2006 Nidra Poller Reports from the Trial - Part 4

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Al-Dura: The Verdict  Part Four) Nidra Poller

October 19, 2006 2:57 PM
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The verdict in the case of France 2 versus Philippe Karsenty was announced just seconds after the session was convened. We—those of us who stood with the defendant—hardly knew what hit us. The words were so alien, after what we had thought was a highly civilized search for the truth, a fair trial.” Nidra Poller on the disappointing conclusion to the French state media’s prosecution of a man accused of “insulting” the press by suggesting that they report the truth.

Charles Enderlin has irretrievably lost his honor today, and it looks like France 2 and the rest of the French media have thrown theirs in the same murky al-Dura pool.

Judge Joël Boyer who personified the search for the truth as he presided over the hearing one month ago pronounced the verdict in a weak, anonymous, impersonal voice. (If I were writing as a novelist I would say he was ashamed of the verdict he had to announce. As a reporter I cannot so presume). Philippe Karsenty is convicted of defamation and ordered to pay a fine of 1000 euros. In addition, he must pay damages of 1 euro to each of the plaintiffs, Charles Enderlin and France 2, plus 3000 euros of legal expenses. The financial penalty, it would seem, is deliberately light. The intention of France 2 was to save its honor. I repeat, they threw it away for a hill of beans. Karsenty is appealing the verdict. That case will most likely be heard a year from now. It involves further heavy expenses for the defendant.

But there is a higher court, beyond the series of appeals courts through which Philippe Karsenty may drag his burden of truth, beyond the European Human Rights Court, which stands outside the huis clos that is France, and might judge in a more reliable light. There is a higher court that is convened in the mind of every courageous human being who is able to examine the evidence, reach a judgment, and defend it against the pressure of powers that be and powers that should not be.

Luc Rosenzweig, one of the four witnesses who testified in Karsenty’s favor, is a grizzly, endearing retired journalist and active author. He was one of the three journalists who viewed the 27-minutes of outtakes in November 2004 and saw that France 2 had been bluffing for four years; there were no other al-Dura images to be seen. Fifty-five seconds, that’s the whole story. Rosenzweig wrote an article exposing the hoax. It was supposed to be published in L’Express. L’Express opted out. Lost interest in the al-Dura affair, didn’t cover the trial, couldn’t care less…until, bingo, France 2 wins a lawsuit in a French court and the story is on the wires before the accused can go home and take off his tie. Well my friends, that’s a laugh! The French media are in a tizzy, trumpeting the triumph of Charles Enderlin. Is there no danger that their readers might wonder why this juicy story was kept in the larder all these years?

Metula News Agency published a grizzly, endearing article in which Luc Rosenzweig, who has been in the upper spheres of French journalism, mapped out the Enderlin-France 2 strategy. He explained that they prudently bypassed some very thorough analyses published in prestigious outlets such as Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, the Reader’s Digest, etc., and aimed their venom at what they thought to be three easy targets. Confident of winning in a French court, Enderlin would then extract the judgment for libel, graft it onto the original trunk—the al-Dura news report—and claim that the court had validated the authenticity of the news report. Rosenzweig shouted loud and clear: Enderlin is a liar, he lies in French, in English, in Hebrew. And two-gun Luc stood there, metaphorically, and dared Enderlin to stand up and fight like a man.

Reuters didn’t send anyone to cover the hearing but they sent two journalists to pluck the verdict and deliver it fresh and crunchy over the wires. A Reuters stringer was present at Netzarim Junction on the day the al-Dura story was produced. Many of us have seen his outtakes. They are pure Pallywood. Did he think no one would notice, or was he deliberately or unwittingly providing evidence for that highest of courts?

I was sitting next to one of the Reuters guys in the press box. He was so opaque, it took me a while to realize he was being deliberately hostile. OK, so maybe I joke too much. But I told him a bit about Pajamas Media, and how our very own Little Green Footballs had exposed their very own fauxtography.

The verdict in the case of France 2 versus Philippe Karsenty was announced just seconds after the session was convened. We—those of us who stood with the defendant—hardly knew what hit us. The words were so alien, after what we had thought was a highly civilized search for the truth, a fair trial. We filed out of the courtroom, gathered in the vast marble hall, talked, filmed, interviewed each other. I found myself again with a Reuters reporter. He was so opaque, I can’t tell if he was the same one who had been sitting next to me, or another who looked just like him. He was interviewing Maître Rosine Goldberg, a lawyer who had attended the Karsenty trial but was not directly involved. She had many interesting observations about legal aspects of the case. But when the Reuters guy started asking about the difference between a mistaken news report and a staged report, the bright lawyer obviously didn’t have the goods. I tried to offer some pertinent details. His opacity opacified.

The Daniel Pearl foundation is holding its annual memorial concert in Paris next month. This empty victory in a hollow court (oops, careful, I think you are not supposed to criticize judicial verdicts in France) will be another pang in the heart of his father Judea Pearl. Judea contacted me after reading my New York Sun article on the al-Dura affair. He learned, from that article, that images of al-Dura were interspliced with footage of the beheading of his son. He had never watched that video. I have never seen it either. Someone told me about the use of al-Dura in the beheading of the glowing with life Wall Street Journal reporter.

The hatred fueled by the al-Dura death scene did not stop with Israelis, did not stop with the Jews. French police are now using the term “intifada” to describe the situation in the banlieue. Four major incidents have occurred in the past month. Paramilitary actions against the police. Carefully prepared ambushes, hundreds against two or three, murderous violence. You may have read about youths attacking with stones. They are rocks, not stones. The punk jihadis go for the head. They smash skulls. Leave policemen permanently damaged. Over a thousand have been injured this year. Or is it in the past few months? I’ll check my figures tomorrow. I don’t draw a direct line from the al-Dura blood libel to these skirmishes that will, according to police sources, soon lead to another major outbreak of organized violence. The line is jagged. And the contradictions are closing in.

The police fired into the air during the last incident. One of the youthful jihadis fired into the air too. Will policemen fire into the crowd to save their lives? Or let themselves be torn to pieces and smashed to pulp? If they defend themselves, if they wound or kill one of their assailants, the banlieue will declare all out war.

And that puny victory in the 17e Correctionnel will be of no use when the French police find themselves in the same position as Israeli police and soldiers in October 2000. The media that are gloating over Karsenty’s defeat poured hellfire and damnation on Israel trying to defend itself in those years.

Don’t they understand? It was not a trial to determine the authenticity of the al-Dura report. A French court won’t raise that question, won’t deliberate on that evidence, won’t even ask for the 27 minutes of outtakes. Where does it get you when you keep winning in a rigged game?

The video report of today’s round trip to the Palais de Justice is on its way. A summary of the judgment will be posted as soon as Maître Dauzier, Karsenty’s lawyer, gives me a copy. He explained today that he is not allowed to disclose those details until the document has been signed by the presiding judge…perhaps a week from now. Apparently someone else’s lawyer had no such scruples. The pro-Enderlin press is gleefully disclosing tonight.

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