Al Durah Journalism: We use the term DuraJournalists to designate those journalists who take a credulous stance towards Arab lethal narratives about Israel, passing them on to us, their readers and listeners, as “news,” or at least, as perfectly believable claims about the news. DuraJournalists instrumentalize the evidence, and when faced with anomalous details, ignore or dismiss them. Rather than look for clues, DuraJournalists clean up the mess. They live on rekaB Street.

Since all wars have their lethal narratives, and all war-makers want to enlist journalists in spreading theirs, examples of lethal journalism can be found throughout the history of the press in war. Indeed, democracies founded on peaceful relations, need a press that can accurately identify both false evidence and lethal narratives as part of their professional effort to provide us with the most accurate and relevant information they can.

DurahJournalism did not begin with the al Durah affair, but it derives its name from that incident because, after that icon shocked the world – as “true” – the DurahJournalists seized hegemonic control of the conflict’s depiction. Al Durah provided the till-then missing proof of the constant Palestinian refrain about Israelis heartlessly killing Palestinian children.

After that, for the next twelve years and counting, this school of journalism dominated the scene, either winning converts or silencing dissent. In the process, wittingly or unwittingly, journalists of this school, unimpeded by their colleagues, systematically pumped the information systems of the West with a steady diet of hate literature. Shorn by DuraJournalists of their dishonest, belligerent, genesis, these lethal narratives became all the more powerful on the global stage, because outsiders presumed this is an honest account of what actually happened. To Palestinians, Muhammad is the “martyr of the world,” because, thanks to France2 and everyone else who followed Enderlin’s lead, “the whole world saw it”.

Al Durah, offers a classic example of the working of a lethal narrative and the malevolent intent it attributes to the Israelis. As a picture of a boy caught in a cross-fire, it has the power to provoke empathy, indeed deep compassion, but not to mobilize hatred. There is no way that the picture of a boy tragically dead in an unnecessary war could compete with, much less replace, the image of the boy in the Warsaw ghetto, which symbolizes a million children murdered by the Nazis. Only a picture of a deliberate, cold-blooded child murder could do that. And Enderlin opened the door wide to that narrative with his carefully weighed “the target of fire coming from the Israeli position.” The rest of the pack followed suit immediately: The Israelis on purpose.

Major Characteristics of DurahJournalism:

Epistemological: 1) believe whatever the Palestinians claim until proven wrong; 2) doubt whatever the Israelis say in response until proven right; and 3) if that becomes the case, move on to the next as-yet-unproven lethal narrative. The pattern is consistent over time, from the accusation of the IDF poisoning schoolgirls in Jenin in 1983, to Jenin in 2002, to the Mavi Marmara in 2010, and shows few signs of abating in the second decade of the 21st century.

David-Goliath framing: the dogmatic frame of DuraJournalism is the Palestinian David vs. the Israeli Goliath. If necessary, DuraJournalists will re-label anomalous details to fit the procrustean morality tale. Thus Tuvia Grossman, nearly beaten to death by rioting Palestinians and saved by an Israeli border policeman becomes, at the hands of an AP caption writer, a Palestinian beaten by that same border guard. Since the Palestinians are by definition innocent, the story begins with Israel’s retaliation which must, by definition, be disproportionate. Pallywood footage is created to meet the demands of this framing narrative.

Subordinating the evidence to the narrative frame: edit stories and films in ways that exclude inconvenient, anomalous, or unhelpful evidence. Editors compile Pallywood footage for B-roll by cutting out the elements that reveal the staging, and stringing together the believable sight-bytes. Charles Enderlin cut the final 10 seconds of the minimal footage that Talal sent him (59 seconds), in order to eliminate the child’s deliberate movements coming after he, Charles, had declared him dead. Thus, a genocidal sermon broadcast on PATV appears in a NYT article on Palestinian incitement, without any reference to the genocidal content. In such a fashion, DuraJournalists manage to deny real hate speech, even as they are the distribution point for that hate-speech.

Pack journalism: Enderlin started a landslide. Even CNN came over to the tale. Dozens of major journalists have access to the unedited footage of this spectacular story, and not one chose to present to the public the final scene that Charles cut. Pack journalism dominated the ‘00s when it came to coverage. Reports that Hamas was refusing to allow aid into Gaza from Egypt during Operation Cast Lead (2008), did not inspire journalists to go to the Egyptian border and get the story. They sat on a hillside in Israel, complaining that the Israelis were keeping them from the action, even as they ran a steady stream of lethal narratives about how supplies were running low and a humanitarian disaster imminent.

