Who doesn’t love TED?
For those who don’t know, TED is the phenomenally popular series of lectures that began as a one-off conference in 1984 showcasing the convergence of Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED now encompasses almost every conceivable category, so long as people In The Know deem it is, or will be, great.
TED is run by a non-profit foundation and is best known for the 18 minute talks given by the hundreds of presenters chosen by the TED staff. TED also hosts conferences, sells books, encourages independent “TEDx” events and takes on “TED Fellows.”
There is an in-depth interview with a Gazan female photojournalist chosen as a TED fellow in 2014. It was posted on the TED Blog on April 25, 2014. The now-26 year old Eman Mohammed spoke with Karen Eng, part of the TED writers team.
Much of what Mohammed discusses during the interview has to do with the wildly misogynistic culture of Middle Eastern men. Mohammed insists that the misogyny is not dictated by Islam, but is instead an oppressive cultural norm.
In Islam, you’re allowed to work, you’re allowed to be in the field. And men have to respect you because you’re a woman, regardless of what you do, as long as it doesn’t go against Islamic rules. You can’t be, say, an escort or something like that. That goes against modesty rules. But you can be anything else, if you want to. Photography doesn’t offend Islam in any way. So it was never an issue religiously speaking, but it was a huge issue culturally speaking.
Mohammed also discusses, naturally, her work. Her truly spectacular photographs have been used by such major players as Getty Images, The Washington Post, Le Monde, the Guardian, UNICEF and Save the Children.
On the TED blog, Mohammed was allowed to caption her own pictures. In those captions and during brief sections of the interview, Mohammed provided wildly inaccurate accounts of the activities, ethical standards, and operating procedures of the Israel Defense Forces.
In discussing how she was injured while photographing an incident during the Cast Lead Operation in Gaza in 2008, Mohammed attributed to the IDF a particularly heinous practice for which Palestinian Arab terrorists are notorious.
There had been an air strike on a police compound, and I was there afterwards. The thing about the Israeli military, when they start an air strike, they wait for civilians and medical teams to arrive, and then they strike again, so they can have biggest number of casualties.
Before the erection of the Security Fence, when homicide bombers were regularly terrorizing Israel, it happened that an initial bombing was followed by a second one, timed so that it would explode when rescue workers and onlookers had rushed in to help the wounded at the initial bombing site.
The IDF, in stark contrast, dropped over two and a half million leaflets throughout Gaza, and phoned and texted the residents there, warning them of impending attacks.
As the media watchdog organization CAMERA, which was the first to notice the problematic TED interview and wrote about it in an article published in its Hebrew publication, Presspectiva, continued,
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009, praising the “extraordinary measures” that Israel took in Cast Lead to avoid civilian casualties:
I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.
Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.
There is other misinformation provided as fact by Mohammed which the TED writer and/or editor failed to suggest were anything but fact. She discusses as fact, the highly disputed use of white phosphorous by Israel in the 2008-09 Cast Lead Operation, and the specific targeting of civilians and residential areas. Several of those points are addressed in the CAMERA article, which has been translated into English.
There is an additional, troublesome aspect to the lengthy TED interview with Eman Mohammed. It is not surprising that an interview with “Gaza’s only female photojournalist” would include several of her photographs. However, the interview covers the entire seven years of Mohammed’s professional journalism career, yet every one of the photographs which are part of the TED interview are from the three weeks of Gaza’s Operation Cast Lead, which started on December 27, 2008, and ended on January 18, 2009.
The Jewish Press is waiting for a response to an inquiry regarding the type of due diligence performed to verify facts raised during the Mohammed interview and stated in the captions to the photographs accompanying the blog post.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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