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Karsenty’s Initial Statement with English Translation

Dear Friends,
After two successive delays, the Court of Appeals in Paris has finally condemned me for defamation of France 2 and Charles Enderlin. I also have to pay them 7000 Euros.
Not having been able to read the decision of the court, I cannot yet give my interpretation. Tonight at 18:30 I’ll be interviewed on Radio Shalom by Bernard Abouaf (94.8 FM Paris, and on the internet here.
We have lost a battle but we have not lost the war for the truth.
I’ll be back in touch with further information.
Thank you all for your constant support and I offer you my excuses for not being able to respond to all your messages of friendship.
Soon…
Philippe Karsenty

Chers amis,

Après deux reports successifs, la Cour d’appel de Paris m’a finalement condamné pour diffamation à l’encontre de France 2 et Charles Enderlin.
Je suis aussi condamné à leur verser 7000€.

Al-Doura: Philippe Karsenty de nouveau condamné en appel (L’Express/AFP)

N’ayant pas encore pu lire l’arrêt de la Cour d’appel, je ne peux vous en donner mon interprétation.

Ce soir à 18h30, je serai interviewé par Bernard Abouaf sur Radio Shalom (94.8 FM à Paris et sur internet en cliquant ici).

Nous n’avons perdu une bataille mais nous n’avons pas perdu la guerre pour la vérité.

Je reviendrai vers vous prochainement avec d’autres informations.

Merci à toutes et à tous pour votre soutien constant et je vous présente mes excuses de ne pas pouvoir répondre à tous vos messages d’amitié.

A bientôt…

 

Philippe Karsenty  

 

Retrouvez-moi sur: http://www.karsenty.fr

 

Conférence al Dura en français:

Philippe Karsenty au Club de la Presse, avec Jean Claude Bourret (1ère partie) et 2ème partie

 

Al Dura lecture in English:

The al Dura Hoax (in Los Angeles)

 

 

Al Durah Verdict against Karsenty

Leading critic of French al-Dura coverage convicted

Philippe Karsenty found guilty of defamation for accusing France 2 of staging Palestinian boy’s death
By TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF June 26, 2013, 4:40 pm 12

Philippe Karsenty, Jewish-French politician and focus of legal battle over the al-Dura video.

A French media analyst was convicted Wednesday of defamation for accusing a state television network of staging a video that depicted a young boy being killed in a firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers.

The footage more than a decade ago galvanized Palestinians and anti-Israeli sentiment in the Mideast at the start of the bloody Second Intifada.

A Paris court fined Philippe Karsenty 7,000 euros (NIS 33,000) in the defamation case filed by network France 2. Karsenty accused the network’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, of fabricating parts of the segment.

The 55 seconds of edited footage, broadcast on September 30, 2000, showed the terrified boy, Mohammed al-Dura, and his father amid a furious exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. It then cut to the boy slumped in his father’s lap. The report blamed Israeli forces for the death.

Karsenty called the verdict “outrageous.” A lawyer for France 2 said it was a victory for journalists.

Karsenty was convicted of libel in 2006, a judgment that was overturned on appeal in 2008. France 2 subsequently appealed that appeal at the “Cour de cassation,” France’s highest court. Last year, the Cour de cassation annulled the ruling acquitting Karsenty of libel in 2008.

Last month, an official Israeli government report concluded that al-Dura was not harmed by Israeli forces and did not die in the exchange of fire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who commissioned the report in 2012, said the accusations aired on France 2 were “a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

A screen capture of the video showing the Muhammad al-Dura incident.

After the report was released, al-Dura’s father, Jamal al-Dura, told Ynet that he and his son were both hit by Israeli fire in the incident. He said he would be willing to exhume the body to prove that his son had in fact been killed.

Israel initially did not dispute that IDF troops had inadvertently killed the child.

“It could very much be — this is an estimation — that a soldier in our position, who has a very narrow field of vision, saw somebody hiding behind a cement block in the direction from which he was being fired at, and he shot in that direction,” the IDF’s southern commander Maj. Gen. Yom-Tov Samia said at the time.

Nidra Poller Interview with Jerry Gordon on Al Durah

The Al-Dura Affair Blood Libel: an interview with Nidra Poller
from Jerry Gordon

The Al-Dura Affair Blood Libel: an interview with Nidra Poller from Jerry Gordon on Vimeo.

In this video Nidra Poller is interviewed by Jerry Gordon, a Senior Editor at the New English Review. She is an historian by training, writer by profession and journalist by necessity with a unique view of major developments in Europe, Israel and America. Her latest novel is Karimi Hotel and Other African Equations. She is a frequent contributor to the New English Review. Articles by her have appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe, Commentary, National Review On-line, and The American Thinker, among others. She is the Paris correspondent for Dispatch International.

Her chronicle of the Mohammed Al-Dura affair, Notes of a Simple Citizen will be forthcoming. It is based on her 13 years of involvement with the unfolding drama behind the Al-Dura video hoax. The faked death of 12 year old Muhammad Al-Dura occurred on September 30, 2000, at the very beginning of the Second Intifada against Israel by Palestinians. That broke out two days earlier on September 28, 2000 with the visit of former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon to the al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The iconic picture of Mohammed Al-Dura sheltered in the arms of his father, Jamal, captured on video by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman working for the France 2 TV news channel, and was transformed into blood libel accusing the Jewish nation of Israel of being child killers. The 55 seconds of video cut from more than 27 minutes of raw footage was used as propaganda by Palestinians and even the late Osama bin Laden as a call to Jihad against Israel, Jews and the West. Conflating the Al-Dura blood libel has been the vigorous defense raised by France 2, the state- owned television news channel. France -2 producer Charles Enderlin t has embroiled in an unending series of legal hearings and appeals in French courts publication of a self-serving book.

Enderlin’s defense has been rebutted in articles and news documentaries by Stephane Juffa and the late Gerard Huber of French-Israeli Metullah news agency, MENA, and by German TV news investigative journalist Esther Shapira. French media expert, Philippe Karsenty, launched his own investigation buttressed by the research of Israeli forensic experts demonstrating that Mohammed Al-Dura could not have been shot by Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim checkpoint in Gaza and that the video was faked.
The occasion of this interview with Poller was the recent publication by the State of Israel of a definitive report from a Commission mandated by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2012.

The interview covers her chronicle of involvement observing the depths of this fraud perpetrated on the world’s media by the Palestinians with the complicit involvement of Enderlin, French and other mainstream media. She discusses Enderlin’s and France 2’s entrapment in ‘the body of lies’ behind the Al-Dura affair. A keen observer of all of the French legal proceedings in the Al-Dura Affair she reveals the manipulation of that system by Enderlin and his defenders. She shows how the French judicial system differs from the rigorous evidentiary and legal standards of the English and American legal systems. She discusses the relentless efforts of the international investigators in Israel, Germany, France and the United States seeking to defeat the fraud of the Al-Dura Blood Libel. She considers what occurred in the Al-Dura affair as exemplary of the tactics and methods of the international Jihadist movement seeking to further its agenda of Islamization of the West and the destruction of Israel.

“What’s Your Problem with that?”: Enderlin and the Intellectual Corruption of the MSM

(This article has been published at Pajamas Media, June 23, 2009)

The startling footage of Neda, the 27-year old woman shot to death in the streets of Tehran recently has reminded some of the image of 12-year old Muhammad al Durah (HT Tom Gross):

The footage of a Palestinian man [sic] being shot dead [sic] next to his 12-year-old son, Muhammad Jamal al-Durrah, by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2000 has been etched in the minds of many Iranians, as state television has continually replayed the images to highlight the “Zionist regime’s brutality.”

Now, the Islamic regime itself has become the subject of similar allegations at home and abroad after gruesome footage of a dying young woman during the suppression of an opposition protest on Saturday was released on the internet.

The image of Neda Salehi Agha-Soltan, a 27-year-old philosophy student, bleeding to death on the asphalt road of a Tehran street after she was shot in the chest, has become the rallying cry of the country’s opposition, which is disputing the June 12 election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

Only neither Jamal (the father) nor Muhammad al Durah (the son) were killed, not by Israelis soldiers, probably not by anyone, and certainly not “on TV.” These days when real footage, shot spontaneously, of victims of brutal repressive forces make it out of Iran, a country where the leaders make every effort to shut down the media, it may be useful to revisit the case of Muhammad al Durah.

With al Durah, we have a case of footage uncensored by authorities coming out of a conflict in which the allegedly repressive regime — the Israelis — provides the most welcoming atmosphere of freedom for journalists. These journalists repay the Israelis for their tolerance by running Pallywood footage staged by the Palestinians, specifically designed to provoke outrage. And in the case of Muhammad al Durah, the boy behind the barrel at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000, the footage was not only staged, but, thanks to the efforts of France2’s Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, it made it around the world with the imprimatur of Western Mainstream media. In short order, it became an icon of hatred, provoking outrage, hatred and violence against both Jews and Israelis — the first blood(less) libel of the 21st century.

One of Enderlin’s favorite arguments is, “look, if there were any substance to these allegations, the Israelis would be all over me and Talal. The fact that they’ve done nothing is proof that we’re right, and Talal is “as white as snow.” He most recently repeated these arguments at his blog.

So let me suggest a counter-argument: If there were any substance to Charles Enderlin’s defense, he would have informed himself of the details of the evidence.

Instead, he continues to remain supremely ignorant of all the telling problems with both Talal’s account and his own.

