A durable libel

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 Arab 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.

Dreyfus was innocent, of course, and now an Israeli government report has concluded that al-Dura survived the incident depicted in Enderlin’s report. Historian Richard Landes has done a great job of compiling the evidence of Israel’s innocence in the al-Dura case over the years at The Second Draft. Now Mitch Ginsburg updates the saga in this Times of Israel report:

Muhammad al-Dura, the Palestinian child who appeared to have been shockingly killed at his father’s feet in Gaza on September 30, 2000 — an iconic image that helped fuel the Second Intifada — was not harmed by Israeli forces and did not die in the exchange of fire, according to an Israeli government report released Sunday, three days before a French court rules on a related matter.

“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 Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy report stated regarding the television report.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tasked the ministry with assembling the report in 2012, said the accusations aired on France 2 were “a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

Minister of International Affairs and Strategy Yuval Steinitz called the accusations baseless and said the affair was “a modern-day blood libel against the State of Israel.”

The 55 seconds of edited footage, filmed two days after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, contributed to the October 2000 protest in which 13 Arab citizens of Israel were killed and quickly became the defining image of that Palestinian uprising against Israel.

The picture of Dura, apparently dead across his father’s knees, was shown for days on Arab and international TV stations and was cited as inspiration by both Osama bin Laden and the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Israel initially did not dispute that IDF troops had inadvertently killed the child. “It could very much be — this is an estimation — that a soldier in our position, who has a very narrow field of vision, saw somebody hiding behind a cement block in the direction from which he was being fired at, and he shot in that direction,” Maj. Gen. Yom-Tov Samia said at the time.

Only months later did the army complete an investigation that it said showed with certainty that, if Dura was killed, it could not have been from shots fired from the IDF position.

Is al-Dura alive? It would be nice to know what happened to him.

The variations on the blood libel are endless. Most recently, we have had the BBC, the Washington Post and others falsely asserting that Israeli forces killed the son of the aptly named BBC cameraman Jihad Masharawi on the first day of Operation Cast Lead. I wrote about that in the five-part series “Tools of Jihad.” By contrast with Muhammad al-Dura, the young Masharawi was killed (if by friendly fire). In any event, Jihad lives.

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