Nidra Poller reports from the trial (Part 1)
Starting September 14, three Frenchmen go on trial in Paris for questioning the veracity of the 2000 videotape of the putative murder of Palestinian child Mohammed Al-Dura by Israeli soldiers. This tape – promulgated by the French state-run channel France 2 – is often credited with helping instigate the so-called Al-Aqsa Intifada. Now, six years later, in the shadow of revelations about media manipulation and fauxtography by Reuters and others, these trials take on extraordinary unexpected resonance. Not since the days of Alfred Dreyfus and Emile Zola has the French legal system been put to such a test on basic issues of racism and freedom of expression.
While the mainstream media largely ingnores this event, Pajamas Media is proud to present extensive coverage. We begin here with a stage-setting report from our Paris Editor Nidra Poller who will be attending the trials on our behalf.-ed.
Paris 13 September 2006
The commemoration of 9/11 was the occasion, here in France, for another round of shameful Bush bashing. Jumping on the just released Senate report, the media triumphantly announced that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda before 9/11. The report must have included all sorts of information, much of it contradictory to orthodox French anti-Americanism, but it was not deemed worthy of interest. The accusation stands: Bush deliberately lied in order to make illegal war on Iraq for his own personal reasons and voilà the disaster that ensued.
No such accusation has ever been brought against state-owned French television channel France 2, purveyor of the al-Dura death scene that triggered a new phase of jihad against Israel and a gigantic wave of violence against Jews worldwide.
Compared to the unjustified Bush lied slander, the demonstration that France 2 lied should be a pushover. On the contrary, it has been an uphill fight for six years. Six years during which the state-owned television network (France Télévisions), the media control agency (CSA), and French media all across the spectrum have refused to respect the basic rules of journalistic ethics. The simple re-examination of a questionable news report, with disclosure of all available evidence, would have settled the affair in the space of a few days. Instead of which it festers and spreads and poisons the atmosphere. It should be added that little help was forthcoming from Israeli officials or from the organized Jewish community in France or the United States.
People who have been struggling to discover and make known the truth about the al-Dura affairI count myself among themhave often been shunned and dismissed. But they have made significant progress, and none of them have given up.
Charles Enderlin, the France 2 Jerusalem correspondent who produced the al-Dura news report in collaboration with Palestinian stringer Talal Abu Rahmeh, has used a strategy of intimidation and indignation to ward off independent investigation of the affair. But the protective mechanism began to falter in the autumn of 2004 when current news director Arlette Chabot was instructed to allow three reputable mainstream journalistsLuc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconteto view the ace in the hole evidence that would convince them of the authenticity of the report.
Leaks on that groundbreaking preview of the famous al-Dura outtakes made their way into high profile media, including the WSJ, IHT and, later, Commentary Magazine, LA Times, Reader’s Digest, and Fox News, etc. France 2 launched an aggressive spin operation, whipping up the same old arguments to prove the same old story and adding for good measure a lawsuit against X, X being anyone who would question the authenticity of the al-Dura report. Far from being intimidated, some of the potentially accused Xs forged ahead. The first of three subsequently individualized Xs Philippe Karsenty, founding director of the online media watch enterprise Media-Ratings will be judged for public defamation of the honor and reputation of an individual, namely France 2, Arlette Chabot, and Charles Enderlin. To avoid a lengthy digression on the French legal system, let us just accept as given that a holy trinity composed of the TV channel and two of its employees can be treated as an individual for the purpose of pleading the case against Karsenty. On the other hand it is easy to see the advantage of standing as a private party whose honor has been sullied rather than appearing as media professionals expected to hold to certain standards.
The same questions come to mind at every step of this simple-complicated imbroglio: do the plaintiffs know they are lying, do they think they are telling the truth, do they realize that the evidence would hang them in any honest trial, are they counting on a fail proof system of omerta to sustain the falsification?
The trial will take place in the august halls of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris on the 14th of September 2006. Philippe Karsenty stands accused of casting dishonor on the reputation of the plaintiffs by suggesting, in a brief article published by Media-Ratings on 22 November 2004: Arlette Chabot and Charles Enderlin should be immediately dismissed. The sober factual article, devoid of inflammatory language and personal attacks, politely accepts the challenge inherent in the lawsuit against X and expresses the readiness of Media-Ratings to defend in court as it defends on its site the claim that the al-Dura news report is a staged scene. It should be mentioned that Karsenty has been sued three times in the short life of Media Ratings, simply for doing what media watch organizations do. The media are quick to remind critics that error is human but apparently in France a media watch organization isn’t even free to express itself when it is not mistaken. The incriminated article is based on concrete details that have led serious analysts to conclude that the al-Dura death scene cannot possibly represent the shooting, wounding, and killing described in Enderlin’s voice off commentary and elaborated in a stock narrative indiscriminately repeated ever since the incident allegedly occurred.
French society has never examined the implications of the news report that served as the founding myth of a Palestinian war against Israel, the so-called Al Aqsa Intifada, enflamed in September 2000 by the death of Mohamed al-Dura and the wounding of his father Jamal, targets, according to Charles Enderlin, of gunfire from the Israeli positions. Debate has been stifled by the defensive reaction of Enderlin, his hierarchy and, apparently, the government itself. It is significant that in the absence of debate the myth will be judged in the narrow confines of a lawsuit, within the strictures of legal language and rules of evidence.
How could France 2 have taken the risk of losing the lawsuits against Philippe Karsenty and, at a later date, Pierre Lurçat and Charles Gouz? Did they single out three supposedly soft targets with the intention of silencing all those who are actively engaged in dismantling the myth, and discrediting them in the eyes of clear-minded people who are slowly discovering that the al-Dura news report is a fake?