His performance in his interview with Schapira for the new movie shows us precisely the kind of know-nothing folly that first inspired the term Pallywood, which came not from evidence of Palestinian fakes — I’d already seen many — but from Enderlin’s complacent response to having them pointed out: “Oh yeah, they do that all the time. It’s a cultural thing.”

Here are some views of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of a major MSM figure, one of the most influential journalists in Europe for the last two decades. Not one word that he utters has any substance in terms of serious argumentation. In any first-year graduate seminar in history the kind of cavalier contempt for hard evidence and argumentation that Enderlin displays here would earn him the disbelief of fellow students and a ticket to ride from the professors… Unless, of course, we were in an honor-shame culture where someone with protected status could get away with anything he wanted to say.

Both in the details, and in the argumentation, Enderlin gets an “F” in Second Draft of journalism.


Enderlin handles a question from Esther Schapira.

It’s a smear campaign by people who don’t like my work

Here is Charles in court the day of the showing of Talal’s rushes (the beginning of his downfall), pugnaciously leading with his chin. He is typically dismissive — “you can say he was killed by Martians…” and categorical “we didn’t fabricate these images” (if that we includes Talal, it’s problematic). But the most revealing “argument” is that people who oppose him do so because they “don’t want my reports, my books, and my commentaries.”

Note the revealing slip at the beginning: “This is a libel suit… uuuh, a libel against me.” He’s the one bringing the libel suit against Karsenty, but he’s trying to position himself as the victim. Indeed, we met one vociferous ex-Israeli French journalist in the court who was indignant at how Enderlin was being dragged through the judicial mud by this suit against him.

But the larger question is certainly worth considering. Enderlin, true to style, uses conspiracy-theory logic. Cui bono? To whom the good? If I lose this case, then my whole oeuvre will be in doubt. Ergo, those who attack me on this case actually want to discredit me entirely.

Actually, I had never heard of Enderlin before this, and my concern was both to challenge so powerful and hate-engendering an icon — a blood libel — and, as I became involved, to challenge the inexcusable complaisance of the MSM with Pallywood footage. As I’ve learned more about Enderlin, I think he’s right on one point: his behavior here should call into question the rest of his work which, as I’ve learned, is also tendentious and treats evidence loosely. But to go from that to “it’s a conspiracy to shut me up” not only shows the paranoid quality of Enderlin’s thinking, but also the nature of his appeal: “Don’t listen to them; they don’t like my politics.” Alas, this works all too often these days.

***

That’s how I do a story: “The child is dead” is a statement. What’s your problem with it?”

Here’s Charles asked about why he claimed that the child was dead and then three “takes” later, he’s still moving. This is, of course, a critical issue, since the scene in which the child moves was one that he cut from his broadcast.

I don’t know if Schapira asked him why he cut it, but I presume he’d have answered the same way he has for 9 years — “it was the death throes, and too unbearable for the public to view.” You be the judge on to whom this cut footage is unbearable — the viewer or Talal’s and Enderlin’s “narrative.”

In response, Enderlin let’s us know how he works: “This is the way I do a story…”

I’m very sorry, but the fact is the child died. Maybe not at the precise moment I showed. But this is the way I do a story. “The child is dead,” is a statement. What’s your problem with it?

How many Teamsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
12.
Why 12?
You got a problem with that?


Enderlin: “Maybe not at the precise moment…”

Like the Teamsters, this man thinks he won’t be challenged by anyone who counts. He doesn’t have to give a serious answer, because the people who count — his bosses at France2, his fellow journalists — support him fully.

***

Read More

Freddy Eytan, The Al-Dura Affair and Its Implications for Morality and Ethics in France

The Al-Dura Affair and Its Implications for Morality and Ethics in France
Amb. Freddy Eytan, May 30, 2013
Filed Under: Europe and Israel, Palestinians, The Middle East
Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vol. 13, No. 15 31 May 2013

The report of Israel’s governmental inquiry committee on the al-Dura affair, written after a thorough examination of all the materials related to this unfortunate affair, should serve as a lesson for all foreign reporters working in Israel and be taught in journalism schools throughout the world.

The authors of the report have successfully demonstrated how a Palestinian photographer violated the basic tenets of journalistic work, and how a foreign reporter accepted his version of events and his photos wholesale without questioning their reliability for a moment. Verifying sources, cross-checking, meticulously ensuring objectivity – these are the foundations on which the whole enterprise of journalistic coverage rests.

Yet most of the foreign reporters prefer to remain in their offices and work from the raw materials conveniently provided by reporters and photographers of the international networks and news agencies – which, for the most part, employ local Palestinians.
It is, of course, regrettable that the report only appeared thirteen years after the affair, which caused grave damage to Israel’s image, but there is no early or late when it comes to the truth. We owe profound gratitude and esteem to all those who tirelessly pursued justice in this affair, with the whole French establishment supporting the Palestinian version. These activists contributed time, energy, and professional experience to the struggle for the supreme value of bringing the truth to light.

The initiative of a government ministry to publish the report on the al-Dura affair is very praiseworthy and appropriate. A democratic state that fights for its existence is required to defend itself and its image with all the tools at its disposal.

Never Too Late for the Truth

The report of Israel’s governmental inquiry committee on the al-Dura affair, written after a thorough examination of all the materials related to this unfortunate affair and published by the director-general of the Ministry of International Relations and Strategy, Yossi Kuperwasser, should set off red lights and serve as a lesson for all foreign reporters working in Israel. It should also be taught in journalism schools in Israel and throughout the world.

It is, of course, regrettable that the report only appeared thirteen years after the outbreak of the Second Intifada and the al-Dura affair, which caused grave damage to Israel’s image, but there is no early or late when it comes to the truth.

We also owe profound gratitude and esteem to all those who tirelessly pursued justice in this affair despite the many difficulties that confronted them. With the whole French establishment supporting the Palestinian version, the road to uncovering the truth was long and beset with journalistic, political, and legal hurdles. Only a small number of people contributed time, energy, and professional experience to the struggle for the supreme value of bringing the truth to light. The inquiry committee’s report, then, points the way to a clear objective: to work with all the resources at our disposal so that justice will be heard and seen, and especially to refute once and for all the versions and contradictions of the reporter and photographer of the France2 television network.

The report also glaringly reveals one among many examples of the sort of media coverage that is typical in an arena that is undoubtedly one of the most complicated, volatile, and sensitive in the world. The authors of the report have successfully demonstrated how a Palestinian photographer violated the basic tenets of journalistic work, and how a foreign reporter accepted his version of events and his photos wholesale without questioning their reliability for a moment. Clearly, this does not reflect on those reporters who do their work honestly in Israel. Such phenomena, however, exist and must be denounced and uprooted.

Asymmetrical Media Coverage

Media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is asymmetrical in every regard. It is generally accepted that Israeli is a democratic country with high normative standards, granting freedom of expression to anyone who wants it including the right to engage in harsh criticism of Israel itself. The IDF is unquestionably a unique army, operating in extremely difficult conditions not only against threats from standing armies but also against terrorism, violence, and disturbances while having to face women and children who serve as human shields. The instructions of the General Staff are clear, and after every clash or operation a painstaking inquiry is conducted, the lessons are learned, and, if necessary, those responsible for infractions are disciplined. Such standards do not exist among any other armies in the world including the NATO armies.

Yet, as far as media coverage is concerned, since the outbreak of the First Intifada the rules of the game have changed. Most of the foreign reporters prefer to remain in their air-conditioned offices and work from the raw materials conveniently provided by reporters and photographers of the international networks and news agencies – which, for the most part, employ local Palestinians.

Moreover, in the centers of the enlightened world the ignorance about Israel is complete. In Europe, and particularly France with its large Muslim-immigrant community, the effect on media coverage is especially striking. We must dislodge biases and replace them with basic historical understandings. To that end, our messages must focus on Jewish and national values and explain first of all the root of the conflict with the Arabs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is deployed with its representatives in world capitals, serves as an organizational and operational arm. Yet, lamentably, in the al-Dura affair the delegation in Paris failed completely to confront France2 and turned back requests by Jewish organizations and private individuals who wanted to present evidence and closely examine what had happened.

In the history of the conflict with the Palestinians, an affair whose repercussions continued for more than a dozen years, and that involved the spilling of so much ink and a great deal of blood, is not remembered. In France, however, the “death of the Palestinian boy” became a symbol for struggle against the occupation and against the French Jewish community through acts of incitement and violence, which reached their peak with the murder of the Sandler family at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse. It should be noted that most of the Jewish leaders, and at their helm the outgoing head of the roof organization, Richard Prasquier, fought the French television network in every way, while also requesting the intervention of the president of France and the creation of a governmental investigatory committee that would finally uncover the truth. The debate is still not over, and the affair has been brought to the courts. Yet France2 keeps refusing to provide the raw footage of the event, a fact that speaks volumes.

The controversy was extensively publicized in all the media. Ballistics experts, retired military people, jurists, politicians and diplomats, doctors and intellectuals took part in the heated debate, and almost everything about the affair has already been said. Yet the thirty-seven pages of the Israeli inquiry committee’s report and its annexes demonstrate beyond a doubt that there is no evidence that Jamal al-Dura and his son Muhammad were harmed as the cameras of France2 indicated; and, even more important, that the IDF was not responsible for the supposed harm. In a clear segment that was not broadcast, the boy is seen to be alive.

Nevertheless, since France2’s report was broadcast, there has been no letup in the defamation campaign of pro-Palestinian organizations and individuals against Israel and the IDF. Our soldiers became “bloodthirsty murderers of innocent children” and it was regularly asserted that “the Jewish soldiers behaved like Nazis”; meanwhile, the Palestinian boy became a martyr. Journalists also made comparisons with the famous picture from the Warsaw Ghetto where a Jewish boy raises his hands near a German soldier.

