What’s more surprising than TIME’s twentieth most surprising photo? Its caption

TIME released on Monday a set of what its photo editors call “the Most Surprising Photos of 2011“. Photograph #20 caught my attention for obvious reasons.

The photograph carries the following caption:

May 15, 2011. An undercover Israeli policeman dressed as a Palestinian woman opens a car door after detaining a Palestinian protester during clashes in Shuafat refugee camp, in the West Bank near Jerusalem. Israeli security forces had been on alert for violence on Sunday, the day Palestinians mourn the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, of Israel’s founding in a 1948 war, when hundreds of thousands of their brethren fled or were forced to leave their home.

There’s something eerily twisted about this image. After hearing about these people, these supposedly menacing Palestinians donning traditional garb and waving around guns, for so long, it is ironic that the only example I’ve ever seen happens to be of an undercover Israeli. In this sense, I can see why this photograph was included in this set.

But what is more surprising is the photograph’s caption. I’d expect a respectable news publication like TIME to be a bit more conscience or at least accurate about its interpretation of history.

The Nakba did not begin in 1948. It was not a direct consequence of Israel’s founding and it does not represent the aftermath of the 1948 war. As even Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappe note, the Nakba began at least as early as 1947 when rogue Jewish paramilitary groups forcefully evicted thousands of Palestinians from their homes. The expulsions continued until 1949 and played a crucial role in Plan Dalet, a premeditated military conquest and pillage of Palestinian cities and towns intended to secure land for Judeo-European immigrants. By 1949, at least 725,000 Palestinians were made into refugees. Since then, this lengthy and illegal eviction process has been commemorated on May 15, the day Israeli unilaterally declared its independence atop ransacked Palestinian homes and razed villages.

These are the indisputable facts.

Sami Kishawi

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