German TV: Mohammed Al-Dura was killed by Palestinians

March 19, 2002

[Note by Tom Gross]

For those who don't recall, Mohammed Al-Dura was the Palestinian boy who was tragically shot in his father's arms at the beginning of the present Palestinian-Israeli war. The television footage of this incident was widely shown around the world, with the vast majority of commentators automatically assuming that Israeli troops had shot him.


German TV station: Mohammed Al-Dura killed by Palestinians
By DPA (German Press Agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur) and Ha'aretz
March 19, 2002

Nearly 18 months after television footage was aired of the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed Al-Dura near the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip, a dispute has erupted over who shot him.

Al-Dura was killed during an exchange of fire between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen at the junction, and the event has become a potent symbol of the Palestinian uprising.

A report broadcast Monday by German ARD television said Al-Dura was shot dead by Palestinian militants during the shootout with the soldiers.

ARD said its report by Esther Shapira included photographs and documents proving that contrary to earlier reports the boy had not been shot dead by Israeli soldiers but by Palestinian militants.

Virtually all Israeli media had assumed at the time that Mohammed, was shot dead by soldiers during the 30-minute clash.

The father of Mohammed Al-Dura, Jamal, who was seriously injured in the shootout, rejected the report: "I am 100 percent certain that the Israelis were to blame," he said. "I have medical reports, X-rays and reports by eyewitnesses confirming that we came under fire from Israeli soldiers."

The Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rachman, who filmed the death of Mohammed on September 30, 2000, declined to comment on the ARD report, saying he had to watch the program first.

Abu Rachman had said in his initial testimony that no Palestinian gunmen had fired shots at the time when the boy was killed.

The former GOC Southern Command, Yom-Tov Samia, who headed an investigation into the shooting of Al-Dura, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the army had erred in hurrying to apologize for the boy's death. Senior IDF officers who issued the apology, said Samia, "made a very grave mistake."

"One day," he added, "it will be proven that the whole story... was one big Palestinian production. And Palestinian propoganda has been riding on this for a long time now."


[IMRA: Israel Radio's correspondent in Germany reported this morning that the broadcast noted two stages in self-censorship in the coverage of the shooting: the Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rachman, who filmed the death of Mohammed Al-Dura, only provided a few minutes of his film for broadcast and the service that received it released less than a minute of the footage. In addition, a large rock that blocked the view of Al-Dura and his father from the field of vision of IDF forces was replaced by "someone" overnight by a flat rock.]



German documentary casts doubt on Palestinian icon
By Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
March 19, 2002

A documentary aired Sunday night on the German television station ARD has cast doubt on the authenticity of one of the Palestinian icons of the intifada: Muhammed al-Dura.

Al-Dura was the 12-year-old Gazan boy shot to death in a crossfire two days after the beginning of the violence on September 30, 2000, while crouching for safety with his father. The incident was filmed by the France2 television network, and the pictures had a dramatic impact on the public perception of Israel's use of force, with the IDF widely accused of killing the boy.

Israel expressed regret for the tragic incident, though an IDF investigation did not prove conclusively whether it was the IDF or Palestinians firing on IDF troops who shot Al-Dura.

The ARD documentary also did not unequivocally conclude one way or the other, but did raise enough issues to leave the viewer with doubts about the conventional wisdom that Al-Dura was shot by the IDF.

The documentary asked several questions: Who had an interest in killing al-Dura? Did France2 release all its footage? Was it physically possible to hit Al-Dura from the IDF's position? Where are the bullets taken from the boy's body? Why didn't the Palestinians investigate the incident? And who ordered the footage that was then broadcast continuously on Palestinian television?

Daniel Shek, director of the Foreign Ministry's European Division, said the documentary is "very significant" because it leaves doubt.

"I think doubt is healthy, and that even if you have a camera on the spot, you can not be sure that you are seeing everything," Shek said.

But he doesn't necessarily expect the documentary to change people's opinions. "Muhammed al-Dura will remain part of the intifada's mythology, and it will not matter what kind of proof you bring to the contrary," he said.

Shek did express hope the documentary will affect journalists. "I hope this will impact a little on the self-righteousness of some media organizations, and give journalists room for some self-questioning."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.