In France, just as in Arab countries, the death of “little Muhammad” became the political cause célèbre overnight, the stuff of earnest discussions on radio and television. All over the country there were ceremonies and exhibitions sponsored by communist mayors. Immigrants gave the name Muhammad al-Dura to newborn babies. And even graver, the pro-Palestinian weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, which likens the conflict to the French occupation of Algeria, published a petition signed by about a hundred French journalists, intellectuals, diplomats, and politicians, including former foreign minister Hubert Védrine, which stated unequivocally that “the little boy Muhammad al-Dura was killed by fire whose source was an Israeli position.”

On what did they base this? Were they there on the ground? Even the reporter Charles Enderlin, who won a Legion of Honor award for his coverage, was not at the “scene of the crime.”

That, to one’s sorrow, is how supposedly professional journalism conducts itself, and along with it the French leadership and most of the intellectuals. The anti-Zionist ideology, which reigns supreme, flails about in total blindness and acts in accordance with preconceived notions that have been in place since the Six-Day War. Still smarting from their own experience with colonialism, the French stance is to view any occupation as illegitimate, unenlightened, and deserving of every form of vilification.

Actually, the event that occurred thirteen years ago at the Netzarim Junction was in no way connected to a sensitive security violation or to military censorship. There was no need to intervene and forbid the report to be broadcast. The case has more to do with the journalism profession, ethics, and morality, and with the very high standards that every reporter needs to internalize and carry out in practice. This is all the more so given the asymmetrical coverage of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, a number of foreign journalists in Israel violate elementary rules while knowing full well that they enjoy total freedom in their work, even as the region as a whole is in a state of bloody turmoil and ruled by totalitarian regimes.

The Foundations of Journalism

Verifying sources, cross-checking, meticulously ensuring objectivity – these are the foundations on which the whole enterprise of journalistic coverage rests. The inquiry committee did well to note this fact, quoting the relevant international organizations and societies. The supreme obligation of any reporter is to pursue the truth. Regrettably, however, Charles Enderlin, who is a resident of Israel and a journalist esteemed in the profession, did not exercise judgment and stubbornly continued to believe in the Palestinian photographer with a strange naiveté.

A journalist in a democratic country does not require a permit or license to work in his profession. Unlike a government, which is committed to the well-being and security of its citizens, a journalist bears no responsibility for possible negative repercussions of an article or broadcast. But this means that when a reporter errs, he must immediately admit the error. Concerns about a scoop or about competition in no way justify failing to wait for the facts to be verified. This is a fundamental rule that is learned in every school of journalism. It was a standard in the past, and it is just as valid in the Internet era.

Often journalists in Israel fall into the trap of deliberate or non-deliberate manipulation by various sources, or by a malicious Palestinian actor in the field. From the time of the First Intifada, the French news agency has adopted methods that clearly do not meet the test of objectivity. The way in which terms such as “terrorism,” “occupation,” “activist,” “attack,” “operation,” “freedom,” “disproportionate response,” “underground,” or “freedom fighter” are defined is of great importance for setting the tone of coverage and for how reports are formulated. Without question, the terminology used to cover any conflict must be precise, veracious, and balanced. This news agency, however, always magnifies any IDF operation along with the casualties among the Palestinian population, while the Israeli victims of terror and rocket fire get much less traction. A terror attack on Israeli soldiers or settlers is presented as “legitimate” or, in many cases, not covered at all. The claims that are made are transparently ideological and political.

It is worth reemphasizing that the IDF is one of the armies that operate according to clear open-fire orders, and is unique in the world in thoroughly investigating every incident. Sometimes Israeli soldiers and officers have to stand trial for a very small infraction. The media in France, however, do not condemn the daily provocations of Palestinian teenagers and children who are sent to form human shields against armed IDF soldiers. Democratic countries ensure that children are protected and safe. They are forbidden to take part in demonstrations, and television reporting on crimes or armed conflicts does not show their faces. The Palestinians, however, and particularly Hamas, regularly and remorselessly make use of children. Teachers in classrooms define “Jew” or “Zionist” in terms of vilification; children are taught that Israel is a country that does not exist, and it does not appear on maps of the region.

We Must Continue the Struggle for Truth

We must, of course, tirelessly continue the informational struggle and denounce phenomena like the al-Dura affair. We must prove again and again to the journalists and intellectuals who presume to preach morality to us that they do not hold a monopoly on truth and justice in the world, and are not capable of solving our conflict with the Palestinians from safe distances.

We must loudly and publicly emphasize that Israel is not like other countries. It is the only one in the world subject to open calls for its destruction, and the only one without recognized and defensible borders. It is the only one whose capital, Jerusalem, is not officially recognized by a single country in the world.

At the same time, we must confront the problems facing us, the threats from Iran, Hizbullah, international terrorism, and anti-Semitism. We must fight the websites inciting against us, the Arab broadcast channels like Al-Manar from Beirut and Al Jazeera from Qatar. And yet, despite it all, Israel has not lost its values; it persists in the quest for a real and sustainable peace.

The problem is strategic and political. We have not dealt sufficiently and effectively with the malicious and ugly propaganda of the other side, and our response was sometimes weak and muddled in the al-Dura affair as well. While we continue to speak in the Western logic of common sense and legal aspects, the Palestinians use the vernacular of emotions and passions. We need to carry out a fundamental, systematic, carefully thought-out revision.

In sum, while criticism of the State of Israel or its government is undoubtedly legitimate, bias, distortions, and delegitimization must be condemned. The edicts of an unreliable group of people, who presume to objectively portray a bloody conflict that has been ongoing for a hundred years, must be rejected entirely.

Clearly, then, notwithstanding the criticism and reservations that have been voiced, the initiative of a government ministry to publish the report on the al-Dura affair is very praiseworthy and appropriate. A democratic state that fights for its existence is required to defend itself and its image with all the tools at its disposal.

Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs Filed Under: Europe and Israel, Palestinians, The Middle EastTags: Al-Dura, France
About Amb. Freddy Eytan Ambassador Freddy Eytan, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel’s embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel’s first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He heads the Jerusalem Center’s Israel-Europe Project, focusing on presenting Israel’s case in the countries of Europe.

Welcome, Refugee from rekaB Street: Shmuel Rosner’s Mea Culpa on Al Durah in the NYT

This post has been published at the Algemeiner.
In the flood of commentary and analysis of the Al Durah controversy, I’ve tried to fisk the most important typical responses. And of course, I have a backlog of articles to fisk. But this one by Shmuel Rosner jumped to the top of the pile because of its honest reappraisal. It helps to understand some of the factors that played at the time the story broke, and answer Vic Rosenthal’s question:
Why didn’t then Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and then Prime Minister Ehud Barak demand that all the footage shot by France 2 on that day be placed at Israel’s disposal to do a proper investigation?
Before adding my commentary to Rosner’s mea culpa, I’d like to acknowledge the courage involved in this piece, and the remarkable fact that the New York Times published it. As someone laboring in the wilderness for a decade, all I can say is, this is unexpected.
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The Skeptic’s Curse

By SHMUEL ROSNER
On Oct. 6, 2000, Palestinian boys in the Gaza strip walked past graffiti representing Muhammad al-Dura as he was shown in a television report.Ahmed Jadallah/ReutersOn Oct. 6, 2000, Palestinian boys in the Gaza strip walked past graffiti representing Muhammad al-Dura as he was shown in a television report.

TEL AVIV — In late September 2000, at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, the French TV station France 2 aired some 60 seconds of footage allegedly showing the killing of a Palestinian boy in the Gaza Strip.

Muhammad al-Dura, who was 12 at the time, and his father are shown caught in an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters. The boy cowers behind his father, with what sounds like gunshots crackling in the background. Smoke then blocks our view. When it lifts the boy is flattened, listless, and his father is lying against the wall, apparently in serious physical distress. The footage soon became one of the most memorable and heart-wrenching of the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No one knows what happened exactly at the Netzarim Junction that day. The French broadcast claimed that gunfire from Israeli soldiers killed the boy. That version of the facts immediately became the official Palestinian account. Israel did not accept responsibility, nor did it deny being involved. And so the French-Palestinian narrative stuck.

But this Sunday, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs released a report undermining that account. The document concludes there is “strong evidence” that Muhammad and his father “were not hit by bullets at all in the scenes filmed.” It also details many errors, omissions and open questions in the widely accepted narrative of the event.

I first heard that there might be a problem with the al-Dura story soon after the incident. I was the head of the news division at Haaretz at the time, and a young reporter approached me to say that a high-ranking official at the Israel Defense Force would be staging, in front of a crew from “60 Minutes,” a re-enactment of the shooting to prove the French and Palestinian chroniclers wrong.

I believed the initial story about al-Dura, and I was highly suspicious of the motivations of anyone attempting to disprove it.
Note a few things here. “I believed the initial story about al-Durah.” This readiness to believe the worst of the Israeli army – that they’d target a father and child and rain down bullets upon them, was pervasive, particularly among the journalists who were most proud of their self-critical attitude. As Bet Michael said to me in November of 2003 (after I had studied with Shahaf and seen the France2 raw footage with Enderlin),

BM: 100%. The israelis killed the boy.
RL: Really? Are you aware of the investigation and its findings?
BM: The investigator was a nut… some engineer with the army who argued a conspiracy theory that he kid committed suicide.
RL: Suicide?
MS: (to me while BM waxed eloquent to NB)
NB) He’s being sarcastic.
RL: Were you being sarcastic?
BM: Not at all. I meant every word.
RL: Suicide?
BM: Oh, that was sarcastic, but since then the IDF has killed over 200 palestinian children, you can check with B’tselem.

