Response by Prof. Richard Landes to the BBC Report “Boy Becomes Palestinian Martyr”
Comments by Prof. Landes are in bold
Introduction: The article below was published on the BBC website two days after the Al Durah Incident. It is clear from the content that the testimony of Talal abu Rahmah, the video photographer, had become an accepted part of the story no matter how contraindicated by the available evidence.
Boy becomes Palestinian Martyr
Monday, 2 October, 2000, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
“Don’t shoot” screams the boy’s father
Just moments after this picture was taken, Muhammad al-Durrah was shot dead.
Now the 12-year-old boy has been turned into a new martyr for the Palestinian cause.
For 45 minutes, Muhammad’s father tried in vain to shield him from gunfire as they crouched against a concrete wall near Netzarim in the Gaza Strip.
This is Talal’s account. The few bullet holes in the wall indicate clearly that there could not have been 45 minutes of continuous gunfire, which would, among other things violate the rules of engagement for the IDF.
“This was his sacrifice for our homeland, for Palestine.” Boy’s mother
The whole scene was caught on camera by a France 2 cameraman, and has been played repeatedly on Palestinian television.
The footage shows the boy’s father, Jamal al-Durrah, waving desperately to Israeli troops, shouting: “Don’t shoot”. But the terrified boy is hit by four bullets, and collapses in his father’s arms.
He doesn’t collapse in his father’s arms. Quite the contrary, one of the more striking elements of the footage is that the father makes no effort to reach out to the boy.
An ambulance driver who tried to rescue the boy and his father was also killed, and a second ambulance driver was wounded.
There is no evidence for this, no film either of the incident or the aftermath, no signs of an ambulance shot up at the scene.
Note that in this sequence of photos, there is nothing from the sixth take, where the boy – already declared dead – lifts up his arm and peeks out. Enderlin had given every agency in the building (JCS) a copy of the final three minutes, which included the sixth scene. The fact that none of the other agencies publicized the footage, so obviously “unhelpful” to the accepted narrative, makes a major statement about the dominance of “Al Durah journalism.”
Mr Durrah, who was also badly wounded, said his son died for “the sake of Al-Aqsa Mosque”, the holy site in Jerusalem seen by the Palestinians as both sacred and sovereign territory.
“My son didn’t die in vain,” said his mother, Amal.
“This was his sacrifice for our homeland, for Palestine.”
But the Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Yitzhak Herzog, said that Palestinian security forces could have saved the boy.
In an interview with the BBC World Service, he said that “if Palestinian policemen had wanted to save the boy, they could have walked into the square, said ‘Stop the fire’… and rescued the kid”.
He added that Palestinian police should have called their Israeli counterparts who he said had been trying to speak to Palestinian commanders for hours.
It would also have helped if Palestinian gunmen had not been firing at the Israelis from behind the boy.
Mr Herzog said people had seen “only the angle of the French television”.
The Israeli army later admitted that the shots which killed Muhammad had “apparently” been fired by its troops, and apologised for his death.
But before they did so, other Israeli officials questioned whether the boy was killed by Israeli bullets and said he could have been hit by stray Palestinian gunfire.
But witnesses say the Palestinian youths were armed only with stones, not guns, and the shooting was all from the Israeli side.
Footage shows this is false. Moreover, even Enderlin announced that the Palestinians began shooting with live fire.
The video footage clearly shows that not only were the boy and his father completely unarmed, but they were not even part of the rioting.
Relatives say the pair were returning from Gaza’s popular used-car market, and were trying to get home to the Buriej refugee camp where they live along with many thousands of Palestinians.
Image shocks world
Many children have been killed and wounded in the rioting
Actually, at this date very few had. How many is hard to know, because along with the news media credulity about the death of ambulance drivers came credulity about any claim the Palestinians made.
The disturbing footage has been played throughout the Middle East, and on all major US television networks over the weekend.
A photo still from the video ran on the front page of the New York Times.
The newspaper quoted an Israeli journalist as saying he saw the footage for the first time as he was delivering the news on Saturday night.
“I lost my voice. I’ve been doing this for many years… But my brain went dead, and my tongue went limp. To see a little boy killed before your eyes,” he said.
The British newspaper, The Independent, described it as “an image that will haunt the world as painfully and powerfully” as any of those from the Palestinian uprising or Intifada.
And haunt it has.