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Israel: The Lie, the Truth and the Meme (of the Soldier and the Girl)

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Citizen Media, Humor, Photography, War & Conflict

The photograph below, of a soldier stepping on a little girl, has been circulating on the social web for the past few days, claimed to be of an IDF soldier and a Palestinian girl. Wesley Muhammad [1] who posted it claimed [2] to have seen it on someone else's news feed with that caption, and wonders why it went viral from his page. Within two days the photo (now discarded) received over 500 comments, including some claims the photo is fake.

Yossi Gavni reposted the photo [3] highlighting the main claims that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) doesn't carry that kind of weapon and has no such uniforms, and that photo circulated mainly among Israelis. Apparently, the photo was tweeted [4] last year in French, claiming this is actually from Syria's demonstrations and asking for it to spread. However, Arab blogger Omar Dakhane [5] found the original photo [6] (below), which is neither from Syria nor Israel but a street theater performance in Bahrain.

This story could have ended here with a lesson not to believe everything that circulates out there in the age of media manipulation and virality, but apparently some Israelis have decided the best response to a viral lie is a humorous meme. In the last 24 hours many photos replacing the soldier with different characters have been circulating on Facebook, initiated by 10Gag [7], the Israeli answer to 9Gag [8] humor and memes generator.

For example, a photo where the soldier was replaced by a dog wearing real IDF uniform [9], probably also responding humorously to earlier allegations that IDF trains dogs to attack Palestinians.  Other entities stepping on that girl included an empire soldier [10]from Star Wars, the Angry Birds [11], the Android [12], the Avatar N'aavi [13], Chuck Norris [14] and more.

By turning the photo into a meme, Israelis are saying in “social media language” that such a situation is ridiculous and fictional, although Wesley Muhammad who started the viral spread concludes [2]: ¬†“I took the photo down (even though that type of thing DOES happen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)”. In response, Shani Yaakov posted a collage of pictures titled “this is the true picture of the IDF [15]” (below) in which soldiers are seen in positive and friendly interactions with Palestinians. As for the truth, as always, it's probably somewhere in the middle.