More on al-Dura: “It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of this case”

June 01, 2008

CONTENTS

1. A deafening silence
2. Criticism of the A.J.Committee and certain Israeli officials
3. In Russian and Suomi
4. “It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of the al-Dura case”
5. Will the French authorities now intervene against France 2 state TV?
6. “My column today will be about just one incident in the Middle East”
7. “Media manipulation has become a strategic Arab weapon against Israel”
8. Email from Philippe Karsenty, who won his appeal against France 2
9. “Al-Durra Case Revisited” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2008)
10. “A Hoax?” (By Nidra Poller, Wall Street Journal Europe, May 27, 2008)
11. “All the lies that are fit to print” (By David Warren, Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2008)
12. “Palestinian industry of lies” (By Danny Seaman, Ynet, May 29, 2008)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to my piece for The National Review, published on May 21, 2008, the day the French Court of Appeal ruled against state-owned French TV in the long-running libel case surrounding the alleged death of a Palestinian child, Mohammed al-Dura, in Gaza in 2000; and to the subsequent dispatch: French TV loses al-Dura case (& Amy Winehouse to undergo drug rehab in Israel).

 

A DEAFENING SILENCE

Most mainstream media journalists continue in their refusal to report on this decision, despite its centrality to the way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered, and for the way the foreign newsgathering process works in general. As mentioned in my previous dispatch, they are certainly aware of it since both Reuters and AP, the world’s two largest news agencies to which almost all news media subscribe, have run full-length reports on the French court decision.

The only two “mainstream” newspapers (outside Israel and the Jewish press) to run editorials on the subject are The Wall Street Journal and The Ottawa Citizen. I attach their pieces below, with extracts first for those who don’t have time to read them in full. (In a dispatch last month, I noted that Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The Wall Street Journal, is one of the few news proprietors in the world who actually seems to care about running Middle East coverage devoid of lies about Israel). See: Rupert Murdoch: European media hostility to Israel has anti-Semitic roots.)

To remind you, many of the media that are now silent previously lionized al-Dura. For example, Time magazine called al-Dura a “newsmaker for 2000.”

Although the print and broadcast media are largely silent, many prominent blogs have picked it up, for example Clive Davis in his always-readable diary for Britain’s Spectator magazine.

 

CRITICISM OF THE AJC AND CERTAIN ISRAELI OFFICIALS

After the extracts of the articles below, I attach an email from the French media analyst, Philippe Karsenty, who won the defamation case against France 2 and its anti-Israel Mideast correspondent, Charles Enderlin. The email was sent to me and others.

If journalists who subscribe to this list wish to read the full Paris Court Ruling (in French), please ask and I will put you in touch with Philippe Karsenty.

In his email, Karsenty thanks the many Jewish and other organizations in France and abroad who have assisted him in one way or another. But he makes strong criticism of one: the American Jewish Committee, and its Paris representative, Valérie Hoffenberg, “who for the past three and a half years has worked actively against our efforts to reveal the truth. She functioned as the gate-keeper at the Elysée Palace (the French White House), discouraging serious discussion of the al-Dura hoax among decision makers, and blocking access to me and others who were capable of providing evidence of the hoax. Her role was crucial and destructive.”

The AJC, M. Karsenty notes, was one of the few Jewish organizations to be honored by former French President Jacques Chirac at a time when Chirac was doing his utmost to thwart Israel on the international stage. After Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the French presidency last year, the AJC desisted in its efforts to support France 2 and belatedly backed Karsenty, he says. Sarkozy, as president, is de facto CEO of state-owned France 2, and is much less supportive of the leftist, pro-Palestinian France 2 channel than Chirac was.

UPDATE (June 6, 2008):

The American Jewish Committee would like to point out that they reject the criticisms of them by Philippe Karsenty as completely unfounded, and having been based on a misunderstanding. The AJC say they have been helpful both to him, and to making sure that justice was done in general in the al-Dura case, both before and after last year. The AJC have never backed France 2 in the matter, and they congratulate Philippe Karsenty on his legal victory and all those that have campaigned so hard in regard to this matter.

Monsieur Karsenty stands by his remarks.

***

In a staff editorial on the al-Dura affair last week (which for space reasons I don’t attach here), The Jerusalem Post also criticizes Danny Shek, Israel’s ambassador to Paris and formerly CEO of the British group BICOM. Media critics have long criticized Shek for failing to support Karsenty, in an effort to cover up the Israeli government’s own ineptitude over the al-Dura affair and other partly self-inflicted public relations mishaps Israel has suffered in recent years.

