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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Culture Wars & Censorship, Israel

Published on Jun 04, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for The Jewish Press

The Al-Dura Myth And Media Silence


On September 30, 2000, the world was electrified by a photo and video of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, apparently dying in his father's arms after being shot by Israeli soldiers. The image would appear over and over again in newspapers and on television, videos, shirts, posters, mugs, and banners held aloft by Muslim students on Western campuses and Muslim mobs throughout the Arab world.

Only years later did it become clear that the French journalist, Charles Enderlin, who had provided the voice-over narration had not himself been on site and that the footage Enderlin said was too graphic and terrible to view does not even exist. It has also been confirmed that the Israelis could not have shot the boy or his father from their positions. Apparently there was no corpse, no autopsy, and no funeral. Nor was there any blood where the boy was allegedly killed.

Nevertheless, anyone who dared raise any of the above points (and there were some who did) was treated as a dangerous lunatic.

The damage the image has caused is incalculable. The icon has been used to "prove" that Israelis are child killers and, as such, deserve to be bombed to bits. It is, arguably, the 21st century's leading blood libel against Jews.

If anyone was going to bring a lawsuit in this case, it should have been the Israeli government or individual Jews against France 2 and its Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma. This did not happen.

Instead, Charles Enderlin sued Philippe Karsenty, a man who dared say that the emperor was most definitely naked. I have written about Karsenty before in these pages. ("An Unassuming Hero Standing Up for Truth," Oct. 26, 2007.) At issue was whether the al-Dura episode was staged and, if so, whether Karsenty, a media critic who had said as much, was guilty of "libel."

Enderlin is France's leading media authority on Israel and "Palestine"; France's Channel 2 is the state-run media channel. Their combined influence is enormous. Astoundingly, Enderlin, a Jewish French-Israeli citizen sued Karsenty (also a French Jew) for libel because Karsenty had challenged Enderlin's narration of the al-Dura footage. Ironically, had Enderlin not sued Karsenty, there would have been no opportunity to publicly scrutinize the al-Dura matter.

According to the French verdict late last month, Karsenty had not committed "libel." His criticism of Enderlin's reportage had been "professional" and "legitimate." Karsenty had exercised "due diligence" and, as a media critic, had the right to "express himself freely" especially since the facts (the film footage) support his view that the al-Dura episode was staged, a hoax. In addition, the court found the Palestinian cameraman was unreliable and that the video images did not correspond to the voice-over narration. Enderlin has filed an unprecedented appeal of the verdict.

According to journalist Nidra Poller, the court's "examination of an 18 minute excerpt of (al-Dura) raw footage composed primarily of staged battle scenes, false injuries and comical ambulance evacuations reinforces the possibility that the (very brief and spliced together) al-Dura scene, too, was staged."

Sweet exoneration? A vicious blood libel exposed? Well, not exactly. The same mainstream media that ran front-page photos of al-Dura allegedly being murdered in his father's arms by Israeli soldiers are, shamefully, not running many stories about the hard-won Karsenty decision. Nor are they using this legal decision as a way to report on the long history of Palestinian "fauxtography" (staged events, political street theatre) that probably dates back to the first Lebanon War in 1982.

Brian Rohan of Reuters, British journalist Melanie Phillips, and The Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media outlets covered the verdict. Professor Richard Landes and I wrote about it on our Pajamas Media blogsites. Six days after the decision, the international edition of The Wall Street Journal covered it admirably in both an editorial and an op-ed piece(the latter written by the aforementioned Nidra Poller, who has also covered this case for Commentary).

But otherwise, to date, there have been very few stories. And, the mainstream articles that have appeared do not connect the dots, failing to provide other instances of Palestinian fauxtography.

According to my online survey, there was no timely coverage of the Karsenty verdict in, among other outlets, The New York Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, The Los Angeles Times, or The Toronto Globe and Mail.

As for The New York Times, the alleged paper of record carried the story on the blog section of its website but ignored it in its print edition.

Surprisingly, France's Channel 2 barely reported on it. As Nidra Poller wrote in the May 27 international edition of The Wall Street Journal, "in a three second segment. France 2 implied that the report had, once again, been authenticated despite the acquittal of an – unnamed – defendant."

Karsenty himself noted that in the days following the verdict, "the French media [gave] virtually no coverage to this incredible court decision which has far-reaching and universal implications for freedom of thought, expression, justice, and media responsibility. France 2 has been lying about the al-Dura affair for seven and a half years. They are still lying today."

I would like to thank those mainstream media reporters and editors who have refused to cover this decision or to connect the dots and who remain unwilling to admit that they have consistently allowed themselves by the narrative of Palestinian Victimhood and Israeli Evil, facts be damned.

Their profound and reverberating silence should stiffen our spines for the long propaganda war ahead, forcing us to create and rely upon other non-mainstream media outlets.

Karsenty is writing a book and is involved in a film project about his seven-and-a-half year odyssey. In his view, "The next battle will be political. We will have to ask the French government to demand that the state-owned TV channel admit that the al-Dura news report was a fraud and issue a public apology for broadcasting a staged 'killing' and, therefore, an apology for being the party to a colossal historical hoax…."


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