The al-Dura fraud

Charles Enderlin is the France 2 Jerusalem correspondent who broadcast the incendiary account of the death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura at the hands of Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip in September 2000. Based on film footage provided by a Palestinian cameraman, Enderlin’s report has become infamous among students of terrorist propaganda both for its destructive effects and for its probable falsity. The al-Dura affair bids to join the Dreyfus affair in the French hall of shame.

Although Enderlin’s report was broadcast in September 2000, and its probable falsity long since established, “the narrative deriving from the France 2 report regarding Israel’s actions has served as an inspiration and justification for terrorism, anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel.” Here I am quoting from the report commissioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and released this past week by Israel’s Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy on the al-Dura story. The report is accessible here or here, with a summary by the Prime Minister’s office here.

Although the hour is late and the story is old, the report is very much worth reading in its entirety. The authors of the report viewed raw footage (rushes) of the event in issue taken by the Associated Press, Reuters and France 2. The report notes parenthetically in footnote 1: “The France 2 rushes available to the authors, which were approximately eighteen minutes in length, were not provided to the authors by France 2.” The executive summary states:

Following an extensive review of materials related to the affair, the committee determines that the France 2 report’s central claims and accusations had no basis in the material which the station had in its possession at the time of the report. Contrary to the report’s claim that the boy was killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive.

The report does everything but produce the young al-Dura. The France 2 report was a fraud from beginning to end, a production of France 2′s Gaza stringer, Talal Abu Rahma. Contrary to Enderlin’s claim that Israelis killed al-Dura and wounded his father, “the raw footage shows clearly that in the final scenes, the boy is not dead.” Yet, according to the report, Enderlin edited out these scenes from his France 2 story, “thereby creating the false impression that the footage substantiated his claims.”

Here the report drops another mordant footnote: “It is interesting to note that while Enderlin initially claimed that these last seconds were edited out because they depicted the child’s ‘death throes,’ he has in later statements abandoned this explanation.”

Abu Rahma, like other stringers operating in territory controlled by terrorists, appears to be at the service of the terrorists. He is quoted as declaring that he had entered the profession of journalism to “defend the Palestinian cause.” The report notes: “In the France 2 footage Abu Rahma or someone beside him is heard yelling ‘the boy is dead’ (mat el-walad) well before the boy makes any appearance of being wounded.” Somebody get me rewrite!

Here the report drops yet another footnote: “An additional seemingly incongruous phrase is shouted by Jamal Al-Durrah [the boy's father]. According to an Arabic lip-reader to whom the German journalist Ester Schapira showed the Al-Durrah footage, Jamal turns in the direction of Abu Rahma before he or the boy make[s] any appearance of being hit and yells[,] ‘It’s enough. You have killed my son, it’s over.’”

Commenting on the report (which he refers to as the Kuperwasser Report), Nick Gray notes that the terrorist groups “that make up the opposition to Israel have had a long time to perfect their publicity and media strategies.” Gray adds:

Examples of this abound, from the notorious “green helmet man” in Israel’s 2006 Lebanon conflict to the dead baby in Gaza reported as having been killed by Israeli shell fire when in fact he was killed by a Hamas rocket falling short. We have seen photographs retouched to suggest an inferno of Israeli missiles and murdered Syrian children made out to be casualties of Israeli attacks on Gaza. The Kuperwasser Report essentially places the Al-Durrah incident into the same category of staged tragedy to support terrorist publicity aims.

Gray does not name names, but among the mainstream media outfits perpetrating the “dead baby in Gaza reported as having been killed by Israeli shell fire when in fact he was killed by a Hamas rocket falling short” story are the BBC and the Washington Post. Neither has acknowledged its error. Instead, each has moved on, as tends to happen in these matters.

The New York Times, at least, takes cursory note of Israel’s report in online notices by Isabel Kershner and Robert Mackey. Mackey comments that the report “endorsed a theory popular with pro-Israel bloggers,” i.e., “the whole event might have been staged by Palestinian militants and the local cameraman who recorded the incident in order to damage Israel’s standing and create a child martyr to advance their cause.”

For Kershner and Mackey, it is apparently all just too much to sort out. Readers who rely on the dead tree edition of the Times and other newspapers for their news remain in a state of blissful ignorance. It’s old news. Although it addresses something like ancient history, Israel’s France 2 report presents a powerful case study raising issues of continuing relevance and concern.

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