The Jerusalem Post writes: “... The al-Dura affair, like the myth of a massacre in Jenin in April 2002, has been so fervently seized by those who seek confirmation for their belief in Israeli culpability, that it is likely never to be erased from international consciousness. It by now stands well beyond the reach of refutation.

“That fact ought to give pause to Israeli officials, like Israeli ambassador to Paris Danny Shek, who criticized Karsenty for so doggedly pursuing the matter. As for the rest of us, the sordid affair teaches a valuable lesson about the dangerous enthusiasms, especially in Muslim societies, and especially among those who claim to speak for an awakened conscience, for modern myths of Jewish evil.” (For the full piece, see Myth & Muhammad al-Dura.)

***

My colleague Melanie Phillips will be writing a piece about the al-Dura affair for the July edition of Standpoint, a new opinion and culture monthly magazine that has been launched in Britain this month.

 

IN RUSSIAN AND SUOMI

One of the media monitoring groups that has been at the forefront of exposing the al-Dura affair is Take-A-Pen. For those interested, they have translated the interview I gave in Paris last year, following an earlier court hearing on the al-Dura case, into several languages including Russian and Finnish. (There are subscribers to this email list in both Russia and Finland). It can be found here: www.take-a-pen.org.

-- Tom Gross

ARTICLE EXTRACTS

Below are extracts for those short of time. The full pieces are further down this dispatch and are well worth reading if you have time. The writers of three of the four articles below (the senior editors at The Wall Street Journal, Nidra Poller, and Danny Seaman) are longtime subscribers to this email list.

“IT’S HARD TO EXAGGERATE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE AL-DURA CASE”

In a staff editorial, The Wall Street Journal writes:

It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of Mohammed al-Durra, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly killed by Israeli bullets on Sept. 30, 2000. The iconic image of the terrified child crouching behind his father helped sway world opinion against the Jewish state and fueled the last Intifada.

It’s equally hard, then, to exaggerate the significance of last week’s French court ruling that called the story into doubt...

You probably didn’t hear this news. International media lapped up the televised report of al-Durra’s shooting on France’s main state-owned network, France 2. Barely a peep was heard, however, when the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in a suit brought by the network against the founder of a media watchdog group.

... The court also found that Talal Abu Rahma, the Palestinian cameraman for France 2 who was the only journalist to capture the scene and the network’s crown witness in this case, can’t be considered “perfectly credible.”

The ruling at the very least opens the way for honest discussion of the al-Durra case, and coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. French media could stand some self-examination. The same holds for journalists elsewhere...

 

WILL THE FRENCH AUTHORITIES NOW INTERVENE AGAINST FRANCE 2?

Nidra Poller writes:

... Independent analysts and Israeli officials seeking clarification of inconsistencies in the al-Durra news report encountered stubborn resistance from the state-owned French channel and its Mideast correspondent. An Israeli army investigation concluded the gunfire could not have come from their position; independent investigators went further and declared that the incident had been staged.

... The 13-page ruling is drafted with the same ethical and intellectual clarity exercised by Judge Trébucq throughout the proceedings. The court first establishes the principle that Charles Enderlin “...as a professional journalist reporting from Israel and the Palestinian territories for primetime France 2 newscasts...cannot shield himself from criticism; he is...[necessarily] exposed to... scrutiny... from citizens and colleagues.” And then the court validates, exhibit by exhibit, the evidence that led Philippe Karsenty to question and ultimately denounce the al-Durra report. [See Nidra Poller’s full article below for examples.]

... France Télévisions director Patrick de Carolis and the CSA – roughly equivalent to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission – have been repeatedly called by media watchdogs to intervene in the al-Durra controversy. Can they all remain deaf to the wisdom of a courageous judge who has reasserted the journalist’s responsibility to serve the people and account for the way he does his job?

 

“MY COLUMN TODAY WILL BE ABOUT JUST ONE INCIDENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

David Warren, writing in the Canadian daily, The Ottawa Citizen, writes:

My column today will be about just one incident in the Middle East, that happened nearly eight years ago. It was a significant incident in its own right, with repercussions to the present day. It is more broadly significant, because it provides a clear example of the way malicious dishonesty in media reporting costs lives, inflames conflicts, feeds ignorance, and spreads murderous racial hatred.

... The clip was produced for the French state television channel, France-2. After assembly in Paris, it was immediately aired, and also distributed free of charge to media the world over. It received huge play everywhere, and in most Muslim countries it continues to be shown, endlessly. The Arab League declared Oct. 1 to be “Al-Dura Day” to commemorate all Arab children “victimized by Zionists.” Hundreds of schools have been named after the child throughout that world, where depictions of his dead body have become iconic. Orchestrated demonstrations of rage over this have cost additional lives.

