How Dare You Deprive us of our Icon of Hatred? A Saudi Writer on Al Durah

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The Kuperwasser Committee Report on Al Durah has elicited fascinating and revealing responses. This one from Saudi Arabia permits us to appreciate just how important a role that icon of hatred plays in the consciousness of the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim world.

Muhammad Al-Dura lives

For the general public, the picture of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza usually conjures up confrontations between Palestinian boys throwing stones at armed Israeli soldiers. But in the one image which more than any other epitomizes the character of the conflict in the territories, a Palestinian boy is not throwing stones, but all the same is shot and killed.

In other words, no possible excuse, this is the deliberate murder of a totally innocent boy.

The boy is Muhammad Al-Dura and the TV image of his father shielding the screaming 12 year old when they were caught in a heated exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters [sic] became the enduring symbol of the second Palestinian uprising, or Intifada.

Thirteen years after the death [sic] of Al-Dura, the controversy behind the pictures is still alive. It is not really controversial except in Israel’s eyes.

This is actually interesting. The international press is angry at Karsenty for saying everyone in France agrees with him, because there are many who don’t. Here is the opposite position. In both cases the speaker imagines everyone agreeing with him because it’s true (i.e., he’s right). The only distinction is one has examined the evidence, and the other has not.

An Israeli government committee recently concluded in a report that Al-Dura’s death, which was broadcast by France 2 on Sept. 30, 2000, cannot be substantiated by the pictures. States the report: “There is no evidence that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal (the father) or the boy.”

The 44-page report of the investigation, ordered last year, said there was no evidence the boy was killed at all, claiming there were no blood marks on the scene or bullet wounds in the alleged victims. It said the boy was shown alive toward the end of raw video it obtained from France 2, but that was not included in the edited TV report.

Not even killed? The IDF apologized at the time. Why apologize unless you did something wrong?

Nothing better illustrates the problem of cultural expectations in this affair than this remark. As a non-Jewish reader remarked to me: “You don’t seem to understand. Where I come from, you don’t apologize for anything. So if you even sort-of apologize for something, it’s assumed you did ten times more than you’re admitting to. I don’t think many people understand how readily Israelis (even government figures) are inclined to apologize for things like this, partly because, if they have killed children, they do regret it.

But of course, that’s not the narrative our Saudi writer has in mind. For him the “if… then” apology from Israel is proof they killed the kid.

How can the committee be so sure about what happened to Al-Dura? No autopsy was conducted, and the Israeli investigation was based primarily on expert interviews and analysis of the raw film. That’s not good enough. The circumstances of Al-Dura’s death raise questions that definitely required a quick response at the time – not 13 years later. No Israeli institution bothered to set up an independent, expert investigation when this was possible.

Actually, they did, but Israeli journalists trashed it before anyone else had to deal with their findings. Bob Simon, in his “60 Minutes” episode on this incident didn’t even go into the evidence the investigation turned up.

The fact that an organized body like the IDF, one of Israeli society’s most prominent institutions, with its vast resources, undertook such an amateurish investigation on such a sensitive issue is very odd. Is this the best Israel’s main fighting force can do? Since Israel is forever worried about its image in front of the world, why didn’t the political echelons demand that a proper investigation be conducted?

Now it is clear that the chance of Israel proving that it is not guilty of shooting the youth is over, and with it, the belief in an independent IDF investigation has also been lost. As it has done in previous crimes, notably in the MV Mavi Marmara debacle, Israel appointed itself judge and jury and, without fail, proclaimed itself innocent.

Interesting choice. Even the BBC, so ill-inclined towards Israel that it spends hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep the Beilin report on their anti-Israel bias out of the press, has taken Israel’s side in the Mavi Marmara. Indeed they’re both part of the sequence of lethal journalist outbreaks that occurred in the thirteen years since Al Durah.

Like Yasser Arafat, whose body was exhumed last year to determine whether he had been poisoned, Jamal Al-Dura is prepared to have his son’s remains exhumed to demonstrate that he was killed by Israeli bullets. That should settle the issue. Not surprisingly, Israel has not commented.

Israel would be fine with an exhumation. Apparently the Arafat exhumation did not bring about the kind of news the exhumers were hoping for, and of course, were the boy in the tomb dug up, it would be still more embarrassing. The father can make this claim all he wants, but no one on the other side will support him.

Israel claims Al-Dura is alive.

They don’t. Just alive at the end of the footage shot by Abu Rahma.

In a way, he is. He lives in spirit, an important symbol in the Palestinian struggle for statehood. Al-Dura is a powerful rallying cry. He has been immortalized in stamps and posters bearing his image and a children’s hospital, schools and streets are named after him. He lives on in everyone who supports justice and opposes oppression.

Actually, he lives on in everyone who wants war and vengeance, and needs to oppress his neighbors in order to feel like a man.

Israel has taken much from the Palestinians, but it will never take away Muhammad Al-Dura’s final moments.

What a magnificently ironic statement. What the Israelis have done is add the final moments of Al Durah’s life on video, and shown that he’s neither dead, nor, it would seem, dying.  But apparently, Al Durah dead is much more valuable than Al Durah alive.

How dare you deprive me and my people of our icon of hatred!

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