Top Israeli lawyer:
Greatest journalistic hoax of the last century
New York Seven years after the alleged killing by Israeli fire of a Palestinian boy, Muhammad Al-Durah, at the Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000 during the first days of the Palestinian terror wave launched at Israel, the Israeli Government Press Office has officially rejected the France-2 Television report as a staged hoax. The Director of the Israel Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, has issued a statement saying, The events of that day were in fact staged by the networks cameraman in Gaza, Mr. Talal Abu Rahma (Associated Press , October 1). Seaman stated that France-2 fabricated the events surrounding the death of al-Durah and cited in his letter an Israeli investigation that heard testimony from medical and legal experts and which determined that the events as described by France-2 were fabricated and defied the laws of physics (Jerusalem Post, October 2). Seaman also wrote, The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Durah has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead (Yediot Ahronot, October 2).
Investigations have shown that the angles of the IDF fire could not have hit Al-Durah and that the cameraman can be heard saying the boy is dead while the boy is still seen moving. During the past seven years, Israel has preferred not to confront the most popular television station in France, but following repeated requests by Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center, Seaman issued his statement denying Israeli responsibility. The denial comes following a ruling in Paris by an Appellate Court Presiding Judge, Laurence Trebucq, in a defamation appeal of French journalist Philippe Karsenty, whom France-2 sued for defamation for questioning the veracity of its report on the events presented by its Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Charles Enderlin. Karsenty maintains that France-2 and Enderlin staged the incident with the active participation of their Gaza cameraman, Abu-Rahma.
Enderlin, who was not actually present on the scene at the time, produced a report which was distributed free to the international media and which alleged that Israeli fire has killed the boy. However, Enderlins report utilized 55 seconds of selected footage, shot by a Palestinian Arab cameraman, Talal Abu Rahmeh, none of which shows al-Durah actually being killed, let alone by Israeli fire. The full footage has been viewed by three journalists — Jeambar, Leconte, and Rosenzweig — who have testified that it consists of 24 minutes of staged scenes, with no images of the al-Durah boy and his father and no trace of the boys death throes that Enderlin claimed to have been filmed but later edited out because it was unbearable. As former Israeli cabinet minister and Soviet Jewish dissident, Natan Sharansky, observes, “All three [journalists] concluded that it comprised blatantly staged scenes of Palestinians being shot by Israeli forces, and that France 2s Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin had lied to conceal that fact (Wall Street Journal , October 2). Judge Trebucq has ruled that France-2 must provide the whole, unedited 27 minutes of footage. ( Pajamas Media, September 20).
The impact of this alleged killing has been extensive. It was cited by the murderers of the Wall Street Journals Daniel Pearl. Postage stamps bearing al-Durahs crouched image have been issued in Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia; a street in Baghdad and a square in Morocco bear his name, while many schools across the Arab world are named after him. His image has even been reproduced on a designer dress in Saudi Arabia. Throughout Europe, and particularly in France, Muslims have used al-Durah as a rallying cry in their attacks against Jews, which broke out shortly after the Durah film was broadcast.
As Sharansky notes, if, as Mr. Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the al-Dura incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources (recall the Jenin massacre that never was, or the doctored Reuters photos from Israels war against Hezbollah in 2006), then France 2 must be held accountable. It is important to note that the al-Dura news report profoundly influenced Western public opinion. When I served in the Israeli government as minister of Diaspora Affairs from 2003 to 2005, I traveled frequently to North American college campuses. I heard first hand how Mohammed al-Dura had shaped the perceptions of young people just beginning to follow events in the Middle East. For many Jewish students, the incident was a stain of dishonor that called into question their support for Israel. For anti-Israel students, the story reaffirmed their sense of Zionisms innately racist nature and became a tool for recruiting campus peers to the cause.
Shurat HaDin Chairwoman Nitzana Darshan-Leitner said that, This was perhaps the greatest journalistic hoax perpetrated in the last hundred years (Israel National News, October 3). She also stated that, Among other things, we plan to petition the High Court of Justice and demand the journalist certificates and other GPO certificates are revoked from all France-2 crew members in Israel — reporters, cameramen, produces, etc — as long as the network does not publicly announce that the al-Dura report was staged and was biased. In addition, Shurat HaDin is considering filing a damages claim for the accumulated damage the report has caused, and specifically for the line of attacks and riots it has led to. This modern-day blood libel has led to the death of hundreds of Arabs and Jews and has ignited hatred (Israel National News, October 2).
The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.