The film for the clip was shot by a Palestinian cameraman, the honesty of whose work has been repeatedly challenged. Charles Enderlin, the French news correspondent who vouched for the accuracy of the clip, and provided the voice-over, was not in Gaza at the time. When a formal Israeli investigation showed that it had not been physically possible for any Israeli soldier to have shot the boy, it was hardly reported. Several independent investigations confirming the Israeli finding were similarly ignored.

... The case casts much light into the background condition of media reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Left-wing, anti-Israel journalists such as Charles Enderlin depend regularly for emotion-laden pictorial content, and for the rumours they report as breaking news, on locally hired Palestinian photographers, cameramen, and stringers. The interests and loyalties of these people are not even an open question...

 

“MEDIA MANIPULATION HAS BECOME A STRATEGIC ARAB WEAPON AGAINST ISRAEL”

Danny Seaman, the director of the Israel Government Press Office, writes in the Israeli publication Ynet:

A French court has acquitted Philippe Karsenty of libel charges over his claim that TV network France 2’s news report from the Netzarim junction in September 2000 was staged. The ruling constitutes an achievement in the effort to expose the truth around the incident that has become known as the Muhammad al-Dura affair. However, this is just the first stage in the struggle against international media coverage of the Middle East, which has been biased for many years now.

The revelations of the deceit in the al-Dura affair are a result of intense work by physicist Nahum Shahaf. He was followed by many good people from academia and the world of journalism who exposed the methods used by the Palestinian industry of lies to produce images that are etched in the collective memory via global media. This was succinctly defined by American Professor Richard Landes as “Pallywood.”

The al-Dura affair is the most conspicuous and blatant of the phenomenon of media manipulation undertaken by Palestinian workers employed by international media outlets. These employees stage, produce, and edit events and photos in a bid to slander Israel in the world. Media reports and photos such as the al-Dura case affect global public opinion and governments. The stages events undermine Israel’s ability to conduct itself within the conflict and affect our ability to maneuver and secure targets in times of emergency.

Media manipulation has in fact turned into an strategic Arab weapon used against the State of Israel...

... The establishment of a public relations office in the Prime Minister’s Office could be an important factor in this struggle. In order to truly succeed in the media war, a structural bureaucratic change and additional funds are not enough. It is vital to internalize the essence of the struggle which the state contends with in the media...

 

EMAIL FROM PHILIPPE KARSENTY

The French media analyst, Philippe Karsenty, who won the defamation case against France 2 and its anti-Israel, far-leftist Mideast correspondent, Charles Enderlin, over al-Dura, has emailed the following to myself and others:

Karsenty writes:

As most of you may already know, on May 21st we won our appeal against France 2 in the al Dura case. This legal victory is the victory of truth over state-sanctioned lies and anti-Semitic propaganda. We owe this victory to each and every person who, in his way, and according to his means, helped us open doors that were closed. This battle was won by an international team.

Today, one week after we delivered a smash in the face to France 2, French media have given virtually no coverage to this incredible court decision. The verdict of acquittal of all charges is fully explained in a 13-page ruling that is 100% to our advantage; each and every line of the court’s judgment is an accusation against France 2. Furthermore, the ruling has far-reaching and universal implications for freedom of thought, expression, justice, and media responsibility.

However, the game is not over yet. France 2 is still denying the truth and French media, if and when they even mention the case, are still covering France 2’s lies. France 2 has been lying about the al Dura affair for seven and a half years. They are still lying today.

The next battle will be political; we will have to ask the French government to demand that the state-owned TV channel admit that the al Dura news report was a fraud and issue a public apology for broadcasting a staged “killing” and, therefore, an apology for being the party to a colossal historical hoax.

It is well within the government’s responsibility to take these steps. As the de facto CEO of France 2, President Sarkozy has the power to conduct an internal investigation of the TV station in order to separate the truth from the lies. I call on you, my friends and supporters, to notify all of your contacts, and the relevant organizations you support, to join me in demanding that Sarkozy exercise his authority to make amends on behalf of France 2. Only then can one even attempt to redress a wrong that has resulted in death and injury to so many innocent people.

I cannot thank all the people who helped us achieve this victory but I’d like to express my appreciation to several organizations for their unflagging support: the American Freedom Alliance, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, Stand With Us and some Washington think tanks.

I’d also like to thank two French-language media – Radio J and Guysen.com – whose reporting on the affair, in good times and bad times, was consistently thorough, informative, and honest.

Unfortunately, some people undermined our efforts during this fight for the truth.

