Robert Tait of The Telegraph published a story on April 13th based on a new 74-page report by Human Rights Watch (Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children) claiming that Palestinian children “as young as 11” are being employed under dangerous conditions in Israeli settlements “in breach of international law”.
Tait cites the HRW report’s claim that “hundreds of child labourers are working in farms and agricultural businesses in the strategically sensitive Jordan Valley for just £13 a day”, and includes an accusation by HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson that “Israel’s settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children.”
David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley regional council, denied the allegations, according to The Telegraph, and said “there were no children among the 6,000 Palestinians employed by the [council].”
Both The Telegraph article and the HRW report used the same photo to illustrate the alleged illegal use of child labor by Israeli settlement farms in the Jordan Valley.
However, a look at the original photos taken by a Reuters photographer suggests that the photos used by The Telegraph and HRW may be misleading.
The series of photos, which include the photo of the boy used by The Telegraph and HRW, were taken by Reuters’ photographer Mohamad Torokman in 2010, and appear to illustrate work at a Palestinian farm.
Here’s the first photo in the Reuters series (taken on May 24, 2010), the one used by HRW and The Telegraph:
Here’s the second photo in the Reuters series (also taken on May 24th, 2010) of what appears to be the same boy at the same farm.
Now, here’s the third photo in the series also taken on May 24th. The caption notes that the owner of the date palm orchard is a Palestinian named Naeem Issawi.
It certainly appears that the photo of the underage boy seen in the HRW report (and in the Telegraph story) is working illegally on a Palestinian farm. (The boy is quite possibly Mr. Issawi’s son.)
So, a 74-page report by HRW on the Israeli use of illegal Palestinian child labor appears to have misled readers by using a photo which actually illustrates the Palestinian use of illegal Palestinian child labor.
The significance of this misleading photo would not be lost to those who read a series of articles by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman. Friedman argued that journalists covering the region learn very quickly that “what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel” and Israel’s alleged abuse of Palestinian human rights.
Facts concerning the abuse of Palestinian human rights by other Palestinians (including Palestinian leaders) is not part of the MSM story.
The alleged problem of Israeli settlements illegally employing Palestinian children is consistent with the media’s myopic focus on Israel. However, the problem (unexplored by HRW or The Telegraph) of Palestinian children being illegally employed (per the photo) by fellow Palestinians is certainly not consistent with the desired narrative.
We’ve contacted HRW and Telegraph editors seeking comment on the photo, and will update this post when they reply.