Here’s a close-up view of the world of aggressive lethal journalism, backed by their “researchers” who systematically compile the lethal narratives. At the time I did not realize it, but I should have after Jenin in 2002, that the lethal journalists – in the case of many, probably not even knowingly – were now dominant in the journalistic scene in Israel.

The reporter and I both thought the military was crazy to do such a thing; it would look like an exercise in white-washing.

Another major theme. When I reported my research to a dear friend from the 1990s (who was on the board of B’tselem), his immediate response was, “You’re whitewashing the occupation.” Or to another friend who, finally giving into the evidence, responded, “It was still our fault. If there hadn’t been a settlement there this wouldn’t have happened.” Somehow it was our fault that they faked it and we’re getting demonized with it. More insight into masochistic omnipotence syndrome.

Her story ran on Nov.7, 2000, with a headline calling the probe “dubious.” To some, the piece seemed to portray one of the men behind the investigation, the physicist Nahum Shahaf, as eccentric, even weird. According to one critic, we “attacked him ferociously.”

If the history of “hit-jobs” in the media is done, the early 21st century will have a special place for the kind of aggressiveness with which the media themselves took the initiative (rather than taking direction from political interests) against people they didn’t like. The “conspiracy theory” that Charles derided became canonical at the hands of Anat Cygielman, who derided the whole affair.

If one thinks of this affair as a form of the emperor’s new clothes – except, here, the procession of an icon of hatred, rather than a silly naked emperor – then the court that falls in line is the journalists. Interesting to know the social framework in which this happened.

I plead guilty: I believed the initial story about al-Dura, and I was highly suspicious of the motivations of anyone attempting to disprove it.

This is pretty amazing courage in our day and age, and even more in this affair. As Anne-Elisabeth Moutet comments about the French scene (in the context of which one should understand a fair amount of Charles Enderlin’s behavior):

To understand the al-Dura affair, it helps to keep one thing in mind: In France, you can’t own up to a mistake. This is a country where the law of the Circus Maximus still applies: Vae victis, Woe to the vanquished. Slip, and it’s thumbs-down. Not for nothing was Brennus a Gaul. His modern French heirs don’t do apologies well, or at all if they can possibly help it. Why should they? That would be an admission of weakness. Blink, and you become the fall guy.

In my delineation of the characteristics of lethal journalism Middle-East style (Al Durah Journalism), I call this honor-shame journalism because the operative mechanism is, prefer public honor and private guilt to private integrity and public shame.

In this instance Israel’s supporters seemed excessively argumentative, politically motivated, even conspiratorial. (Shahaf had also investigated the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.)

Shahaf was an easy target. Even those who agree with him and learn from him find him difficult, and he’s definitely believes that what we are told is not what happened to Rabin.  But the “excessively argumentative” nature of the problem was in part because of the “et alors” reflex that was so frustrating to those who made the arguments.

But the “politically motivated” is the more telling remark: this was pervasive after Al Durah, especially in France, but really everywhere. Any Jew/Israeli who defended Israel had to be doing it because they were partisan. In France, accusations of communautarisme where so common that a number of people who were not Jewish, when they defended Israel to their co-citoyens, got the response: “Oh I didn’t know you were Jewish.” This atmosphere, in which, in the words of Shmuel Trigano, “a Jew cannot bear witness,” explains in part why it took so long for the French to even see, much less admit the growing wave of anti-Semitism, and why the phenomenon of alter-juifs – Jews who had had great success while hiding their Jewish identity, suddenly saying, “as a Jew, I must denounce Israel’s terrible deeds.”

If one defends oneself it must be from self-interest (i.e., right-wing politics). Automatically suspect. If one admits to one’s fault, one is noble. Of course no one, surprisingly not the French who pride themselves on their méfiance (skepticism/mistrust), wondered about the politics and self-serving communautarisme of the Arab Muslim community who was insisting on the truth of their lethal narratives. Highway to the auto-stupefaction of rekaB Street, and the reason that roosters on Global Warming are owls on Global Jihad, and vice-versa. In one case (right-wingers on Jihad) it’s opposing others, in the other, (left-wingers on Warming), it’s about criticizing ourselves.

Yet from the start, there were many unanswered questions. The footage wasn’t continuous and key moments — such as when the boy ostensibly is struck — aren’t shown.

Don’t forget the lack of ambulance evacuation scenes of either the father or the boy. Given how many scenes of ambulance evacuation were staged that day, how could a dozen cameraman – and especially Talal Abu Rahma – have missed filming a real, heartbreaking one?

There was also the case of the Israeli doctor who was cleared of defamation charges by a French court last year: He had been sued by Muhammad’s father, Jamal, for claiming that scars on Jamal’s body, allegedly caused by Israeli bullets, were caused many years before the incident.

Over time, with every new investigative report — there have been too many for me to keep track — and every new detail disclosed, my uneasiness has grown. Although I very much wanted to believe that Israel wasn’t at fault, I couldn’t overcome my suspicion about the attempts to clear its name. On the other hand, the original narrative had too many holes to ignore. 

Fascinating. Rossner says he wants to believe Israel is innocent, but the very fact that he might be motivated by that (apparently illegitimate) desire kept him from allowing himself to look at the powerful evidence that this terrible story about his own people was not true. Normally one is worried that partisan motives might make one ignore evidence, but in this case – and here we approach hyper-self-criticism – it that noble concern makes on ignore the evidence. Freud’s Moses and Monotheism has this quality to it, as Yosef Yerushalmi pointed out. It’s an one of the major “discontents” of assimilation according to Barry Rubin’s brilliant book.

And now the Israeli government’s new report claims the broadcast was “edited and narrated” in a misleading way. The voice-over says, for example, that “Jamal and his son Muhammad are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position” and then that “Muhammad is dead and his father badly hurt.” But according to the government report, “in the final scenes the boy is not dead.” In the last seconds of the footage, the “boy raises his arm” and “turns his head.”

And, according to the government report (and anyone else who’s examined the evidence), Enderlin had no, repeat no evidence to corroborate his cameraman’s claims about this coming from the Israeli position. (Indeed not once in any of the footage that Talal shot of the Israeli position before and during this sequence is there any sign of fire from there.)

Asked whether he might not have been hasty about this by Adi Schwartz for Haaretz, November 1, 2007, Enderlin responded: “what would they say in Gaza if I didn’t report that the Israelis killed him?” (The quote is absent in the English version of the article.)

And of course, while “the child does not die on camera” is the more radical statement about the footage reconsidered, the most fundamental part of the story as a lethal narrative, is the huge opening that Enderlin gave the demonizers by saying “target of fire coming from the Israeli position.”

Not that this solves the puzzle exactly, especially since the report’s authors didn’t interview Jamal or French TV executives, and they didn’t exhume Muhammad’s body for examination.

I agree the committee should have tried to interview Enderlin, Jamal and Talal (and anyone else present at Netzarim that day). I don’t think they would have come, not even Enderlin. But it’s not too late for an honest international inquiry. My guess is Enderlin knows his goose is cooked and will do anything to hamstring that initiative. It wouldn’t be the first time.

And yet my thinking has changed. I started out believing the dominant version of events largely because I was made skeptical by Israel’s attempts to save its skin;

Now there’s a double-bind, schizophrenigenic approach – the very fact that you are defending yourself leads me to reject your arguments.

now, I accept the possibility that the Israeli government’s take might be correct after all.

An intellectual! Someone capable of being convinced by empirical evidence.

This evolution brings me relief: I want to be able to trust what my government says. But that carries its own problem: what about my own motivations? Have I really been swayed by the new evidence, or am I finally giving in to a deep desire of letting Israel off the hook?

The only way to know is to explore further. The Al Durah evidence is only the beginning. The impact of this Icon of Hatred played in the dynamics of globalization – both the energizing of an apocalyptic death cult in the Muslim world and the paralysis of an ability to defend ourselves on the part of progressive forces in the West – and the school of lethal journalism (and lethal NGOism) that it empowered, still hold hegemony today among the major players in the Western public sphere. When the whole picture is considered, just as with the campaign of Jihadi suicide bombing, it inspired, the Al Durah icon of hatred ultimately hurt Muslims far more than Israel, its ostensible target.

I tweeted the Al Durah forgery has hurt the Arab world more than any other society, by injecting them with a death cult, acknowledging that fake can awaken from arab nightmare to a visitor from Egypt. His response:

Indeed, I believe so too. I chatted with people from Gaza and the West Bank. They are sick of the status quo and want peace.

Dafrawi_Twitter_Exchange

Emad el Dafrawi is just the kind of person we’d like to believe is among the “vast majority” of really moderate and humane Muslims and who is (accordingly?) in grave danger.

Al Durah’s the red pill. And tackling it is the road out of rekaB Street and on to recovery: Want to wake up and figure out what’s going on? Take it.

Memes of Lethal Journalism: “So What if it’s Fake, It Bespeaks a Higher Truth” (Adam Rose version)

Among the most common memes with which lethal journalists respond to evidence that they’ve been circulating false stories, is to argue that it’s symbolic of an actual truth.

The most chilling expression of that attitude came from a PA TV official who was responsible for inserting into the footage of the original footage a picture of an Israeli soldier firing (rubber bullets at a riot in Nazereth  caused by the airing of Abu Rahma’s footage and his narrative) in such a way as to show that the Israeli soldiers targeted and killed him in cold blood.