The most serious damage to our cause was done by certain members of the American Jewish Committee, notably the AJCommittee’s representative in Paris, Valérie Hoffenberg , who for the past three and a half years has worked actively against our efforts to reveal the truth. She functioned as the gate-keeper at the Elysee Palace (the French White House), discouraging serious discussion of the al Dura hoax among decision makers, and blocking access to me and others who were capable of providing evidence of the hoax. Her role was crucial and destructive.

Within the past year, the Elysee Palace received many letters and faxes in support of our position on the al Dura hoax. Almost everyone in the government was aware of the case and of the support my position was receiving. However, it was assumed, at the Elysee, that my position did not have the support of American Jewish organizations – that the American Jewish community, in fact, supported France 2’s version of the story. This impression was created by Valerie Hoffenberg who actually advised French politicians to “keep their hands off the case.” Hoffenberg was working behind the scenes to discredit me and to assist France 2 in covering up its lie.

On September 2007, the AJCommittee leadership realized that it was on the wrong side of the issue--protecting the worst anti-Semitic blood libel of modern times. They then chose to mask the behaviour of their Paris representative by issuing a congratulatory press release that contradicted their actual position. The press release was designated for an American and English speaking audience. When its Paris representative was asked to issue a public statement about the case in French, she refused. Even after our recent, major victory this May, she has steadfastly refused to comment in French: she doesn’t want to jeopardize her relationship with the French establishment.

Over the past year, in an effort to prevent the AJCommittee from undermining our efforts, I personally alerted AJCommittee President David Harris several times. I also met with people from his organization to inform them of the problem. He has also been contacted by numerous donors demanding that he instruct Valerie Hoffenberg to withdraw her opposition to my efforts in the case. To no avail.

Meanwhile, here in France, the American Jewish Committee claims to be “the oldest and the most influential American Jewish organization.” For those who know the truth about the negative role it played in this crucial battle, this claim is laughable. If you know people connected to the American Jewish Committee, please inform them of the situation and seek an explanation.

I will not spare the AJCommittee in the book I am currently writing – slated for rapid publication in both English and French – where I will reveal the whole story of this path towards the truth.

Merci et à bientôt,
Philippe Karsenty


FULL ARTICLES

ONE OF THE MOST HARMFUL PUT-UP JOBS IN MEDIA HISTORY?

Al-Durra Case Revisited
Editorial
The Wall Street Journal Europe
May 27, 2008

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121183757337520921.html?mod=opinion_main
_commentaries

It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of Mohammed al-Durra, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly killed by Israeli bullets on Sept. 30, 2000. The iconic image of the terrified child crouching behind his father helped sway world opinion against the Jewish state and fueled the last Intifada.

It’s equally hard, then, to exaggerate the significance of last week’s French court ruling that called the story into doubt. Not just whether the Israeli military shot the boy, but whether the whole incident may have been staged for propaganda purposes. If so, it would be one of the most harmful put-up jobs in media history.

You probably didn’t hear this news. International media lapped up the televised report of al-Durra’s shooting on France ‘s main state-owned network, France 2. Barely a peep was heard, however, when the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in a suit brought by the network against the founder of a media watchdog group. The judge’s verdict, released Thursday, said that Philippe Karsenty was within his rights to call the France 2 report a “hoax,” overturning a 2006 decision that found him guilty of defaming the network and its Mideast correspondent, Charles Enderlin. France 2 has appealed to the country’s highest court.

Judge Laurence Trébucq did more than assert Mr. Karsenty’s right to free speech. In overturning a lower court’s ruling, she said the issues he raised about the original France 2 report were legitimate. While Mr. Karsenty couldn’t provide absolute proof of his claims, the court ruled that he marshalled a “coherent mass of evidence” and “exercised in good faith his right to free criticism.” The court also found that Talal Abu Rahma, the Palestinian cameraman for France 2 who was the only journalist to capture the scene and the network’s crown witness in this case, can’t be considered “perfectly credible.”

The ruling at the very least opens the way for honest discussion of the al-Durra case, and coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. French media could stand some self-examination. The same holds for journalists elsewhere.

On that Saturday in 2000, Palestinians faced off against Israeli troops at Gaza ‘s Netzarim junction. Two months before, Yasser Arafat had walked out of the Camp David peace talks. Two days before, Ariel Sharon had visited Jerusalem ‘s Temple Mount . The second Intifada was brewing. The French network’s cameraman, Mr. Abu Rahma, filmed the skirmishes and got the footage to the France 2 bureau in Israel . Mr. Enderlin edited the film and, relying only on his cameraman’s account, provided the voice-over for the report. He suggested Israeli soldiers killed the boy. He didn’t say he wasn’t there.