Denied Intimidation: One of the major advantages that the “weak” side of an anti-democratic asymmetric war has over the stronger, democratic enemies in dealing with journalists is their willingness to use violence. Killings and kidnappings of journalists in such cognitive wars occur, if not repeatedly, often enough to make the message clear. Daniel Pearl’s execution as a Jew and as a journalist, served notice on a whole generation of journalists. Denial is an essential part of the process of intimidation: Journalists can’t report that they’ve been intimidated without calling into question the reliability of their reporting.. And yet the evidence for such intimidation, although periodic (like the aftermath of the Ramallah lynching), is powerful in its implications, and should alert the attentive observer to the remarkable overlap between the actual coverage of the conflict by mainstream journalists and what one might expect from pervasive intimidation from the Palestinians. (This includes the journalists’ efforts, whenever asked abou the subject, to change the subject to Israeli intimidation). The response to Alan Johnston’s kidnapping – “why would they kidnap him, he was their best friend” – speaks eloquently to the point.

Access Journalism: The most fundamental leverage exercised over journalists is access, and in some senses, that’ s a universal phenomenon: the White House plays it, everyone does. But in cases where intimidation is pervasive (Saddam’s Iraq, Arafat’s West Bank, Haniyah’s Gaza), access means having a handler who accompanies and translates and directs you gently toward what you can and can’t photograph. Access, then, is never “free” and “unsupervised.” And, correspondingly, loss of access is not merely that people won’t speak to you, but that your presence was no longer permitted. After the previously very pro-Palestinian photographer, Mark Seager, wrote about his experience at Ramallah the day of the savage lynching – “I’ll have nightmares all my life” – he was told by his Palestinian friends that he had better leave.

Advocacy journalism: The pronounced ideological sympathy of many journalists for the “weak side” of many conflicts is widespread, and often, as in Darfur, for example, justified. In other situations where the morality tale is less clear (Syria), difficulties accumulate for any honest reporter. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, the support for the Palestinian “underdog” not only ignores progressive values, but clings to the “Palestinian David-Israeli Goliath” framework with dogmatic insistence. It is perfectly reasonable that some journalists might look at this conflict and sympathize more with the Palestinians. But the pack mentality, the reluctance to publicize negative material about the Palestinians (genocidal preachers), the epistemological priority given to the Palestinian victim narrative, all attest to positions that reflect more than the sober assessment of the evidence. One can even wonder if the advocacy were a way for the journalist to handle the cognitive dissonance of intimidation: “I’m not scared, I’m brave, and I stand up for the little guy.”

Honor-Shame Journalism: Cover up mistakes. As Anne -Elisabeth Moutet put it,

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.

Thus, in case of an error, the honor-shame dynamic kicks in: do everything possible to avoid admitting so, thus preserving the journalist’s and the media outlet’s reputation. Every news provider wants to be known as the most trusted name in news. France2, in the case of the Karsenty affair, where they have spent huge sums of money attacking a civilian who has criticized them, rather than answer his challenge, takes this instinct for cover-up to some of the most absurd lengths.

Articles on Al Durah Journalism

“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.

***

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Memes of Lethal Journalism: We Didn’t Get it Wrong, You’re a Conspiracist! (Larry Derfner version)

Really didn’t want to do this. Have responded thrice in the Spring of 2008 to Dernfer’s rattling his cage about Al Durah – here, here, and here – and I probably should leave him to rattle in peace. But there’s something about his tone which I think is particularly revealing, and that readers should be aware of when they hear it. It’s the sound of a lethal journalist being denied his foundational myth.

And the irony is that, at the end of the article, he concedes major terrain in the argument, even as he maintains his tone of contempt… a little like the naked emperor who, realizing everyone knows he’s naked, continues his charade showing even more disdain for the crowd.

In the following article there is not one substantive argument, only one case where Derfner grapples (unsuccessfully) with the empirical evidence (which I’m beginning to think he hasn’t watched – or watched peremptorily). It’s all about name-calling (when it happens to them, people like Derfner like to use the word “smear,” as in the critics are “Desperately smearing Goldstone“), and circuitous arguments all drawn directly from Charles Enderlin. In some senses, the best parallel to Derfner’s prose is the Vultures, except that Derfner does it in public.

