Memes of Lethal Journalism: Would They Lie to Us?!? (Rachel Shabi version)

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When the Guardian came out with their first article on the Israeli report on Al Durah, I thought that even though it was done by Harriet Sherwood, it was fairly neutral. I should have known that CiF would deliver the goods. Below the reaction of Rachel Shabi, with fisking.

Muhammad al-Dura and Israel’s obsession with the propaganda war

A report suggesting the death of the boy may have been faked was all spin, disregarding Palestinian testimony


guardian.co.uk
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Muhammad and Jamal al-Dura

Footage from the France 2 report showing Muhammad al-Dura and his father, Jamal. Photograph: EPA

If Israel’s government is to be believed, Palestinians have sunk so low as to be capable of faking their own deaths.

“So low?” Lots of people and lots of governments have faked deaths. It’s not a particularly heinous or rare phenomenon. But wait, the Palestinians have done much worse: they’ve killed their own children and then made a media circus of trying to blame Israel.

Or wait, maybe the Israeli accusation of fakery is itself the indication of a horrifying new nadir. An Israeli report has concluded that Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian whose death in 2000 in Gaza was captured by a French public TV channel, was not killed by Israelis – and may in fact not be dead at all.

Back then, a short film of Muhammad and his father, both caught in a shootout, trying helplessly to shelter against a barrage of gunfire, was narrated by French Channel 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin and relayed around the world, turning the boy into a symbol of the brutality of the second intifada and the Israeli occupation. Now, Israel says those same images are yet more proof of a global campaign to delegitimise Israel – and are, additionally, attempts to invoke the blood libel.

Not invoke… deploy. If you look at the particularly vigorous life of all kinds of blood libels in the wake of Al Durah, from the extensive TV Ramadan series (2005) to the new variants on the old European variety (Muslim blood for Purim Humantashen in addition to Passover matzah), the blood libel is in the cognitive bloodstream of the Arab world.

And so begins another ugly bout of the endless propaganda disease that is so endemic to this conflict. Israel is reported to have killed 1,397 Palestinian children not involved in hostilities since the start of the second intifada, according to the NGO Defence for Children International in Palestine, but there are no investigations into their deaths because none have been as emblematic as Muhammad.

I’m in favor of an investigation of all of them, but I doubt that many of these statistics will hold up to scrutiny. B’tselem, whose figures are considerably lower, itself has a serious reliability problem. In any case I’m willing to bet that (had we serious evidence) we would find

  • that the number is greatly inflated by including older teenagers (16-17) who are often combatants
  • that in no case were any of those children deliberately murdered (as Talal Abu Rahma explicitly accused Israel of doing)
  • that some of them were killed by Palestinians as here, here, here, here, and here (not to mention honor-killings)
  • that a goodly number were killed in situations where their lives were deliberately endangered by Palestinian combatants firing at Israel from behind them

There is perhaps no society on earth with as dark a history of promoting a child death cult, sacrificing its children, encouraging its children to seek death, praising those who die, than the Palestinians. Any serious investigation here will not go well for the Palestinians, who systematically, indeed ghoulishly exploit the children whose deaths they cause.

Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil and Hamas Chief Haniya kissing a baby killed by Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli children.

Those images of his terrified face seconds before his death were relayed around the world and are now burned into so many hearts: there are postage stamps of him, parks and streets named after him and screen-grab posters of that terrible moment raised on roads across the Arab and Muslim world.

And the most likely explanation for the terror is that Palestinian marksmen were firing bullets over their heads (but very close). Their expressions suggest that this was not what they had signed up for.

1st bullet-a

The opening scene: the circular cloud over their heads indicates a bullet from head on, not from a 30 degree angle (i.e., from the Israeli position)

This investigation, commissioned by Binyamin Netanyahu last year, seems intended only to give fuel to rightist Israel supporters – any report seeking to get closer to the truth might have bothered to speak to Muhammad’s father, or Enderlin, or France’s Channel 2. Instead, what this document provides is spin and no new evidence. It has cued a flood of commentary, about lying Palestinians and a hostile foreign media, from rightwing Israeli commentators.

Is it to be ignored because it gives fuel to those who think that Palestinians systematically lie in their cognitive war against Israel (something easily documentable), and that the foreign media is hostile, specifically in their predilection for passing on Palestinian accusations, no matter how unsupported by the evidence – as real news to their audiences back home? If it’s not your take on matters, not interested?

If my take needs Al Durah as a symbol of Israeli brutality, I don’t care if its been faked, it’s true. If the Israelis paint Al Durah as a symbol of Palestinian malevolence and journalistic incompetence, they must be lying.

But what stands out, yet again, is the disregard for anything Palestinians might have to contribute to the story. In effect, this report is saying to Palestinians: your words, your pain and your losses are insignificant, erasable bumps in this narrative.

First of all, Palestinian testimony in this affair is ludicrous. Talal Abu Rahma has been caught in a continuous string of false statements and sly retractions. The other “witnesses,” whose testimony Enderlin bizarrely submitted to court, talk of helicopter gunships that never were.

Secondly, given that Palestinians systematically try to weaponize their pain against Israel, even when other Palestinians directly caused it (see above and below), it’s really a bit much for you to get indignant when someone tries to call a halt to the charade.

YE Mideast Israel Palestinians

Jihad Masharawi, BBC reporter, holding his baby, almost certainly killed by an errant Hamas rocket. I feel the pain, I just can’t get behind the way that it’s used to scapegoat Israel for Palestinian brutality.

It is no wonder that Muhammad’s father, Jamal al-Dura, has said: “What saddens me is that I feel alone in the face of the Israeli propaganda machine …”, going on to lament a lack of support from either the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or the Hamas government in Gaza.

I would take that as a sign that even the PA and Hamas aren’t willing to take this one on. “Everyone” – even (or especially) the Palestinian elites know this is a fake.

With this investigation, Israel’s government exposes its obsession with trying to win the propaganda war, as though this will magically make everything OK. Netanyahu has called the al-Dura incident part of the “ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel”. But the problem is that nothing could possibility delegitimise Israel more than its prolonged and oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people – the escalating deaths

Escalating? Actually deaths in this conflict are exceptionally low. You want “escalating deaths” try Syria next door, where in less than three years more people have been killed (70,000) than in the entire Arab-Israeli conflict over 65 years.

media vs casualty footprint

the daily, grinding humiliation.

Ladies in a Gaza supermarket, humiliated in their open air prison.

The longer it continues, the more such attempts to obfuscate or detract from this reality – rather than bring about its end – will only make matters worse.

This is not reality that you’re talking about. This is a constructed lethal narrative, supported by statements that fly directly in the face of reality. Indeed, the Palestinians under occupation have the highest life expectancy, lowest infant mortality, and highest rate of higher education, than any other Arabs in the Middle East, except Israeli Arabs. Your article just illustrates the kind of reality-defying narrative that suits your purposes, the very epitome of the Al Durah Journalism that the Israeli report critiques.

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