This photo, along with the heart-rending story of the death of 11-month-old Omar Mashhrawi, ran in mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post and the BBC last November.
The baby’s death was attributed to Israeli airstrikes and suggestions that Hamas rockets might have been at fault were roundly dismissed:
Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air strike, some bloggers have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket.
But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, the Israeli military says mortars had been launched from Gaza but very few rockets.
Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jehad’s house.
Other bloggers have said that the damage to Jehad’s home was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks but the BBC visited other bombsites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”.
As at Jehad’s home, there was very little structural damage but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns. Most likely is that Omar died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.
Omar was not a terrorist.
Last week, though, a report issued by the UN Human Rights Council confirmed that it was a Hamas rocket, not an Israeli airstrike, that caused the baby’s death:
“On 14 November, a woman, [an] 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”
It’s critical to keep in mind the way in which death and destruction is routinely used to further someone’s agenda. In this case, more important than figuring out what actually happened, the Post, the BBC, and even Human Rights Watch immediately made this terrible story the centerpiece of their broader criticism of Israel and dismissed any blame that might fall to Hamas.
Of course, while many Israelis and their supporters are now feeling vindicated, it’s also crucial to remember that these people and many others like them still died. And that many more will likely die as a result of the rockets and airstrikes routinely and cavalierly unleashed by parties to this conflict.
Israelis, Palestinians, and their supporters around the world act as though this is some sort of game that one side can win if only enough people come over to their side; with each death, whether it’s a baby or a grandparent, it’s pretty clear that no one’s winning.