Along with the Temple Mount incident, the al-Durra shooting was the seminal event behind the second Intifada. Israel apologized. But nagging doubts soon emerged, as Nidra Poller recounts in detail on the following page. An Israeli military probe found that its soldiers couldn’t have shot the father and son, given where the two were crouching.

Others including Mr. Karsenty asked, among various questions, Why the lack of any blood on the boy or his father? Or why did France 2 claim to have 27 minutes of footage but refuse to show any but the 57 seconds on its original broadcast? Mr. Enderlin said, “I cut the images of the child’s agony, they were unbearable.”

Under pressure from media watchdogs, and after years of stonewalling, France 2 eventually shared the additional film. It turns out that no footage of the child’s alleged death throes seems to exist. The extra material shows what appears to be staged scenes of gun battles before the al-Durra killing. For a sample, check out www.seconddraft.org, a site run by Richard Landes , a Boston University professor and one of Mr. Karsenty’s witnesses.

Judge Trébucq said that Mr. Karsenty “observed inexplicable inconsistencies and contradictions in the explanations by Charles Enderlin.”

We don’t know exactly what happened to Mohammed al-Durra. Perhaps we never will. But the Paris court ruling shows that France 2 wasn’t completely open about what it knew about that day. It suggests the Israelis may not have been to blame. It makes it plausible to consider – without being dismissed as an unhinged conspiracy theorist – the possibility that the al-Durra story was a hoax.

To this day, Islamic militants use the al-Durra case to incite violence and hatred against Israel . They are well aware of the power of images. Mr. Karsenty is, too, which is why he and others have tried to hold France 2 accountable for its reporting.

 

“THE COURT KEPT ITS EYES ON THE EVIDENCE”

A Hoax?
By Nidra Poller
The Wall Street Journal Europe
May 27, 2008

September 30, 2000, Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip: France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin offers the world a front seat on the video shooting of Mohammed al-Durra and his father Jamal. Targeted, according to Mr. Enderlin’s voice-over commentary, by “gunfire from the direction of the Israeli positions.” A few seconds later: “Mohammed is dead, his father is critically wounded.” The France 2 cameraman, later identified as Palestinian stringer Talal Abu Rahma, caught the child killers in the act. A prize-winning scoop!

Independent analysts and Israeli officials seeking clarification of inconsistencies in the al-Durra news report encountered stubborn resistance from the state-owned French channel and its Mideast correspondent. An Israeli army investigation concluded the gunfire could not have come from their position; independent investigators went further and declared that the incident had been staged. Exasperated by the controversy, France 2 and Mr. Enderlin sued four Web sites for defamation, won three cases and lost the fourth on a technicality. Philippe Karsenty, director of the Media-Ratings watchdog site (www.m-r.fr), convicted of defamation for calling the al-Durra report “a hoax,” took the case to the Court of Appeals.

May 21, 2008, Palais de Justice, 11th Chamber of the Court of Appeals: Presiding judge Laurence Trébucq announced the verdict with a delicate smile: Philippe Karsenty is acquitted; the plaintiff’s claims are dismissed. France 2 counsel Maître Bénédicte Amblard blanched, shrugged her shoulders, and disappeared into thin air. Mr. Karsenty celebrated the decision as an admonition to reckless media who provoke violence with falsified inflammatory news.

An honest reading of the ruling calls into question the al-Durra myth. French media didn’t bother to come to the funeral. Were they confident that Charles Enderlin would be vindicated? Did they think Philippe Karsenty, whose honor they had sullied by likening him to Holocaust deniers and 9/11 conspiracy nuts, was already dead and buried?

Mr. Karsenty’s defamation conviction in the court of first resort had been celebrated as proof that the al-Durra death scene was authentic. Reactions to his acquittal, which can be counted on the fingers of one bony hand, reassert that impression. In a three-second segment at the tail end of Wednesday’s primetime news, France 2 implied – with the famous al-Durra image in the background – that the report had, once again, been authenticated despite the acquittal of an – unnamed – defendant.

Playing on the complexity of the law dating back to July 29, 1881, Charles Enderlin and his allies insist that Mr. Karsenty is still guilty of defamation. The incriminated statements Mr. Karsenty made in 2004 on his Web site did damage their reputations. But the court found that despite the lack of absolute proof, the statements were nevertheless justified by the defendant’s good faith, due diligence and appropriate language. The judge therefore acquitted Philippe Karsenty of all charges.

