By Richard Landes

This section offers the basic elements for analysis: ballistic issues, medical forensic issues, the trail of evidence (or its absence), the controversies. Here you can participate in an analysis of the evidence, and speculate on “what happened.”

For those who prefer their analysis in documentary form, here is a 13 minute video analyzing the evidence in the Al Durah case.

The Birth of an Icon from Al Durah Project on Vimeo.

The ability to analyze and reconstruct “what happened” at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000 depends on both a close examination of the evidence and a willingness to approach this evidence with an open mind. Given that the footage has widely circulated as depicting the killing of a young boy in his father’s lap, it is very hard for most viewers to approach this video without thinking that they are seeing a child die before their eyes. Once, upon being presented this material, an Israeli soldier insisted that I must have left out some footage, since he remembered seeing the boy shot on film. Researchers have long insisted on the power of suggestion in affecting what we think we see. There are few cases where this is more salient than this case. The first viewers of this footage were warned in advance by the stations that presented the story, that they were about to see some disturbing footage.

And yet there are three critical issues that have major import for how the footage was interpreted and the impact that it had on the global community.

  • If, as the initial and almost universally accepted story was true, i.e., the child was killed, who killed him?
  • If we can identify who killed him, did they do it on purpose or by accident?
  • What if the boy was not killed? What does that mean about what happened?

This leads to the following five possible scenarios whereby we can reconstruct what happened. All the evidence either confirms or undermines a given scenario, and figuring out what happened depends on which scenario is best and least supported by the evidence. Lacking direct evidence of the death of the child, the circumstantial evidence only permits us to make estimates on the probability of any given scenario.

1) The Israelis on purpose
2) The Israelis by accident
3) The Palestinians by accident
4) The Palestinians on purpose
5) Staged by the Palestinians

Although this list is in descending order of world opinion (i.e., most people believe 1, fewest believe 5), we will argue below, based on a close examination of the evidence that it is in ascending order of believability (i.e., that 1 is the least likely and 5 the most). Further discussion at: Five Scenarios.

We welcome participation, comment, reasoned dissent, proffered additional material. Charles Enderlin has called for an international investigation. At least here, and hopefully there, the discussion will be honest.

Latest Articles from the Analysis Section

Scenario 1: Israelis on Purpose

Those who believe that the Israelis intentionally killed Mohammed al Durah are located primarily in the Palestinian territories and the Arab and Muslim world where, thanks to edited footage, his “murderer” appears in the film which first introduced them to the story. Among this audience we find people convinced of

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Scenario 2: Israelis by Accident

* Those who adhere to this scenario: Many people in the West and in Israel.

For those unwilling to accuse the Israelis of outright murder, this narrative presents a more benign version, that accepts the main lines of the story as presented by France2, but sees the death as the tragic

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Scenario 3: Palestinians by Accident

* Those who adhere to this scenario: This seems to be the favorite position of many who have examined the evidence enough to register how unlikely scenarios 1 and 2 are (e.g., James Fallows) and of most who have read or seen their analyses. It appeals especially to those who

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Scenario 4: Palestinians on Purpose

Those who adhere to this scenario: Very few people openly espouse this one, although those who do tend to know the material well, are familiar with the willingness of the Palestinian elites to sacrifice their children “for the cause”, and don’t care about political correctness. Those few who have publicly

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Scenario 5: Staged

This scenario was virtually “unthinkable” initially, and it is still often misunderstood by people who have difficulty imagining it. It represents a radically different approach to the case, calling into question the fundamental assumption of all four previous scenarios, i.e. that the boy was indeed shot. The power of suggestion,

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