REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- A controversial photograph that has been circulating on the Web in recent weeks is challenging such pre-Internet truisms as "seeing is believing" or "sharing is everything."
About six months ago, @madlamin tweeted a picture with a message in French encouraging users to spread it around the world in 48 hours. The photograph of a soldier pointing a rifle at a little girl on the ground with his boot on her was marked with a #Syria hashtag, suggesting to users it was related to the bloody riots that have been occurring in that country in recent months.
The picture eventually did make it around the online world, but it somehow became associated with a different conflict: the Israeli-Palestinian one.
The same photo is now said to show an Israeli soldier abusing a Palestinian girl. It went viral in recent weeks, shared in news feeds and on the walls of many Facebook users, including in Israel, where nearly half the country's poulation uses the popular social network.
There are some things in the photo -- other than the situation, which is not beyond the realm of possibility -- that are not quite right. The Israeli army doesn't use AK-47s. The boots and jacket are not part of the Israel Defense Forces uniform, some have noted. Others are sure the photo is entirely staged.
A Facebook group called "I Support Israel" is spreading its own version of the picture, with a caption reading, "Fake! This is NOT an Israeli soldier," along with such comments as "They want you to believe their lies. Would you?"
The controversy, reported on Israeli news sites, has the online world buzzing. But the question remains: Is the soldier Syrian or Israeli?
According to blogger Omar Dakhane, he's neither -- and probably not a soldier, either.
"Don't believe everything you see on the Internet," he wrote on his blog. Showing the full picture from which the soldier was cropped, Dakhane says it was taken in Bahrain during a street theater performance in 2009.
Dakhane's post on the picture being fake has been widely quoted in Israeli media. "I'm glad that my blog's mission to fight hate and lies is finally having an effect," he wrote in response.
-- Batsheva Sobelman
Photos: Variants of the controversial image, compiled from Facebook.