In a move unprecedented in media litigation, France 2 and Mr. Enderlin have referred the case to France ‘s highest court (the Cour de Cassation), which rules solely on technicalities, not on substance.

The 13-page ruling is drafted with the same ethical and intellectual clarity exercised by Judge Trébucq throughout the proceedings. The court first establishes the principle that Charles Enderlin “...as a professional journalist reporting from Israel and the Palestinian territories for primetime France 2 newscasts...cannot shield himself from criticism; he is...[necessarily] exposed to... scrutiny... from citizens and colleagues.” And then the court validates, exhibit by exhibit, the evidence that led Philippe Karsenty to question and ultimately denounce the al-Durra report.

While Mr. Karsenty submitted voluminous evidence, France 2 and Mr. Enderlin relied on an above-suspicion strategy based on the elevated reputation of the journalist, his total confidence in the Palestinian cameraman who filmed those images without the French correspondent there, and the unquestionable dignity of the state-owned television network. Their position weakened when Judge Trébucq ordered them to submit the unedited raw footage filmed on Sept. 30, 2000. They only partially complied. In lieu of “unedited raw footage,” Mr. Enderlin presented an 18-minute excerpt and, for the first time since litigation began, appeared in court on Nov. 18 to oversee the screening.

Reinforcements were brought in for the final hearing on Feb. 27 – news director Arlette Chabot to bolster Mr. Enderlin, and Maître François Szpiner to assassinate Mr. Karsenty’s character, comparing him to 9/11 conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan, Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, and “the Jew who pays a second Jew to pay a third Jew to fight to the last drop of Israeli blood.” This aggressive strategy backfired.

The court kept its eyes on the evidence. It is impossible in the limited space available here to do justice to a document that deserves line-by-line appreciation. The following examples drawn from the decision are a fair indication of its logical thrust: Material evidence raises legitimate doubts about the authenticity of the al-Durra scene. The video images do not correspond to the voice-over commentary. Mr. Enderlin fed legitimate speculation of deceit by claiming to have footage of Mohammed al Durra’s death throes while systematically refusing to reveal it. He aggravated his case by suing analysts who publicly questioned the authenticity of the report. Examination of an 18-minute excerpt of raw footage composed primarily of staged battle scenes, false injuries and comical ambulance evacuations reinforces the possibility that the al-Durra scene, too, was staged. (There is, strictly speaking, no raw footage of the al-Durra scene; all that exists are the six thin slices of images that were spliced together to produce the disputed news report.)

The possibility of a staged scene is further substantiated by expert testimony presented by Mr. Karsenty – including a 90-page ballistics report and a sworn statement by Dr. Yehuda ben David attributing Jamal al-Durra’s scars – displayed as proof of wounds sustained in the alleged shooting – to knife and hatchet wounds incurred when he was attacked by Palestinians in 1992. In fact, there is no blood on the father’s T-shirt, the boy moves after Mr. Enderlin’s voice-over commentary says he is dead, no bullets are seen hitting the alleged victims. And Mr. Enderlin himself had backtracked when the controversy intensified after seasoned journalists Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte viewed some of the raw footage in 2004. The news report, he said, corresponds to “the situation.” The court, concurring with Messrs. Jeambar and Leconte, considers that journalism must stick to events that actually occur.

The frail evidence submitted by France 2 – “statements provided by the cameraman” – is not “perfectly credible either in form or content,” the court ruled.

The landmark ruling closes with an eloquent affirmation of the right of citizens to criticize the press freely, the right of the public to be informed honestly and seriously, the right of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a right that applies not only to inoffensive ideas but also to those that are shocking, disturbing, troubling.

The media that dramatically reported the killing of Mohammed al-Durra are deathly silent today. They didn’t inform the public about the ongoing controversy, didn’t attend the trials and have apparently decided to place this story into an artificial coma. As if this judgment against a colleague who placed blind trust in his Palestinian cameraman and, when called to clarify his report, attacked the questioner instead of questioning his own competence were not newsworthy?

The press corps has consistently closed ranks with Charles Enderlin. One week before the verdict was announced, pay-to-view TV station Canal+ aired a documentary seemingly concocted for the purpose of branding Philippe Karsenty – and anyone who challenged the al-Durra story – as conspiracy-theory crackpots.

Mr. Enderlin is the dean of French Middle East reporting. On France 2, he has full latitude to present his editorializing as factual news. Pointedly ignoring the al-Durra controversy, France 2 continued to give Mr. Enderlin – in tandem with cameraman Talal Abu Rahma – high-profile status on primetime news. Every few years Mr. Enderlin collects his material into another “authoritative” book on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Enderlin has been the driving force in convincing French public opinion that Israel was to blame for the breakdown of the July 2000 Camp David talks. Further, Mr. Enderlin argues that the “Al Aqsa” or second intifada turned violent because of the disproportionate repression of civilian protest by uncontrolled Israeli military personnel.