Note the music. Palestinian TV’s news is often presented with music to stir emotions.

When Esther Schapira confronted the official at PA TV on the matter he responded as follows:


“These are forms of artistic presentations, but all this serves to convey the truth and explain a specific event. We never forget our higher journalistic principle to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.”

Nothing illustrates the gap between Palestinian and Israeli journalism better than this statement. Alas, the evidence from the Augean Stables is that much of this has infiltrated the Western press, producing the dominance of the Lethal School of Journalism, especially in the Middle East.

Among the best discussions of this issue in the context of Al Durah is by historian Jeff Weintraub. Knowing well the history of the Stalinist period, he is able to identify this kind of thinking as typically totalitarian (it’s also true of Hitler’s attitude towards the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). He directly addresses the classic of the variety, Adam Rose’s response to Fallows piece in The Atlantic (the piece that put me on the trail of the fake).

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2013

“The Truth of Mohammed al-Dura” – If iconic imagery makes for powerful propaganda, should we treat questions of historical truth or falsehood as irrelevant?


(One of many stamps in the Arab world commemorating the martyrdom of Mohammed al-Dura. For more, see here.)

Some people have argued, explicitly or in effect, that we should indeed treat those factual questions as mere distractions from the ‘deeper truth’ conveyed by such images. I disagree. I think that kind of perspective is both mistaken and pernicious.

I happened to be reminded of an e-mail exchange on these issues that I had with someone named Adam Rose back in 2003. The focus of that discussion was a world-famous incident during the Second Intifada in 2000, the explosion of violence that erupted after the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. A Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, was allegedly killed by sustained fire from Israeli troops at a Gaza checkpoint while he cowered for protection behind his father against a wall, eventually dying in his father’s arms. A televised portrayal of his death, filmed by a Palestinian cameraman and broadcast by the French news service France2, inflamed public opinion across the Arab world and beyond.

That passionate reaction was understandable, since this looked like the deliberate and gratuitously sadistic murder of a helpless and totally unthreatening child by Israeli soldiers. As James Fallows pointed out at the beginning of a careful analysis of this incident that he published in 2003, “Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?“:

The image of a boy shot dead in his helpless father’s arms during an Israeli confrontation with Palestinians has become the Pietà of the Arab world. [….] The name Mohammed al-Dura is barely known in the United States. Yet to a billion people in the Muslim world it is an infamous symbol of grievance against Israel and—because of this country’s support for Israel—against the United States as well.

Al-Dura was the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy shot and killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators on September 30, 2000. The final few seconds of his life, when he crouched in terror behind his father, Jamal, and then slumped to the ground after bullets ripped through his torso, were captured by a television camera and broadcast around the world. Through repetition they have become as familiar and significant to Arab and Islamic viewers as photographs of bombed-out Hiroshima are to the people of Japan—or as footage of the crumbling World Trade Center is to Americans. Several Arab countries have issued postage stamps carrying a picture of the terrified boy. One of Baghdad’s main streets was renamed The Martyr Mohammed Aldura Street. Morocco has an al-Dura Park. In one of the messages Osama bin Laden released after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he began a list of indictments against “American arrogance and Israeli violence” by saying, “In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of ‘enduring freedom,’ Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing.” [….]

As Fallows explained in his article, it was already clear in 2003 that however Mohammed al-Dura died, he was almost certainly not killed by gunfire from the Israeli checkpoint.  Fallows correctly observed:  “The evidence will not change Arab minds—but the episode offers an object lesson in the incendiary power of an icon.”

Since then, a long series of legal proceedings in France, during which France2 was compelled to divulge significant portions of the raw footage from which the televised broadcast was edited, have raised even more troubling questions. It turns out that many of the claims made by France2 about that raw footage were dishonest and misleading, and the footage itself looks very fishy. In the end, it is not even clear whether Mohammed al-Dura (or another boy) actually died in that incident, and no solid evidence has ever been produced to confirm that this occurred. It seems possible, at least, that the whole thing was a brilliantly effective hoax. (If so, that would leave open the question of whether France2 consciously participated in this hoax or else—which I suspect is more likely—was taken in along with everyone else, in part because the version of the story that they televised fit their preconceptions.)

These and other factual issues remain highly contentious. But many people are not even aware that the original version of the story has been effectively debunked, and continue to assume that it is true. And for other people, pursuing these factual questions is ultimately irrelevant and even unseemly, since it can only distract attention from the truly fundamental point—the unjust and oppressive Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and Israel’s brutal and repressive treatment of the Palestinians more generally.

=> Are those people right? In August 2003, via the e-mail list of Chicago Peace Now, I was alerted to a piece which made that argument explicitly: “The Truth of Mohammed al-Dura: A Response to James Fallows“.

An interesting perspective regarding the death of Mohammed al-Dura from Adam Rose for all of you.

I responded:

Thanks for passing along this piece by Adam Rose, but I cannot resist one comment.

Rose sums up the thrust of his argument well at the beginning of his piece:

Whether or not a particular 12-year-old boy died at the hands of Israeli soldiers, the image of Mohammed al-Dura is an authentic symbol of the Israeli occupation.

He elaborates later in the piece:

This points to the second and larger problem with Fallows’s argument: his narrow and incomplete understanding of “truth”. From Fallows’s perspective, the truth that matters is who shot Mohammed al-Dura and the truth is either that he was shot by Israelis or that he was not and the Israelis were framed. And, of course, in one sense this is right and important. But there is another, even more important truth of the matter connected to its symbolic nature. And it is this symbolic truth that Fallows completely misconstrues.

This is indeed an “interesting perspective,” but it is hardly new or original. In fact, it’s quite familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of 20th-century politics. It’s a typically Stalinist position on the question of historical and political “truth,” which received its most notorious “philosophical” justification in Merleau-Ponty’s appalling bookHumanism and Terror, and was expressed (and applied) in more vulgar practical forms by people like Zhdanov and legions of hardworking ordinary propagandists. That is, petty and superficial questions of empirical “truth” or “falsehood” are meaningless or trivial by comparison with the “deeper” truths of the basic, overriding struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. In fact, obsessing about these supposed “factual” questions (rather than focusing on the “more important truth of the matter connected to its symbolic nature,” as Rose forthrightly puts it) is not just trivial and misleading, but “objectively” reactionary or even fascist.

Thus, Comrade Fallows’s mistake is clear. He has fallen into the typically petty-bourgeois fallacy of what used to be called “empiricism”. As Lukacs would have explained to poor Fallows, his thinking needs to be more “concrete”—that is, whether or not Mohammed al-Dura happened to be brutally murdered by Israeli soldiers in some narrow “factual” sense has no bearing on the “more important truth” that this image (not the image of his death, but the image of his deliberate murder by Israeli soldiers) is nevertheless an “authentic” symbol of the Israeli occupation. Since this image is “authentic” (in the sense of its larger “symbolic truth,” which is obviously the “more important truth of the matter”), it’s absurd to get hung up on whether or not the event in question actually happened.

As Leszek Kolakowski once argued in a penetrating essay on “Totalitarianism and the Virtue of the Lie”, the real innovation of Stalinist political culture in this regard was not its tendency to base politics on lies (which is, alas, a very widespread and ordinary practice with a long history), but rather its systematic effort to undermine the whole sense that there was any meaningful or legitimate distinction between “truth” and “lies” in any empirical sense. (Some non-Stalinists who grasped this innovation, such as Goebbels, praised and admired it.) This effort was embodied most powerfully in the everyday operations of totalitarian political regimes, but it also required more sophisticated justifications by people like Lukacs and Merleau-Ponty and a host of less prominent thinkers and propagandists (many of whom were not Stalinists themselves, but rather fellow-travelers, admirers, and/or imitators).

(And by the way, to head off a rather common straw man in advance: This goes well beyond the important and illuminating recognition that our understandings of the world are unavoidably shaped by differing perspectives informed by different conceptual and symbolic frameworks, often rooted in different experiences and influenced by different interests. All of that is profoundly true and important, but it does not necessarily mean that we should give up any effort to distinguish in principle between trying to tell the truth and deliberate lying.)

I don’t know whether you ever happened to see an interesting mid-1960s movie by Godard, “La Chinoise”. The protagonists are a small cell of student “Maoists” in France. In one episode of the film, one of them recounts, with great admiration and enthusiasm, a news story about some Chinese students who had recently returned from Moscow to China, against the backdrop of the intensifying Sino-Soviet ideological conflict. They came off the plane with their heads wrapped in bandages–the result, they explained to waiting journalists, of the brutal beatings they had received from Soviet police (which in turn were the result and expression of the anti-revolutionary “revisionism” of the Soviet regime). The Chinese students talked about these beatings, and their injuries, at some length. Then they unwrapped the bandages, which revealed that they actually had no injuries. The French student telling the story commented that the journalists, who were startled by this, were too stupid to understand the point. They were hung up on the superficial fact that there were no injuries–and thus, presumably, no brutal beatings. As Adam Rose could have explained to them, they had entirely missed “the more important truth of the matter connected to its symbolic nature.” The question of whether or not these particular beatings occurred was quite beside the point. Even if they hadn’t taken place, the “more important truth” was that these beatings—and the whole imagery of the Chinese students’ injuries, their bandages, etc.—nevertheless constituted “an authentic symbol” of the revisionism and counter-revolutionary brutality of the Soviet regime.

