'Today' Displays Dubious Ambulance Photo

August 10th, 2006 8:52 AM

That truth is the first casualty of war has been borne home by the proliferating 'fauxtography' scandal of photographs of the current Middle East crisis doctored or staged so as to portray Israel in the worst possible light. At this point, can we look at any image from the area without a good dose of doubt?

Take this morning's report on the Today show. NBC's Richard Engel, in Tyre, Lebanon, reported that:

"The fighting has made humanitarian relief efforts almost impossible. Israel has cut roads and attacked vehicles, isolating Hezbollah and everyone else."

This was followed by a clip of the unidentified individual pictured here. Judging by his words and accent, he might have been a Red Cross official. He asserted:

"Lots of people have died because they just couldn't make it to a hospital in time. Ambulances clearly marked with the Red Cross were hit right in the middle of the roof of the car. The Red Cross stands for protection and neutrality. This should not have happened."

There appeared on screen the image of a Red Cross vehicle. And sure enough, smack in the middle of the Red Cross on the roof was a gaping hole. The clear implication was that this was the result of Israeli fire. But can we be blamed for wondering whether this was evidence of near-miraculous Israeli marksmanship . . . or clever staging by Hezbollah or its sympathizers?

'Today' was apparently recycling this image from the July 24th edition of NBC Nightly News. Hat tip to MRC/NewsBusters editor Rich Noyes

Question for military experts: if a shell of a size corresponding to the hole pictured in the photo had pierced the vehicle's roof, how likely is it that the remainder of the vehicle would have remained intact, as it apparently is?

For over a week now, blogs have called the authenticity of this type of photo into question. See also here. Did Today undertake independent analysis to confirm the truth of what it was showing, or did it intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, propagate Hezbollah propaganda?

As to the Red Cross's alleged 'neutrality', in fact the international Red Cross has a long history of a less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel, only recently admitting it to membership after a boycott that had lasted since Israel's founding. And Little Green Footballs has an item asserting that the Red Cross is openly helping Hezbollah.

8/25 Update: Click here for a very thorough debunking of the Israeli ambulance 'attack.' Hat tip to NB Executive Editor Matt Sheffield.

Mark Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact Mark at mark@gunhill.net