Friday, July 11, 2008

Theodor Herzl, the First Photoshopper

It seems that the Iranians, in addition to test-firing missiles, have been doctoring photographs of them, such that 3 in-flight missiles have become 4. Hm, an existential threat to Israel that requires photoshopping? Scary! The establishment media didn't twig to the digital mischief and splashed the altered image (direct from Sepah News, the media arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard) on a range of front pages and websites.

Predictably, the unmasking has unleashed howls of righteousness and rage from the denizens of that world apart, the right-wing blogosphere. Among the 600+ posts that have gone up at were gems such as these:-

"This isn't the first time that Iranian news agencies have faked and photoshopped images as part of their propaganda campaign. This is, of course, what non-democratic states do to puff themselves up, so we shouldn't be surprised," said one. "Many Arab and Islamist [sic] countries or entities, notably Iran and the Palestinians CONSTANTLY spew propaganda at us that is regurgitated entire by our own media," said another. "This gives Israel more justification for a strategic airstrike on Iranian targets. Believe me, they will clean up this mess for the US. When you are surrounded on all sides by people wishing for your extermination, you don't worry about red tape and world opinion," spewed a third, under the nom de plume Achilles. Is that you, Joshua?

What, I wonder, would this lot have said if they'd known that the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was also the father of photoshopping in the Middle East conflict?

In 1898, Herzl was seeking the patronage of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, for his project of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Promised that he would be received by the Kaiser during the latter's visit to Turkey and Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, Herzl and a few companions set sail, first for Turkey, then Palestine. Herzl's first and only visit to Palestine was brief, mere days, his 2 meetings there with the Kaiser fruitless, the heat was unbearable, and he couldn't wait to get back to Europe. The following data comes from Desmond Stewart's 1974 biography of Herzl and is based on Herzl's Complete Diaries:-

"Herzl... was attracted by neither the Arabs, the Zionist settlers nor the Jews in Jerusalem. He was to leave with only one attractive memory - a group of Jewish lads on horseback... and one trophy. This was a photograph of some use in Zionist propaganda. Even this had to be faked.

"Herzl had spent his first day and second morning visiting several of the Jewish settlements that already existed and which had been founded by Lovers of Zion or philanthropists... Herzl had returned to his Jaffa hotel on the evening of October 27, exhausted by the heat. Hechler [a Christian Zionist clergyman with contacts in the German Court] turned up and through him Herzl sent a message to August zu Eulenberg... the Kaiser's Court Marshal, to say that he would station himself on the highway outside Mikveh Israel school the following morning, on the Kaiser's itinerary. Already feeling ill, Herzl managed to get out to the school (a few miles outside Jaffa) the following morning and took up his position in a dark suit and cork hat beside agricultural machinery. A mixed multitude... of Arab beggars, women, children and horsemen lined the dusty road. At 9 o'clock a rising commotion announced the imminent approach of the royal party. Grim-looking Turkish cavalry came first... Herzl had trained the children's choir, he tells us, to sing the Imperial Anthem, 'Hail to Thee in Victor's Crown!' Reining up, the Kaiser leaned from his horse to exchange a few gentlemenly banalities about the heat, the country's prospects and the need for irrigation. On the sideline stood Wolffsohn [Herzl's counsellor on financial matters] with his Kodak, eager to preserve for eternity a scene that could be made to say more than the Kaiser said: not least to the Jews whose non-Zionist representatives, the Rothschild administrators [The Rothschilds were unfavourable to Herzl's Zionism], were looking, according to Herzl, timid and out of sorts. But when the Jaffa photographer developed the negatives... one, Herzl wrote, 'showed only a shadow of the Kaiser and my left foot', while the other was completely spoiled.

"A photographic transplant was later performed. The result: a much reproduced photograph showing the Kaiser bending from his horse to greet Dr Herzl, erect in light tweeds, his Assyrian beard in profile, his cork helmet in his left hand. Immediately behind the Kaiser (his spiked helmet trailing a veil) is a tricorn bunch of pennants, with a star visible. The symbolism is clear: backed by flags that evoke Sultan, Kaiser and Zionism, the German Emporer greets his local protector, or gestor, Theodore Herzl.

"How was the picture contived?

"The reader must keep in mind 4 photographs, which may be termed A,B, C, and D. A is the picture that showed only a shadow of the Kaiser and Herzl's left foot. B is the picture that was totally spoiled. C is a picure showing the stooped Kaiser on a white horse stationed just in front of another veiled, helmeted figure (probably August zu Eulenberg) on a dark horse with a white blaze, behind them the tricorn pennants; the white horse's head is cut off and a smallish cork helmet obtrudes from the right. D is what Dr Bein [Herzl's biographer.] publishes as the 'rectified' photograph. This... shows the Kaiser, on the dark horse with blaze, bending to Herzl in a lightly coloured tweed suit and holding a different white helmet (it has a dark band) from that photographed in picture C. Those who achieved the photographic transplant must have performed the following operations:

"1. They removed zu Eulenberg (or whoever the second figure was) from his black horse with white blaze.

2. They transferred the stooped Kaiser from his white horse on to the now vacant black horse.

3. They inserted a snapshot of Herzl in light clothing in front of the black horse and to the rear of the Kaiser's horse.

4. They imposed a larger, different cork helmet."

1 comment:

Ernst Raedecker said...

Until recently I hadn't come across the photo of "der Kaiser und der Grossherzl". But then I saw it in the first edition of Herzl's Zionistische Schriften, 1905. I didn't realize immediately that it was photoshopped, although there was a curious discrepancy between the light on Herzl's clothes and the darkness of the unrecognizable emperor and his horse. But it's the feet that give it away. Herzl seems to hover above the ground.

Anyway. Do you have the ORIGINAL photos? THESE are important.
Do you know exactly WHEN this photo montage was created? Was it done during Herzl's lifetime, or after he died?

Ernst Raedecker
the netherlands