Warning in advance. This is long. I will extract the key issues for an article next week, but each of the elements of Derfner’s article deserve analysis, if only because so many people, especially journalists, share his attitude.

On the al-Dura affair: Israel officially drank the Kool Aid

A look at the right-wing conspiracy-nut thinking that informed this week’s blue-ribbon report on the infamous 2000 killing of a Palestinian boy in Gaza. 

In the 13 years since Muhammad al-Dura was killed in an Israeli-Palestinian shootout in Gaza while cowering behind his father, masses of right-wing Jews have eagerly embraced a conspiracy theory of the 12-year-oid boy’s killing – that it was staged, a hoax perpetrated by Palestinians to blacken Israel’s name. This theory, promoted most avidly by Boston University Prof. Richard Landes and French media analyst Philippe Karsenty, depends on a view of Palestinians being superhumanly clever and fiendish, and a view of reality that comes from the movies.

As I noted at your site: The difference between you and me is you think the journos are too sharp to be fooled by anything unless it’s a major conspiracy, whereas I, looking at the evidence, sadly come to the conclusion that the Palestinians can put out the shoddiest crap (Talal’s pathetic 60 seconds) and our journos (led by the lethal journalists who pass on anything the Palestinians cook up) will gobble it up. Given your long career as one who regularly feeds these Palestinian lethal narratives to your readers as news, it’s probably no surprise that you need to believe in the necessity of conspiracies that can’t exist, in order to keep on trucking.

The mentality here is essentially the same one that drives the 9/11 “truthers,” the anti-Obama “birthers,” those who say the Shin Bet assassinated Rabin, or those who say ultra-rightists assassinated JFK – a fevered imagination activated by political antagonism that knows no bounds. In the right-wing conspiracy theories of the al-Dura shooting, the boundless antagonism goes out to the Palestinians and their supporters.

Aside from comparing the Al Durah scam, where at most a couple of dozen people were necessary to pull it off, with schemes that took massive levels of participants (9-11, Kennedy Assassination), there’s a fascinating reversal embedded in this comment: the boundless antagonism in this conflict comes from the Palestinians, it not only drove the creation of the Al Durah story, but its systematic deployment as an icon of hatred in order to inject a death cult into Palestinian culture. Of course people like me are hostile to this kind of appalling behavior and hostile to people, like you, who, instead of condemning it roundly, constantly run interference for, and encourage it. As often in conspiracy theories, the person accusing the other of secretly evil intentions projects his own behavior and attitudes.

This week, the State of Israel officially joined the movement. Its report on the al-Dura affair adopts the conspiracy theory in full. (To be precise, it adopts the relatively “restrained” conspiracy theory – that the al-Duras were never shot. The other, wholly unrestrained conspiracy theory in circulation holds that the Palestinians killed the boy deliberately to create a martyr.)

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Memes of Lethal Journalism: You’re Smearing Us (Reporters without Borders version)

Among the defenses of Enderlin’s Al Durah story comes from an organization that considers itself “Reporters without Borders,” a variant of “Doctors without Borders,” and a “Human Rights” NGO that shares much of the agenda of the other global, progressive organizations of this kind. (When Reporters without Borders first launched

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23-May-13: If we knew then what we discovered today about how France2’s correspondent decided the IDF killed a child in Gaza 13 years ago

Arnold Roth

Originally published at http://thisongoingwar.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/23-may-13-if-we-knew-then-what-we.html

In “22-May-13: The post-Al Durah period: the challenges are starting to become sharper”, we quoted Israeli journalist Ben Caspit’s valuable analysis of the Al Durah Affair and of the role and responsibilities of the news-reporting media.

Here’s a key quote:

The truth is a vital commodity, especially where

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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

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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

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Enderlin: “What would they say in Gaza if I didn’t report that the Israelis killed him?” (from The Augean Stables)

One of the more scandalous episodes of the Al Durah Affair came about after the judges saw the rushes and Karsenty won his appeal, much to the astonishment of the journalistic community who, under the aegis of Jean Daniel of Le Nouvel Observateur, put together a petition in his support. Below

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