=> Yes, this is an “interesting perspective,” which has often been used with great ingenuity and even perverse brilliance—often with good intentions and idealistic agendas, too. But I think the political history of the past century shows that it has some serious drawbacks as well. For this and other reasons, it’s not a perspective that I find convincing or attractive … and, to be perfectly honest, I tend to find its current manifestations (often presented in “post-modern” or “post-structuralist” guises) ridiculous and/or alarming … and sometimes despicable and morally irresponsible as well.

Yours in struggle,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. On balance, I mostly disagree with the substance of what Rose has to say in this piece, but he does bring up some valid (or partly valid, or potentially valid) points. However, they could have been developed more usefully and effectively without putting them in the overall framework of a perspective which argues that the “artistic truth” of images that vividly confirm what you already “know” (i.e., that represent and reinforce widely held prejudices) is more important than trying to figure out what actually happened.

————————————————–
Adam Rose replied (and I should let him have his say):

Subject: Re: [peacenowchicago] “The Truth of Mohammed al-Dura”
From: Adam Rose
To: Jeff Weintraub , Peace Now
Date: Thu 7 Aug 2003 09:19:46 -0500

Jeff:

As the author of the piece in question, I read your comments with great interest and would like to offer the following response.

1) Whatever the possible connections with Stalinism, etc., the distinction between symbolic and historical truth has both an honorable pedigree and excellent reputation in many modern circles. With respect to the former, I tried to show, for example, that Aristotle (who I presume is still in high standing–or at least not to be simply tarred and dismissed as a Stalinist) both recognized the distinction and held symbolic (or “poetic”) truth in higher esteem in historical truth. I further tried to show that this distinction is commonly found useful in considering works of art. After all, how is one to think about the “truth” of “fiction” (works that are absolutely false in the historical sense)?

From this perspective, a representation of an event can have one of four possible “truth values”:

symbolic     historical
1) TRUE    TRUE
2) TRUE     FALSE
3) FALSE   TRUE
————————
4) FALSE   FALSE

In cases 1 and 3, there is a historically-true representation–the event depicted “really happened”. In cases 1 and 2, there is a symbolically-true representation–the event depicted “commonly/typically/always happens” and the representation is not so much of an event as of event-type and the event-type is true even if the specific event is not.

As I tried to show, these distinctions are commonly (and reasonably, I think) invoked in analyses of “historically-dubious” representations. Thus, truth of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is generally acknowledged not to be its historic truth (whatever connection it may have to the historic truth about the historic figure Macbeth). Rather, the truth of Shakespeare’s Macbeth — like all tragedy — is generally considered to be its symbolic truth, the sense that it conveys that “there but for the grace of God go I (or perhaps: “I’m never going to fall into THAT trap!”).

Although I didn’t mention it in the essay, such distinctions are also commonly used in considerations of the Bible and other scriptures. After all, it turns out that many of the events depicted may not be historically-true, starting with Creation and running through Moses and the exodus to the resurrection of Jesus. Rather than dismiss a historically-false Bible as a fraud of no value, many people (including many non-Stalinists) consider the symbolic truth of the events depicted to be of great value. From this perspective the Moses in the Bible is seen as akin to the Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.

2) As I said in my essay none of this is to say that I (or Aristotle or anyone else) deny the importance of historical truth. Of course it matters what “really happened”. On the other hand, it is also important to keep the relevance of historical truth in perspective — just as it is important to keep the relevance of symbolic truth in perspective.

In the case of Mohammed al-Dura, I think it is fair to say that most people exercised by the image/incident don’t give a damn about the actual boy. And in some ways, rightly so. One individual tragedy is just one individual tragedy and the world is full of those–too full for people to empathize with all of them. Moreover, if such an event were believed/known to be unique or unusual–like a freak earthquake or a child falling down a well–it would not have resonated so strongly on all sides.

Rather it is the symbolic truth–the belief / knowledge that the al-Dura image depicts an event-type–that exercises everyone (including the Israelis bent on disproving the historical truth of the incident). But because of widespread misunderstanding, almost everyone THINKS it is the historical truth that is critically important. Thus all the energy to prove or disprove the historical truth of the incident. In short, in the wider sense of world politics, etc., harsh as it may sound, the historical truth of the death of one boy is meaningless–however it occurred–to everyone on all sides of the issue.

What matters is whether the depiction of al-Dura’s death represents a genuine event-type–an event-type of small Palestinian boys armed with rocks at most being killed by larger Israeli boys armed with the most sophisticated weaponry available. And as I argued in the essay, there is a wealth of valid historically-true evidence (from B’Tselem and many others) that this event-type exists. Thus I think the case here is quite different from “La Chinoise” as you describe it.

Although I am generally wary of invoking the Holocaust, I think the case of Anne Franks is instructive here. On some brutal level, nobody gives a damn about the terrorization and death of one girl. What make her story so compelling is that it is taken as representative of the terrorization and deaths of thousands and millions and it is the system designed and implemented to create thousands and millions of Anne Franks that is truly horrifying. Now suppose the Diary of Anne Frank had been written as a work of fiction or that it turned out her father or others tinkered with the text or even fabricated it outright, would it tell us less about the horror of that system? Would it make the diary any less a “Tomb of the Unknown Jewish Children” who died invisibly (in contrast to “Anne Frank” whose death has been made visible to us)? In short, would it have anything to do at all with whether or not there was or was not a genuine “Anne Frank event-type” and whether the Diary was an authentic symbol of that event-type?

In some ways, of course, the answer is “yes”. But in many, many ways, the answer is “no”. And I think it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

(FOR THE RECORD: I AM NOT SAYING HERE THAT THE OCCUPATION IS THE EQUIVALENT OF THE HOLOCAUST IN ANY WAY. JUST THAT IT PROVIDES A PARALLEL EXAMPLE THAT JEWS AND THOSE SYMPATHETIC TO THEM ARE LIKELY TO EMPATHIZE WITH.)

From an opposite perspective, the assassination of JFK is equally instructive. In this case there really is no symbolic truth of the matter. JFK’s death does NOT represent the death of many others. People really mourn the particular, individual man and the historical facts of who killed him are critical–including whether or not shots were fired from the “grassy knoll”.

The revisionist analysis of Mohammed al-Dura tries to treat the event a JFK-type event, when it is really an Anne Frank-type event.

3) All of this seems to come to a head in the issue of what it takes to make “the Arabs” believe that “the Israelis/Jews” are “boy-killers”. Fallows’s piece suggests that “the Arabs” have no good reason for thinking this. On the contrary, he suggests they think what they want to think regardless of the evidence. Yet as I tried to show, they DO have the evidence. We all do, if we want to see it.

In your concluding remark on my piece you write:

P.S. On balance, I mostly disagree with the substance of what Rose has to say in this piece, but he does bring up some valid (or partly valid, or potentially valid) points. However, they could have been developed more usefully and effectively without putting them in the overall framework of a perspective which argues that the “artistic truth” of images that vividly confirm what you already “know” (i.e., that represent and reinforce widely held prejudices) is more important than trying to figure out what actually happened.

As I have argued in my essay and here, what the Arabs “know” is NOT simply widely-held prejudice (though of course it may be reinforced by that). And it is the blithe dismissal / delegitimization of this knowledge that I object to first and foremost.

If there is a de facto Israeli policy of creeping annexation,
If there is a de facto Israeli policy of “breaking” the Palestinians,
If there is a de facto Israeli policy of predation,
If Israel has both killed over 366 Palestinian minors and given every indication that such deaths are important only insofar as they contribute to the achievement of Israeli policy —

If all of this is true then the event-type depicted in the image of Mohammed al-Dura is also true. And on the world-historical level, it is the truth this event-type that really matters and that attention should be focused on. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. (Something that I understand Stalin was quite good at.)

Adam Rose

P.S. If you or others are interested, a formatted copy of the essay, complete with pictures, can be downloaded and printed from www.supportsanity.org (PDF 1.2 MB).

—————————————-
I responded in turn:

Hi Adam,

Thanks for your response to my remarks, which was serious, thoughtful, and (under the circumstances) quite temperate. I am getting at my e-mail only intermittently these days, so I just saw your message, and I can offer only a quick and incomplete counter-response.

You will probably not be surprised to learn that I am not really convinced, but let me restate some of the reasons why I feel that way.  To put it too briefly: I have no problem, in principle, with recognizing some kind of distinction between “historical” and “poetic” truth (for reasons that Aristotle, Kenneth Burke, and various others have suggested in various ways). (Despite my harsh words about Lukacs, I even think there is something insightful and potentially illuminating about his notion of “typical” as opposed to merely “average” or “naturalistic” representations.) The key question is how these concepts are used, or misused.  In particular, artistic representations that present themselves as fiction should be judged by different standards from stories, arguments, images, and other forms of communication and representation that claim to be factually true.

As for those pieces of “knowledge” that you list toward the end of your message (“If there is a de facto Israeli policy of creeping annexation” etc.) … I think someone who “knows” those things is in fact correct, and absolutely nothing I said implies “blithe dismissal / delegitimization of this knowledge”. In my opinion, that’s a red herring.

On the other hand, if someone “knows” that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is defined fundamentally and essentially by the deliberate and gratuitously sadistic murder of unarmed civilians, including the murder of helpless and completely unthreatening children “for sport”—the supposed “truth” that you say is conveyed by the image of Mohammed al-Dura’s martyrdom and the way it has been interpreted—then I would submit that they’re wrong … and that reinforcing and endorsing that particular belief is not just mistaken but pernicious and destructive.  In my opinion, that crosses the line between legitimate (or plausible) criticism and condemnation of Israeli policies and actions to hysterical and indiscriminate demonization of Israel and Israelis.  That kind of demonization is all too common in the world today, and endorsing and reinforcing it is both and unwise and reprehensible.  The results, in practice, have been disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians.  At least, that is my strong and considered opinion.

