from The Los Angeles Times, both dated in April. The latter article includes an image of the Sheik in repose, taken presumably at time of interview with the writer, in which he is wearing what appears to be the same dagger sheathed at his belt.

Notwithstanding the weapon could well be used to lethal effect, the ubiquity of the dagger around the Sheik’s person might suggest it has some ‘ceremonial’ significance.

Whatever, in my humble opinion it has not been established whether the Sheik’s dagger was “brandished” by him at, or even used against, IDF commandos during the storming of the Mavi Marmara. Or if he did, whether or not it was without mitigating factors such as provocation.

If, however, the image of al-Hazmi “brandishing” his blade is indeed such damning evidence of the Sheik’s murderous evildoing, one can only wonder why Israeli authorities so readily deported him back to Turkey. Surely an attempted murder charge or similar would have been in order?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a less cropped version of the photo here on Haaretz.

There's simply no way this photo was taken during the flotilla raid. I call bullshit.

9/6/10 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Thanks, Anon, as you can see in a later post I'm inclined to agree with your call.

By the way, my policy here is to discourage Anonymous comments (meaning, usually I delete them) but given this is of genuine value in clearing up mis/disinformation, you're quite welcome. Cheers.

9/6/10 10:20 PM  

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