There are only five even remotely plausible scenarios whereby we can reconstruct what happened at Netzarim that day such that it produced Talal Abu Rahma’s footage. What evidence either confirms or undermines a given scenario? Speculating on what happened and what didn’t happen, 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.
This is the most widely held belief, and constitutes a lethal narrative (i.e., attributing malevolent intent to the IDF). It is almost universally held in the Arab and Muslim world and in pro-Palestinian circles in the West. In Europe, where the footage was played repeatedly on the news during the first months and years of the Intifada, and journalists insisted on deliberate intent, viewers assumed the Israelis had murdered the child. This belief lies at the heart of a comparison of the Israelis to the Nazis which not only animated activists demonstrating in the streets, but also mainstream news commentators who spoke of this image “replacing, erasing the image of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto” (i.e., a symbol of the deliberate murder of a million children by the Nazis). This version, according to some analysts, constitutes a modern version of the millenium-old “blood libel,” in which Jews deliberately murder gentile children, evidence, as Osama bin Laden put it, of the Jews desire to kill every child in the world.
This is the most widely held belief in Israeli and Zionist circles in the West. Accepting Enderlin’s account of a boy caught in a crossfire, assuming that, as Enderlin and the rest of the media claimed, that the fire came from the Israeli position, they were ready to accept the possibility that the IDF had indeed, unintentionally, killed the boy. When Israeli officials initially responded by apologizing if they had accidentally killed the boy, they were adhering to this possibility. Some Western liberals, especially those familiar with the importance of the Israeli code of arms in training the IDF, tended to soften the harshest interpretations with this. On the other hand, many took the reluctant Israeli admission of guilt as proof of deliberation.
This is the most widely held belief among people who have examined the ballistic evidence closely enough to come to the conclusion that, given the angles of fire, the Israelis could not have hit the two al Durahs even once, much less over a dozen times. This is the official position of James Fallows in his article in the Atlantic Monthly.
This is the position taken by people who have seen the evidence of gunfire coming from the Palestinian position (which would be a misfire of almost 90 degrees) believe the child was killed. The first person to openly take this position was Yossef Dorriel, an engineer working with Nahum Shahaf on the investigation. The position was so offensive that Dorriel got fired for stating it publicly, and the scandal engulfed the first investigation. Surprisingly, this position was also advocated by Daniel Leconte after viewing the rushes from France2.
This is the position at which most people who have looked carefully at the evidence have arrived (including we members of the “Al Durah Project”). This position differs from all others in that it questions the only common assumption that all the other scenarios accept as axiomatic: the boy died on camera. At some level, this radically different take on the affair is so “far out,” that Enderlin and his supporters have repeatedly denounced it as a conspiracy theory, ridiculing those who adhere to it as believers that the boy is alive and selling vegetables in Gaza. The reluctance to be accused of conspiracy theory – in one French document, of being compared with Holocaust deniers and 9-11 “Truthers” – has discouraged many from taking this position, especially Israeli spokesmen.
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).