Enderlin cuts the tapes that France2 presents to the court

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Originally a post at The Augean Stables, November 14, 2007
by Richard Landes

[NB: For those who are too young to remember, Rosemary Woods was President Richard Nixon’s secretary, who was asked to take the blame for the missing 18.5 minutes of tape that had been cut from the famous “Nixon Tapes” before releasing them to the Grand Jury investigating Watergate. She has, for those politically aware in the 1970s, become a byword for tampering with evidence.]

I must admit, many people told me that Enderlin would doctor the tapes, and I didn’t believe them. “No,” I thought, “it’s one thing to lie to me and others in his office, but to the court, where he would surely get caught? He would not be that reckless…” Not.

Today Charles Enderlin presented in court the “rushes” of Talal abu Rahmah which the Judge had requested from him. And he presented an edited version in which he took out at least three minutes, and at least one scene that I distinctly remember seeing. In the United States that’s called tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and perjury. In France, we’ll find out what it’s called.

I’ll let Nidra tell the detailed account since I was one of two people who, having seen the rushes, were placed in an advantaged position to see and check that they were, indeed, what I had seen earlier, so I was unable to take notes.

Before the viewing of the rushes, there was some discussion of why there were only 18 minutes. Charles Enderlin — who had disdained showing up for any previous hearing in the trials he had initiated, even when he was in Paris at the time — explained that the cassette they had saved had 27 minutes of footage, but some did not concern that day (how?), and that he had eliminated the irrelevant material. (At this point I expected the judge to say, “let us be the judge of what’s irrelevant,” but she didn’t.)

Then we viewed the rushes with a preamble and running commentary by Enderlin, with comments by Karsenty. It was something of a circus. But it did give me an insight into how Enderlin’s mind works. He explained about Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount on the 28th, and the riots that ensued on the 29th in the West Bank, and how everyone expected the rioting to spread to Gaza the next day, “because that’s how it works.”

And sure enough, when we see the tapes, we see scene after scene of people being evacuated into ambulances. We don’t see them hit, we don’t see their injuries, but we do see them taken to ambulances, and Enderlin explains: “The Israelis are firing with rubber bullets.” Now there’s no evidence that the Israelis are firing. But because Enderlin expects violence, when he sees Palestinians evacuated in ambulances, he concludes that they have been shot by Israelis.

Most of the material was inconclusive or boring, and I patiently waited for the material I’d seen. Then, at about 15 minutes on the time code, Enderlin announces that there will be a break and we will see the final scenes. That’s when I knew he had cut the scenes. Sure enough, the screen went blank, and then began the final three minutes.

Now there are at least two scenes that I remember specifically, one of which we have documented by Reuters. (In the original post here I thought that scene was cut because Enderlin knew of the Reuters footage and the use we had made of it in Pallywood. But it turns out I missed this brief sequence because people in the court were in the way.)

In a scene we’ve dubbed Molotov Cocktail Kid, a youth lopes comfortably down the road, showing no sign of injury. He hands of a Molotov Cocktail to another kid and enters a crowd. We see red on his forehead, but no indication that he’s injured.

molotov 1
Handing off the bottle. Note the red on his forehead.

Once in the crowd, he is picked up by others.

molotov 2
Note that his left leg is bent as the crowd sets to carry him.

Past photographers, among whom we find Talal abu Rahmah, with his France2 equipment.

molotov 3

Talal is in close, for maximum effect. Note the fellow on the far left who’s in for the ride. He’s seen smiling in the video.

And then run back right in front of the Israeli position (where he was presumably shot) and loaded on the ambulance right in front of the Israelis

molotov 4

Israeli position in the background. No one is afraid of being hit by them.

Here’s the video sequence:

Apparently, only the close comparison with the Reuters footage reveals that this was a staged scene, so Endlerlin left it in, showing the power of both techniques for filming staged scenes so they look real, and the ready (even innocent) willingness of an experienced journalist like Enderlin, even when he’s been warned that people are checking his work, to assume it’s true.

Indeed, he not only didn’t cut it, he used – without any irony – it to show how the court the quality of his journalism. I did a video blog subsequently to show what was going on.

The second scene, however, was more blatant all on its own, and it was missing: I had described it in some detail because it led to perhaps the most astonishing conversation I’ve ever had, an eye-opener for me that inspired the term Pallywood

At another point, a heavy-set man faked a leg injury, but instead of drawing big kids who could pick him up and rush him past the cameramen to an ambulance, he only attracted little kids. He shooed them away, looked around, and, seeing that no one was coming to evacuate him, straightened up and walked away without a limp.

Indeed this scene provoked a snort from the Israeli cameraman working for France2 who was watching the film with me and Enderlin at the time. When I asked him why, he said:

“Because it looks so fake.”
“That’s my impression as well,” I responded.
Enderlin commented, “Oh, they do that all the time. It’s their cultural style. They exaggerate.”
“But if they do it all the time, why couldn’t they have staged Al Durah?” I asked.
“Oh, they’re not good enough,” a supremely confident Enderlin responded.

Now ultimately, this is my word against Enderlin until we see the full tapes. But I suspect that the response that Jeambar, Leconte and Rosenzweig got from Didier Epelbaum (Enderlin’s boss at France2) – “Oh yes, monsieur, you know it’s always like that…sdasavad” – was in response to the same scene, and if Arlette Chabot turned “white as the walls,” it was when she saw this comically bad scene.

If there was any scene to cut from this tape. And sure enough Enderlin cut it.

Apparently, he has such contempt for the court that he thinks he can brazenly cheat them. The judge struck me as no one’s fool, and Karsenty will surely pursue these matters. (He did not.)

So as far as I can make out Enderlin has made a major gamble: tamper with the evidence, show people inconclusive material (the woman next to me said, “I came without making up my mind, and nothing’s clear), and hope the court doesn’t catch him.

But in so doing, he’s rendered himself extremely vulnerable. As Esther Schapira pointed out:

First of all, we have no proof whatsoever that what we saw today is really the camera tape or a DVD copy of the camera tape, the original master tape. For one simple reason, there was a consecutive time code on the DVD that we saw. Now there’s no way you can have the time code without any interruption when it is really the camera tape, because when you switch it on and off you always get a new time code… there are frames missing. So clearly, what you could see on the material was that it is not one shot… but many, many different shots.

As far as I know, it’s virtually impossible to edit this material without leaving marks of your activity.

Either Enderlin is desparate and foolish, or he will pull strings to get away with this. In either case he’s demonstrated just how much he fears letting the evidence out, and how consumately he prevaricates.

I’ll post more on yesterday’s events in the days to come. Many important details to cover.

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