Poster Boy

Memo to the editors of the New York Times re: “The 10-Year-Old Boy Who Has Become the Face of Starvation in Gaza”.

First, require asterisk (*) after lede, “Children are dying of starvation in Gaza” and explain that there are a dozen or so such cases, none of them ordinary, all with unusual medical conditions.  Then, after “Israel is responsible”, insert “allegedly, but see below”. This is important journalistically because, having emblazoned on your front page the picture of Yazan Khafarneh wasting away on his deathbed, you should move the unique and proximate causes of his death — he was unable to swallow and required a regime of special medications and a rare diet, unfortunately not available in wartime — from the tenth paragraph to the beginning, where it belongs .

Is this what they taught you at Columbia Journalism? The incitement of crowds that smash university windows and make campus life intolerable for Jewish students has been largely on you (who can forget your dithering over who fired the rocket killing dozens in the Al Ahi parking lot, or whether the tunnels under Shifa  were used by Hamas or merely the janitorial staff).  I never went to journalism school, but I have heard about the value of “one picture”.  How much more than a thousand words is the value of a deceitful picture. Within minutes your “poster boy” article was mirrored by news outlets across the globe. The photo was real, but who needs “Deepfakes” when you have such deep fakery by the “Gray Lady”.

The boy’s death was tragic enough, but the details stashed at the tail end of the Times’ indictment of Israel and ghastly Exhibit “A” photo, details which went unmentioned by most of the media chorus either because they don’t care or couldn’t associate them without a magnifying glass, beg more than just a few questions.  It seems Yazan suffered since birth from cerebral palsy, an eventually fatal disease which in his case left him unable to survive without a cocktail of drugs and specially strained nutritious foods available through medical facilities.  He had also contracted a serious virus that hastened his demise. But of course, with facts like these honestly conveyed up front, he is no poster boy.

Perhaps in a world in which Hamas had not turned hospitals into armories, battle stations and launching pads, or had not commandeered humanitarian supplies for itself, Yazan might have survived longer. Perhaps if the IDF had thought to send crisis nutrition teams along with its medics and incubators accompanied by special forces into every neighborhood and facility condemned to misery by Hamas, Yazan would have been able to hang on to his too short and unfortunate life. But what army does this?

That’s an almost perfect world.  Like the one in which hundreds of Palestinian children like Yazan were once treated for rare diseases in Israeli hospitals (perhaps while their Gazan escorts took notes for the October 7th planners).  It’s a world we will not again see for a long time.

The Times slogan is “All the News that’s Fit to Print”.  A lot depends upon how it decides to fit it.

About the Author
Bennett M. Epstein has B.A. and JD degrees and has practiced law as a prosecutor and defense attorney since 1969. He has also been an adjunct professor of criminal law.
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