Karsenty vs. Enderlin: Baker vs. rekaB Street in action

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Yesterday was the sixth hearing in the saga of France 2 and Charles Enderlin suing Philippe Karsenty for defamation in the French courts. In some senses it was something of an anti-climax. In others it was an amazing example of the clash between Baker and rekaB Streets. Indeed, the Société des journalistes (SNJ) and SNJ de France Télévisions both called on members to show their support for Enderlin, who was valiantly defending himself against Karsenty’s legal aggression, when in fact it is Enderlin and France2 who are using the courts to bully Karsenty into silence. Shades of Tuvia Grossman: we know who the aggressor must be, so we’re rallying around our wounded David, even when he’s a embarrassingly dim Goliath.

Karsenty went in loaded for bear, with a mock-up reconstruction of the site at Netzarim, and an extensive PPP full of videos. He went through all the evidence, starting with an very nice series of illustrations using the rushes to show how France2/Enderlin consistently use clearly staged footage as “news.” He then went through the entire dossier concerning the actual al Durah footage. At times it seemeda bit too exhaustive, and the judges seemed irritated by the PPP, but the arguments were excellent, and reflected a forensic mind that engages in identifying clues, and deriving conclusions from an analysis of the evidence.

Enderlin, on the other hand, seemed either completely out of his depth, or just supremely unconcerned. He did nothing but repeat things he’s said (and written) a thousand times, and when it was France2’s chance to respond to Karsenty, he sat passively while his lawyer showed five clips, four of which were just unedited replays of France2 news broadcasts on the matter (including totally irrelevant news about the tunnel under Mont Blanc and the Olympics in Sydney). It was as if they believed that in merely restating themselves, they proved themselves right. After Karsenty’s presentation, however, it was a stunning display of rekaB Street: the very scenes he had deconstructed as fakes, they were again playing as real. Even the judges seemed amused. The grand finale was Jamal al Durah showing his wounds just after Karsenty had showed that the wounds were not from the event (later confirmed by the medical forensic expert).

Enderlin seemed completely alone. He and his lawyer, Maitre Amblard, chic and shallow as ever, were alone at the dock (not even Guillaume Clement-Weill), no one from France2, whose new CEO was questioned about the al Durah affair by a senator at the time of his confirmation, and has, apparently decided to let Enderlin carry this one alone. Indeed, when France2’s “side” tried to show the videos, there was a technical fiasco which took 20 minutes to resolve (Karsenty even offered to show the footage they were having trouble with), trying the patience of the judges, before then trying their intelligence with meaningless material. Even Enderlin, in a passing glimmer of intelligence, seemed bored with his own side’s argument.

For those of us familiar with the material, it seemed like a rout. I even had a momentary flash of sympathy for how pathetic Enderlin was. In any serious court of informed and intelligent judgment, this was a romp: Karsenty sliced France2 to pieces, and France2 responded by putting the severed pieces back up on the screen as if they were whole.

But that means nothing in terms of the verdict. For the first time, the “Avocat generale” who speaks for the Parquet was critical of Karsenty, and chided him for his lack of prudence in criticizing Enderlin, emphasizing that the court was not here to decide the historical questions (i.e., what happened), but the question of Karsenty’s good faith (it being uncontested that his criticism of Enderlin was defamation of his honor). Given how – at least in the words of some major figures in the Jewish community – French justice is “politicized,” how much the whole establishment – media, politicians, judges – is locked up (verouillé), it’s perfectly possible that on April 3, the judges will decide in favor of the plaintiff, France2.

But that would just mean that one more court has planted its flag firmly on rekaB Street, and that the victims, in addition to Karsenty, will be the fabric of civil society in France, where citizens cannot criticize a rogue press lest it harm their unearned reputation.

The event was live-blogged by JSS, and discussed in L’Orient le Jour.

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