In that crucial sense, “the image of Mohammed al-Dura” is not “an authentic symbol of the Israeli occupation.”  And if the specific story conveyed by that particular image isn’t even factually accurate, then that’s an additional problem.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

POSTED BY JEFF WEINTRAUB AT 10:35 AM 

 

Memes of Lethal Journalism: “What does it matter who Killed the Boy?” (Arad Nir version)

One of the patterns of lethal journalism as practiced by Western journalists is first to inject the public sphere with a lethal narrative as news, engendering hatred and violence against the target of that narrative, and then, when it turns out to be false, say, “What does it matter?”  This has come up recently since the Kuperwasser Report, which, since it’s a meme, is not surprising. Here is an earlier example, with my comments. It’s a good insight into the working of the “progressive” Israeli mind.

What Does It Matter Who Killed the Child? 

Here’s a translation (thanks to LB) of an op-ed piece by Arad Nir (head of the foreign affairs desk at Channel 2) in Yediot Aharonot (Israel’s largest circulation newspaper). It illustrates how strong the “it doesn’t matter who shot him, the death of a child is tragic” trope is in Israeli opinion-forming circles. For those who might not be familiar with Israeli progressive “moral” thinking, this is as good as any introduction.

All the Children are like Yours

Arad Nir
October 3, 2007

What difference does it make which side is guilty in the death of Muhammad al Durah? There is no justice in the death of a child?

Had he not wandered with his father into a miserable gunfight between Israeli forces and Palestinians in which his life was cut short, Muhammad al-Dura would have marked his 19th birthday this year. Had Muhammad and his father stayed at home that day, or chosen to go elsewhere, al-Dura would today be roaming the streets of Gaza and helping in his family’s livelihood. Maybe he would be a student, an activist in Fatah, or even a Hamas member in a Qassam-launching squad. But, in his death that was documented by the camera of the television network France2, little Muhammad changed into the flag-bearer of the intifada. With his choosing it, he became a symbol for his countrymen who will forever remain 12 years old.

Not only is Arad sure that the boy got killed on film, but he has accepted the narrative surrounding the footage he has yet to examine carefully. The evidence of the rushes — which Arad has apparenty not viewed (does he want to?) — formally contradicts the story that the father and son “wandered into a miserable gunfight between Israeli forces and Palestinians…” The AP and Reuter’s footage suggest he was behind the barrel with his father before the “gunfight” started.

Since the photographs were broadcast almost seven years ago, a series of experts and organizations took it upon themselves to prove that the death of al-Dura was not caused as a result of Israeli fire. Courts in France and Israel have been involved with this episode for years (and in the meantime support the network’s position) and now we receive news that even the Director of the Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, gave an opinion and determined that “the employees of the France2 television network did not uphold (in their report) basic journalistic principles.” He accuses the cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma of “intentional staging and the creation of a libel against the State of Israel.”

I am certain that the head of the Government Press Office of the State of Israel is not accusing the cameraman and the television network of staging the death of al-Dura. Otherwise, surely he would not have deliberated whether to revoke the credentials of the journalists from the network, rather would have immediately lodged a complaint with the police. Instead, the head of the GPO accuses the journalists of a systematic (or intentional) report that implicates the israeli forces.

Sarcasm aside, this is one of Enderlin’s favorite lines. If the Israelis even suspected that he or Talal had done something wrong, they’d have taken away their press credentials. It’s a facetious argument, but a brilliant bluff. Both of them are protected by public opinion, and short of a court decision, the Israeli government would not move. The whole ploy plays brilliantly on the difference between a profoundly timid, intimidated Israeli government (they act like dhimmis to the MSM) and the perception of the Israelis as “no-nonsense” tough guys.

In response, the bereaved father, Jamal, declared that he was not able to shield his son, that he is ready for them to open the grave in order to check from which rifles the bullets were fired that brought about his son’s death and made his life eternally miserable.

What? This is nonsense. Doesn’t Arad know that digging up the body won’t show which rifles shot the bullets that killed his son? Are there supposed to be bullets in the grave? Did the Palestinian doctors leave them inside the body? Is that why no one has ever seen the bullets that allegedly struck the boy and the father a dozen times? Does it matter that the “bullet” claim is all bluff and that Esther Schapira caught Talal in the bluff? Or does Arad Nir know all this and doesn’t care?

Philippe Karsenty does a great imitation of trying to show MSNM folks the evidence. “There are no bullets.” “Et alors? [so what?].” There’s no blood. Et alors? In the final scene he lifts up his head and looks around. Et alors? They shout the boy is dead the boy is dead before he’s even “hit.” Et alors? And so on…

And I ask — why does it matter?

Muhammad a-Dura was caught with his father in an impossible position without anyone having intended it. Muhammad and his father left home together. Muhammad did not return. He was killed in a gun battle without him holding a rifle. Without him choosing this bullet or another. Abu Rahma’s camera was there and thus turned this casualty into a symbol.

Does it even matter to Arad that this may be all wrong? Does he care whether there were people who intended for him to be in the “impossible position”? Does it matter that he may not have died, and if he did, it wasn’t in a gun battle? Does he care that the the only identifiable bullets hitting the wall or leaving marks on it came from a Palestinian position? Does it matter that in order for those bullets not to be he product of Palestinian sharpshooter’s aiming at the wall over the al Durahs’ heads, these same riflemen would have had to have missed their mark by 80 degrees? Does he care whether abu Rahmah’s camera — and his alone out of the dozens that were there that day — was not there by accident. Does it matter that the symbol Talal’s tape and narrative turned this “event” into was a devastating blood libel that has poisoned the globe and the century?

Or is the narrative just too appealing to let go of, even for one of its intended victims?

Muhammad, like the many other victims- both Israeli and Palestinian- before and after him, will no longer be able to choose what to do in his life. His parents will not be able to see him mature and fulfill their dreams or compromise on his own. Muhammad is a victim of this protracted war regardless of who fired the particular bullet that caused his death.

I’m sorry. These sentiments baffle me. What on earth does this mean? Is this moral equivalence? Somehow that there’s no difference between the arsonist and the firefighter? Does it matter that the Palestinians started the gunfight (even Charles Enderlin admits that)?

Does Arad think he’s being morally grand here? “The death of a child is, in and of itself so terrible that blame is irrelevant.”

But the Palestinians do nothing but blame. They feed their hatreds, poison their children, dream of genocide, and justify their addiction to violence with their blaming. They stage blood libels in order to blame Israel and turn her into an international pariah. And the Israelis say, “it doesn’t matter”?!?

Muhammad will always remain a symbol because, as opposed to thousands of other victims, he was killed in front of the television cameras.

Now doesn’t that tell you something? Don’t you realize that Muhammad al Durah is not the symbol you think he is — the tragedy of children killed in war — but a symbol of Israel’s Nazi-like beastiality? Or, as Osama bin Laden put it:

It is as if Israel – and those backing it in America – have killed all the children in the world.

Does any of this matter? Do you care about the terrible consequences of being merciful to the cruel? That many more children will die because the men with the murderous agenda meet moral idiots who think they show their big hearts in letting them run roughshod over us, manipulating our sensibilities and churning out their child-sacrifices? I don’t believe for a minute that Arad Nir is as promiscuously exculpatory when it’s a matter of Israeli behavior: Imagine him responding to the question: “Who killed the people at Beit Hanoun?” with “What does it matter?”

From the two sides the muzzles of the rifles ejected bursts of cursed bullets. It does not matter if the fatal bullet was fired from the rifle of an Israeli soldier or from the weapon of a Palestinian fighter — there is no justification for the death of a child!

Bad poetry is no excuse for moral idiocy. Talk to the Palestinians, and they’ll not only justify the death of a child – no problem – but they’ll justify killing children, and even justify killing their own children. What kind of solipsistic moral world do you live in that you think these glorious sentiments mean anything to the foe you face?

Would that the energies invested in the argument over the angles of the fire and the source of the bullets be directed to other places that will enable a better future for this life.

All the Marshall Plans in the world won’t solve this until we get clear on where the source of the never-ending belligerency comes from. Only when we learn to identify the myriad ways in which Arab “strong” men eagerly sacrifice their own people in pursuit of their chimerical vendetta against modernity, can we begin to enable a better future for this life. I’d say measuring those angles and following the trail of deception are excellent ways to begin to understand and respond effectively to the toxins that right now blind our vision and roil the hearts of violent men the world over.

Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to be Stupid

I place this post in the Al Durah Journalist category because although it belongs also in Evidence, it’s most important contribution is an analysis of what’s going on with the lethal journalists who got caught up in the hysterical credulity among journalists in the wake of Al Durah.

Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to be Stupid, Augean Stables, April 18, 2013

One of the major weaknesses of Westerners in the current cognitive war with Islamic imperialism is a seemingly boundless commitment to being fooled. It’s almost as if, on principle, we need to accept lies from the other side as true, lest we be accused of being racist. There are two aspects to this, one, an honor-shame reflex that worries primarily about what others think of us (i.e., we’re not racist, but we’re worried others will think us so), and another, that spending our time suspecting others of deception strikes many of us (justifiably) as a huge waste of time. First let me go over some key examples here, and then come back to these two points.

