Clifford May has an important column in today’s Washington Times about the 12 year-old Palestinian boy who allegedly was shot and killed by Israeli gunfire in September 2000. The death of the boy, Mohammed al-Durra, helped set off an intifada, according to former Senator Mitchell’s 2001 report. However, May argues that Israeli gunfire did not kill al-Durra, and suggests that a government-owned French television network cameraman may have staged the “death.”
That Israeli gunfire could not have killed the boy was the conclusion of (1) a German television documentary in 2002, (2) liberal journalist James Fallows writing in Atlantic Monthly a year later, (3) the editor-in-chief of L’Express and a French documentary filmmaker who reviewed the unedited video of the shooting, and (4) Nahum Shahaf, the physicist assigned by the Isreali government to review the incident. Each concluded that it was physically impossible for the Israelis to have killed al-Durra given the position of the troops in relation to the boy. Even France 2, the television station that initially claimed the deadly gunfire was coming from the Isreali position, now states that no one can say for certain who killed al-Durra.
But there is more. The film was shot by a Palestinian cameraman. No one else representing France 2 was present. The information used by the France 2 reporter in the voiceover came solely from the Palestinian cameraman. The reporter now states that he doesn’t know the facts, but defends his claim that the Israelis killed al-Durra on the theory that it “corresponded to the reality of the situation not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank.” In short, the facts of the case don’t matter. Indeed, they can be fabricated as long as they correspond with the beliefs of those who “report” them.
It is only a small step to say that the facts can be staged. And that may be what happened. The two Palestinian doctors who viewed the body at the morgue say that it arrived before 1 p.m. But France 2 reported that the deadly gunfire began at 3 p.m. Thus, it may well be that the child at the morgue and the child in the France 2 report were different children. Moreover, France 2 reported that it had footage of al-Durra in death throes, but did not include that footage because it was too “unbearable” to watch. But France 2 has not been able to produce that footage. Finally, there are claims that the footage, viewed in slow motion, shows the cameraman’s finger indicating “take two” — in other words, that the scene should be repeated.
Did French state-owned television stage an event that helped trigger the intifada, including suicide bombings undertaken in the name of avenging al-Durra? We don’t know. Did French state-owned television falsely blame Israel for the death (or non-death) of al-Durra based on the uncorroborated word of a Palestinian and the prejudices of its own reporter? The answer seems clearly to be yes.
HINDROCKET adds: I’m getting a feeling of deja vu here: the French report “corresponded to the reality of the situation not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank.” In other words, it was “fake, but accurate.” How many other mainstream media outlets are there that view this as the appropriate standard for judging evidence?
BIG TRUNK adds: Lorie Byrd writes to note that she and Thomas Lifson discussed the underlying story last month in posts here (Byrd) and here (Lifson).
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