Mr. Enderlin claims ultra-Zionist Likudniks want to prevent him from reporting objectively on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He is now replaying the Karsenty case on his French state-TV blog where, in the absence of the wise Judge Trébucq, he wins hands down. He claims the al-Durra controversy was fomented in response to the publication of “Le Rêve Brisée” (Shattered Dreams), where he pinpointed Israel ‘s responsibility for the collapse of the peace process. (http://blog.france3.fr/charles-enderlin/index.php/2008/05/25/72983
-quelques-verites-sur-la-campagne-de-desinformation-et-de-diffamation
-contre-france-2-et-moi-meme)

France Télévisions director Patrick de Carolis and the CSA – roughly equivalent to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission – have been repeatedly called by media watchdogs to intervene in the al-Durra controversy. Can they all remain deaf to the wisdom of a courageous judge who has reasserted the journalist’s responsibility to serve the people and account for the way he does his job?

(Ms. Poller is an American writer living in Paris since 1972.)

 

“THE CASE CASTS MUCH LIGHT INTO THE BACKGROUND CONDITION OF MEDIA REPORTING ON THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT”

All the lies that are fit to print
By David Warren
The Ottawa Citizen
May 24, 2008

www.canada.com:80/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=70070b46-f288-4297-b687-02e45d098c53

My column today will be about just one incident in the Middle East, that happened nearly eight years ago. It was a significant incident in its own right, with repercussions to the present day. It is more broadly significant, because it provides a clear example of the way malicious dishonesty in media reporting costs lives, inflames conflicts, feeds ignorance, and spreads murderous racial hatred.

The incident was the alleged shooting of a little boy by Israeli troops in Gaza, in September 2000. His name was Muhammad Al-Dura, and if my reader has been watching any television over the last eight years, he will have seen the clip, probably many times. A Palestinian man and boy are shown cowering by a wall. Then suddenly the boy is shown dead in his father’s arms. The voice-over explains that he was picked off by an Israeli marksman.

The clip was produced for the French state television channel, France-2. After assembly in Paris, it was immediately aired, and also distributed free of charge to media the world over. It received huge play everywhere, and in most Muslim countries it continues to be shown, endlessly. The Arab League declared Oct. 1 to be “Al-Dura Day” to commemorate all Arab children “victimized by Zionists.” Hundreds of schools have been named after the child throughout that world, where depictions of his dead body have become iconic. Orchestrated demonstrations of rage over this have cost additional lives.

The film for the clip was shot by a Palestinian cameraman, the honesty of whose work has been repeatedly challenged. Charles Enderlin, the French news correspondent who vouched for the accuracy of the clip, and provided the voice-over, was not in Gaza at the time. When a formal Israeli investigation showed that it had not been physically possible for any Israeli soldier to have shot the boy, it was hardly reported. Several independent investigations confirming the Israeli finding were similarly ignored.

But when a French media-watch organization challenged the clip, France-2 sued its director, Philippe Karsenty, winning a questionable libel conviction in 2006, with damages assessed at 2 euros. This conviction was appealed, and overthrown last week, after the higher court demanded that France-2 provide all 27 minutes of the raw film footage that surrounded the making of the clip. France-2 surrendered only 18 minutes, insisting the rest was “irrelevant” – even though the court heard sworn testimony that the missing footage contained rehearsals by Arab boys, play-acting at being shot. On the basis of the 18 minutes they could see, the court ruled that Mr. Karsenty’s allegation – that the clip was staged – was the reasonable conclusion.

France-2 still refuses to cut its losses, and make a clean admission of what happened. It has too much at stake in the affair, and is currently blustering about an appeal to the appeal. The evidence so far presented shows things won’t get any better for them. Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court is now reviewing France-2’s Israeli media accreditation.

The case casts much light into the background condition of media reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Left-wing, anti-Israel journalists such as Charles Enderlin depend regularly for emotion-laden pictorial content, and for the rumours they report as breaking news, on locally hired Palestinian photographers, cameramen, and stringers. The interests and loyalties of these people are not even an open question. For even if they personally desire to reveal only the truth, we must consider the physical consequences to them of reporting a single item favourable to Israel. Palestinians are frequently publicly executed as “Israeli agents” – on direct orders from Fatah or Hamas – on the basis of much vaguer suspicions.

