Despite the continuous depressing and brutal images that fill our television screens from various crisis points all over the world, the image of the young Palestinian girl, Hoda Ghalia, screaming “Father, Father!” on Gaza beach, next to the dead bodies of other family members, may have had one of the biggest impacts on its audience.
I say “may” because in this era of reality television, in the tragic sense, we can no longer anticipate what shocking images of suffering we will see on our television screens.
It seems that this type of live broadcast had begun to strengthen its position through reporting on war and conflict. Despite the harshness, live images of death have become a necessity to determine those responsible and to clarify the most complex details of such sensitive issues. This was evident in the mindset of photographer Zakaria Abu Herbeed who had pictured those painful images of young Hoda. Zakaria took these pictures completely aware that he had to deliver these images to the rest of the world in spite of the severe psychological pain that he had to endure as he photographed the distraught child. Images of a shocked, screaming Hoda traveled all over the world making this young child the simplest and strongest symbol of the Palestinian tragedy.
Images of the “girl on the beach” as Hoda came to be known in the press, have destroyed the numerous propaganda campaigns of the Israeli military that has long sought to win over local and international public opinion by justifying its atrocious attacks on Palestinian civilians. The Israeli army’s attempts to deny its involvement in the Gaza beach attack were so weak that even the Israeli press could not cover up the raid. In fact, some Israeli figures had called for an independent investigation to reveal the identities of the criminals responsible for such a hideous crime.
It is evident that the images of Gaza beach have been so influential that no investigation could ever overlook the incident. However, some may argue that incidents such as the Gaza beach attack or the martyrdom of the young Palestinian child Mohammed Al Durra or even other images from Iraq where investigations have failed are too weak to have an effect. Therefore, these pictures are put to the back of our minds making death a norm to which have become accustomed and the details of which we have forgotten.
This is a current topic of debate however; it does not necessarily mean that we should give up.
When Israel committed the Qana massacre claiming the lives of 100 Lebanese civilians, international press coverage did not immediately condemn Israeli brutality. The famous British journalist Robert Fisk investigated the American company that had produced the missiles used in the raid and pursued the Israeli military for its crime. Nowadays, there are similar attempts carried out by different international organizations and investigative journalists who aim to pursue Israel for the crime at Gaza beach.
Once again, we can only question the weakness of the role of investigative journalism and the Arab press. Condemnation is never enough for an image as powerful as that of young Hoda. The tragedy requires sincerity and perseverance in the pursuit of those responsible for such an atrocity.