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The Fogel Photographs

Two images of the Fogel family are circulating after five of them were brutally murdered March 11 while sleeping in their home in the Israeli settlement of Itamar. The first is a montage of warm, sweet faces: Udi and Ruth, the parents, he with a full, neatly trimmed beard, she with a scarf covering her head, her smile broad and inviting; and three of their children, a pensive Yoav, a charming Elad and the infant Hadas. You cannot look at these photographs without feeling sympathy for a young family destroyed by an evil act.

The second set of images tell the horrific story of the Fogels’ deaths, their bodies sprawled on a bed or a floor, covered with blood, easily recognizable despite the modest attempts to blur their faces. You cannot look at these photographs without feeling repulsion and even regret, because the scene is hard to remove from your mind.

That is why the Israeli government, in an unusual move, distributed the graphic photographs with the family’s permission, so that the foreign media will “always remember the picture,” said Yuli Edelstein, minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs. And that is why this newspaper will not publish them.

It may well be that, in Edelstein’s words, “there needs to be a shocking reaction [to the attack] that will cause people to recognize the reality here.” But it’s also possible that, in an uncontrollable media environment, this will appear gratuitious and invasive, leaving the lasting impression that, in its quest to spread the truth, the government inadvertently dehumanized the very people it wishes to protect.

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