Exhibit A: Andrea Koppel and the “Jenin Massacre.” During the period that the Israeli army conducted Operation Defensive Shield, reports came from Palestinian sources, especially from Saeb Erakat, accusing Israel of massacring over 500 innocent civilians in “execution-style” murders and burying them in mass graves. It turns out that, not only were they exaggerated, they were invented out of whole cloth. In fact, Israel sacrificed 21 soldiers in an operation that went from door to door in order to avoid civilian casualties and, in the end, of the 56 Palestinian casualties, the great majority were combatants. In other words, the situation was precisely the opposite of what the Palestinians claimed and the press reported an inversion of reality. In the middle of these events and reports, David Bloomberg reported witnessing the following exchange in Tel Aviv between Andrea Koppel, daughter of Ted, and reporter for CNN, and Adam Ruskin, an American-born Israeli:

While we [Bloomberg and Koppel] were chatting, an American-born Israeli joined us to tell Andrea about his perception of media distortion in that the press that stresses moral equivalence between Israeli civilian deaths caused by Palestinian terror and Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israeli military actions. He argued that Israel has tried to engage in a peace process since Camp David and has been double-crossed over and over by the Palestinian Authority. Further, he argued the civilian deaths caused by Palestinians are intentional, whereas the deaths caused by Israel are mostly the tragic, unintentional results caused by Israel trying to defend itself.

Andrea replied, “So when Israeli soldiers slaughter civilians in Jenin, that is not equivalent?”

Israeli: “What are your sources? Were you in Jenin? How exactly do you know there was a slaughter?”

Andrea: “I just spoke with my colleagues who were there, and they told me of the slaughter.”

Israeli: “Did they actually see the shooting, the bodies?”

Andrea: “Palestinians told us about the slaughter.”

Israeli: “And you believe them without evidence. Could they possibly be lying and distorting facts.”

Andrea: “Oh, so now they are all just lying??” [sic]

The Israeli became emotional in describing that his children are afraid, his friends have been murdered, and if this goes on, “We could lose our lives or we could lose our country.”

Andrea, “Yes, you will lose your country.”

At this point, I interrupted the two of them and asked Andrea Koppel, “Did I just hear you correctly– that you believe the current crisis will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel?”

Andrea: “Yes, I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel.”

Koppel later denied this report, which led to reponses by both Bloomberg and Ruskin. I think the latter two are telling the accurate story for a number of reasons, including the nature of their recollections. I think, however, that it illustrates the huge gap between the kind of Al Durah Journalism that was already dominant among the media stationed in Israel, and the residual ethical commitments of the mainstream news media to proper journalistic procedure.

In an unguarded moment, Koppel spoke like so many of her colleagues on the scene, not merely adopting Palestinian lethal narratives uncritically, but adopting the Palestinian “moral” narrative aimed at the destruction of the state of Israel. Once reported to her superiors in the USA, not yet overcome by the disorientation of the journalists on the scene, she quickly backtracked, trying to deny what she had said, forcing Bloomberg to reveal the name of his other protagonist for corroboration.

What interests me most in this exchange is the remark with which Koppel replied to the possibility Ruskin raised about whether her Palestinian sources might be lying: “Oh, so now they are all just lying??” This reply exemplifies the politically-correct attitude that rejects accusations that Palestinians lie, with the implied (“they… all”) that somehow it’s prejudiced, even racist to accuse Palestinians of lying.

This is pure liberal cognitive egocentrism, in which we are not allowed to pay attention to cultural differences. There are cultures in which lying (especially to outsiders) is openly embraced as a virtue. Motivations range from the purely self-interested (giving directions when you don’t know just to save face and not admit ignorance), to malice (deliberately misleading an outsider because you don’t like outsiders) to waging war.

Taqiyya goes well beyond Shias protecting themselves from Sunni oppressors, and involves extensive disinformation to infidels, especially in cases of covert Jihad. Those among the shabab who play Pallywood would laugh at some Westerner’s rebuke that it’s “not right” to do such things.

So why do we, as a matter of principle, refuse to consider the possibility (high likelihood) that we’re being lied to by our “Palestinian sources”? Because it makes us feel like good, decent, honorable human beings who believe that everyone is like us? Or, more darkly, because it gives us narratives that make us feel emotions we welcome, moral superiority to and even revulsion at Israeli behavior? After all, the same journalists who are principled dupes to Palestinian lies have no problem accusing the Israelis are lying and propaganda.

Exhibit B: Muhammad al Durah One of the more fascinating aspects of the al Durah Affair concerns the attitude towards Talal’s testimony. It lies at the heart of the matter, since he’s the one to claim a) that the Israelis fired continuously for over 40 minutes, targeting the boy, and b) that the boy died before his camera.

Enderlin based his report on this testimony, and all subsequent accounts follow his narrative, if not in its extreme form – cold blooded murder – at the very minimum, in his claim that the boy died on camera. Indeed, the power of this footage, its riveting quality, and the inability of people to view it as anything but the scene of a boy dying under a hail of bullets, all traces back to Talal’s first claim.

The widespread reluctance of people who have seen the full evidence to go any farther than stating that the Israelis most likely did not kill him, stems from a double resistance to a) seeing Talal (and the Palestinian street) as deliberate liars, and b) seeing Charles Enderlin (and the journalist’s street) as dupes to so obvious a fake. I personally think the “conspiracy theory” is actually (in a addition to being Charles Enderlin’s only effective defense), an unconscious admission on the part of those who accept Enderlin’s version that only some massive conspiracy involving the staffs of both Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the King Hussein Hospital in Jordan as well as even the king himself (who allegedly – in these matters one never knows – gave blood to Jamal), and all the journalists who stepped in line… ridiculous. Therefore it couldn’t be a fake. QED.

The alternative is to imagine the possibility that a) cooperation with the fake was widely received, even by people who hadn’t been brought in to start (e.g., the Jordanians), and b) the number of willing dupes was numberless, including so many of the journalists who didn’t bother to ask any hard questions.

Exhibit A: Susan Goldenberg, writing for the Guardian, comes to the site, observes a dozen bullet holes behind the barrel, some so close to the barrel they could not have come from the Israeli position, all with direct entry trajectories rather than the 30 degree angle they would have had coming from the Israelis, and not nearly enough to corroborate Talal’s claim that the Israelis were firing “bullets like rain” for over 40 minutes, and concludes:

[T]he 12-year-old boy and his father were deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.

Exhibit B: Robert Fisk, who didn’t even need to show up to conclude:

When I read the word “crossfire”, I reach for my pen. In the Middle East, it almost always means that the Israelis have killed an innocent person.

While I don’t think that the entire field of Middle-East journalism was committed to the kind of lethal journalism here illustrated, I think that after the al Durah story broke, the rest of the field either got in line, or, perhaps more depressingly, did not dare to say a word.

Rumors have it that Talal sent his footage to Mike Hannah at CNN (not sure of the timing here, since he was allegedly – I trust Enderlin on nothing in this story – on the phone to Enderlin during the day), and Hannah told him he wouldn’t run it. This story makes a great deal of sense: Hannah wouldn’t turn down a story as explosive as this unless he had strong suspicions it was faked (as was most footage of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at that time: it’s one thing to run fake footage of minor injuries, another to run the on-camera death of a child). He, like I think anyone not under the spell of the desire to see a dead child would, looked at the footage and thought: “There’s no way I can run this footage. Way too many holes in this story, critics will tear it to pieces.”

Enderlin’s “genius” was to realize that if he packaged this right, gave everyone in the JCS building a copy of the footage, and warned everyone they were about to see something terrible, he could create a stampede in which, eventually, even CNN would run the story. And he was right. Shades of Charlie Sheen creating a run on Wall Street.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I think the widespread belief that Muhammad al Durah died on camera is obviously false, and the fact that the Enderlin cut it from his news report, is virtually an open and shut case against the “boy died on camera” claim.

“Take 6” in which the boy, rather than clutch his stomach wound, holds his hand over his eye, slowly lifts up his elbow, looks out and slowly lowers his elbow, lifting up his feet in counter-weight. Enderlin explained that he cut the footage because, as the boy’s death throes, it was too painful for the audience to see. The “audience” can judge whether this looks like the spasmodic death throes of a child, or deliberate and controlled actions.

When asked by Esther Schapira why he called the boy dead while showing earlier footage when he’s clearly not dead, Enderlin responded:

“I’m very sorry but the fact is the boy died. Maybe not at the precise moment I showed. But this is how I do a story. ‘The boy is dead’ is a statement. What’s your problem with that?”

And the fact that every news station that got the footage from Endlerlin did not find this final scene suspicious and use it to question Enderlin’s account, means that, far from a serious independent work, the Middle Eastern desks lined up behind their colleague, even though the damage caused by this footage was immediately evident. As Pierre Taguieff noted about the kind of anti-Zionism that emerged in the wake of al Durah and the Intifada he inspired: “When all the fishes swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”

All of this brings us back to the discussion of the process of auto-stupefaction I’ve referred to as rekaB Street. Rather than note the clues and the anomalies and pursue them fearlessly, most prefer not even to view the evidence, to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, or, in some cases, to take a couple of fearless steps and then demur from reaching any further conclusions. Heaven forbid we call Talal a liar and Enderlin a(n apparently willing) dupe! Better we remain stupid.

On the contrary, I think that anyone who approaches the evidence not from the point of view in which “‘the boy is dead,’ and only 110% proof to the contrary will get me to change my mind,” but rather, “what’s going on in this tape? what are the odds it’s about a boy being killed by fire coming from the Israeli position, and what are the odds that it’s been staged?” will find the odds overwhelmingly favor staged (conservative estimate: 95-5?). If we thought about crimes the way most now think about this footage, we could close down our detective agencies and police departments.