The same story applies to Lebanon, where local journalists whose lives depend on their ability to please Hezbollah are the principal source of the news we receive, via editorial packaging in Paris, London, New York. This is how, for example, Reuters news agency was embarrassed, in August 2006, when battlefront pictures it had distributed to the front pages of the world’s newspapers were shown to have been not only Photoshopped, but rather crudely Photoshopped, in a Beirut studio in four different ways. The failure of western picture editors to spot obvious indications of fraud, such as the duplication of smoke patterns, was pointed out to them almost immediately by Internet bloggers.

As I mentioned above, tremendous damage is done by sensational mainstream media reporting that is, even when not fraudulent, considerably less than candid about sources. And this damage is compounded when the media give little or no attention to subsequent retractions.

 

“THIS IS JUST THE FIRST STAGE IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE MIDDLE EAST”

Palestinian industry of lies
Media manipulation has become strategic Arab weapon against Israel
By Danny Seaman
Ynet (Israel)
May 29, 2008

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3549532,00.html

A French court has acquitted Philippe Karsenty of libel charges over his claim that TV network France 2’s news report from the Netzarim junction in September 2000 was staged. The ruling constitutes an achievement in the effort to expose the truth around the incident that has become known as the Muhammad al-Dura affair. However, this is just the first stage in the struggle against international media coverage of the Middle East, which has been biased for many years now.

The revelations of the deceit in the al-Dura affair are a result of intense work by physicist Nahum Shahaf. He was followed by many good people from academia and the world of journalism who exposed the methods used by the Palestinian industry of lies to produce images that are etched in the collective memory via global media. This was succinctly defined by American Professor Richard Landes as “Pallywood.”

The al-Dura affair is the most conspicuous and blatant of the phenomenon of media manipulation undertaken by Palestinian workers employed by international media outlets. These employees stage, produce, and edit events and photos in a bid to slander Israel in the world. Media reports and photos such as the al-Dura case affect global public opinion and governments. The stages events undermine Israel’s ability to conduct itself within the conflict and affect our ability to maneuver and secure targets in times of emergency.

Media manipulation has in fact turned into an strategic Arab weapon used against the State of Israel. It is used as an equalizer vis-à-vis Israel’s military advantages while boosting the Arabs’ global status vis-à-vis Israel. During the Second Lebanon War, international media personnel on the ground reported of an “IDF massacre in Qfar Qana,” while bloggers at homes around the world quickly and without much effort revealed that the incident was in fact a Hizbullah production.

Yet this did not prevent the international community from pressing Israel to end the war. Several weeks before that we saw the photos of a Palestinian girl on the Gaza beach – later revealed to be the reenactment by a Palestinian photographer of an event the IDF was not involved in. Just recently, a mother and her four children in Gaza were hit by an explosive device carried by Hamas men, an incident that was immediately attributed to the IDF by the media.

“CREDIBLE” SOURCES

The bias is not only reserved for times of emergency. Often we see reports about some kind of harm done to the Palestinians by Israel that immediately make headlines worldwide. In many cases, the charges turn out to be false, yet the damage to Israel is already done. This stems from the fact that foreign networks do not do the minimum they should be doing – verifying sources and crosschecking information. After all, they always attribute reports to Palestinian reporters and always find “credible” sources that would confirm the charges.

This may be forgiven the first and possibly second time. Yet once these revelations emerge time and again, we could expect foreign media outlets to be stricter and exhibit proper professional conduct before again leveling false charges at the State of Israel.

Therefore, exposing the truth behind the Muhammad al-Dura events is vital for the elimination of the phenomenon of staged media reports and for undermining the natural manner with which this phenomenon is accepted by global media outlets and the leniency they show to it. This tolerance sometimes stem from reasons of political sympathy, but mostly for reasons of financial profitability. Israel must make clear to global media outlets that they bear responsibility for the reports of their employees and must insist on adherence to journalistic ethics and accurate reporting, even when dealing with the State of Israel.

The establishment of a public relations office in the Prime Minister’s Office could be an important factor in this struggle. In order to truly succeed in the media war, a structural bureaucratic change and additional funds are not enough. It is vital to internalize the essence of the struggle which the state contends with in the media. Members of the office must be willing to dedicate the required effort, while displaying public courage at times, in order to disprove and thwart the blood libels formulated by the Palestinians and to force global media outlets to adhere to professional standards.

In addition, as proven by Karsenty, Shahaf, Landes, journalists Gérard Huber and Stéphane Juffa, and others, the state can and should enlist the assistance of private professionals who are willing to fight for the State of Israel’s good name and for the truth.

(Danny Seaman is the director of the Israel Government Press Office.)


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