This week I will be spending most of my time discussing the current libel case being fought in France over the France 2 report about the little boy supposedly named Muhammed Al Dura, who was supposedly killed by Israeli soldiers in what would precipitate the worst violence in Israel’s history during the second intifada.
Many of you may even be too young to remember this, or simple weren’t keyed into it.
But I can’t overemphasize how big a story this was when it first broke.
For some background, read my post Muhammed al Dura .
AL Dura and his father were on the cover of tiem and Newsweek and every newspaper in the United States and all over the world.
There are now dozens of martyrs songs written about him, streets and buildings named after him, and the Arabic press regularly calls for action to be taken in his name.
As mentioned in the previous post cited above, the Israelis had originally refused to participate in this case.
The judges ordered the release of ALL of the raw tape. Initially the Palestinian cameramen of France 2 television had testified in court that there were up to 32 minutes of footage.
That somehow got reduced to 27 minutes that the judges in this case now claim to be the full story.
And now, suddenly, France 2 TV is saying they will be releasing 18 minutes. It’s beginning to sound like the Watergate tapes.
The tapes will not conclusively prove who killd Al Dura, if in fact, he was killed at all (they may show what was alleged to be his moving AFTER his supposed death).
A few journalists, as the result of other lawsuits, have seen the footage and have claimed that what it will show, is that the entire scene was staged. That, much as my Pallywood discussion pointed out, it will show a “director” calling for “takes” and it will be obvious that it was staged.
What follows below is a timeline of some basic facts of the case.
Note how it was not until 2 YEARS after the incident that anyone was even brave enough to question what happened. So much of this has to do with the unique Israeli ability to question itself even more than the world does. But eventually, they began to admit the truth.
France 2’s footage under scrutiny
The iconic images of Muhammad al-Dura’s alleged death in Gaza inflamed Palestinian sentiment and provoked terrible bloodshed. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Israel was not responsible for firing the bullets that hit al-Dura, and doubts as to the credibility of the footage taken from the scene, this blood libel has continued to prevail.
Now, as the raw footage taken by France 2 prepares to air in a Paris courtroom, here is a reminder of the story so far:
(This is based on a timeline prepared by Professor Richard Landes, the full version of which can be found at Augean Stables. Certain links in this version were updated from the original.)
September 30, 2000
Netzarim – al-Dura. The father and son seek cover from gunfire and are shot, allegedly by Israelis; the son is killed and the father receives several gun wounds before he is evacuated to a hospital.
Charles Enderlin, Jerusalem bureau chief for France 2, declares the boy killed by Israeli fire, and all major news networks pick up the line. Enderlin and France 2 distribute the 55-second footage to all the networks free of charge.
October 1, 2000
Southern Command general Yom Tov Samia first denies fault in the boy’s death, pending an investigation (Israel TV Channel 1).
Talal Abu Rahma is interviewed on National Public Radio program All Things Considered. Host Jacki Lyden asks him to recount his version of the shooting. Listen to the interview, or read the transcript.
October 2, 2000
Robert Fisk, editor of The Independent, writes an article titled “Where caught in the crossfire can leave no room for doubt,” about the press’s cowardice in its reluctance to implicate Israel in the killing of al-Dura.
The Telegraph (UK), though not as inflammatory as Fisk, notes al-Dura’s death as “a provocation for revenge attacks.”
October 3, 2000
Cameraman Talal Abu Rahma signs a written statement giving his version of the events. It is available in English here.
Israeli chief of army operations Giora Eiland claims responsibility for and regret over al-Dura’s death (BBC, Reuters) after a hurried preliminary investigation, thereby overriding Samia’s objections.
Award-winning journalist Suzanne Goldenberg, of the Guardian (UK), publishes a lengthy article titled “The Making of a Martyr,” in which Mohammed is eulogized and Israelis demonized.
October 4, 2000
Le Monde reports that IDF major general Moshe Ya’alon admitted the possibility that one of his soldiers could have potentially mistaken the boy and his father for gunmen, and thus fired in their direction.
October 5, 2000
Jamal al-Dura “seeks international justice” for the killing of his son, Mohammed. Jamal accuses the Israeli soldiers of murder.
October 7, 2000
IDF destroys the wall behind which were hiding Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura, thereby relegating all future investigations of the incident to the realm of simulation. Palestinian gunmen had been using the wall for cover to fire on soldiers.
October 23, 2000
Physicist Nahum Shahaf and engineer Yosef Doriel lead a re-enactment of the scene under the auspices of Yom Tov Samia. The analysis raises serious doubts about Israel’s culpability. Doriel’s report can be seen here.
October 25, 2000
Charles Enderlin gives an interview in French magazine Télérama, in which he asserts the following: “I cut the images of the child’s agony (death throes), they were unbearable. The story was told, the news delivered. It would not have added anything more. . . As for the moment when the child received the bullets, it was not even filmed.”
French daily Le Monde reports that Abu Rahma receives an award at the Journées cinématographiques de Carthage, and al-Dura is the ‘posthumous star’ of the event.
November 9, 2000
Reuters reports on the surge in songs supporting the Intifada, recalling al-Dura in particular.
November 27, 2000
The IDF officially releases the findings of its investigation. Samia claims the probability of Israeli bullets hitting the child is low. The press conference receives negative attention in Israel. Charles Enderlin, meanwhile, reaffirms his confidence in Abu Rahma, his cameraman.
November 30, 2000
The London Review of Books (LRB ) publishes Mahmoud Darwish’s ‘Requiem for Mohammad al-Dura,’ a poem portraying the boy as the symbol of the Intifada. Read the poem here.
David Kupelian, managing editor of World Net Daily, publishes his exposé, “Who Killed Mohammed al-Dura?” in which he posits that the boy was killed by his own people for purposes of propaganda.
December 25, 2000
Time Magazine Europe names Mohammed al-Dura a Newsmaker for 2000.
January 17, 2001
Talal Abu Rahma is awarded “Le Prix de la Communication Culturelle Nord-Sud,” though he is forced to share the prize with ‘all of the children of the Intifada.’
May 2, 2001
Talal Abu Rahma is honored at the Arab Media Awards, though the evening’s real star was “Al Aqsa Intifada.”
July 30, 2001
Talal Abu Rahma, in an interview with the newspaper Al-Ahrar, reprinted by ArabicNews.com, reasserted his earlier claims of Israeli brutality in al-Dura’s killing.
October 18, 2001
Talal Abu Rahma is awarded the Sony International Impact Award at the Rory Peck Trust Awards in London.
November 16, 2001
Julia Magnet, “a young, Jewish New-Yorker,” writing for the Telegraph (UK) describes Osama Bin Laden’s recruitment video in detail. On page 4, Mohammed al-Dura’s role in the video is elaborated upon. Presumably, this is the video on which MagNet is commenting.
December 22, 2001
NPR’s On the Media devotes a program to “The Images of Mohammed al-Dura,” in which Charles Enderlin, Jamal al-Dura, and Talal Abu Rahma are interviewed. Enderlin claims that “the sad story of Mohammed al-Durrah belongs to the sad reality of this region,” while Abu Rahma pledges proud loyalty to his nation—journalism.
2002 February 21, 2002
The video showing Daniel Pearl’s grisly murder is released. Mohammed al-Dura is portrayed repeatedly throughout the clip. Watch the video here (it is fairly gruesome — be advised).
March 18, 2002
German filmmaker Esther Schapira releases her film, “Three Bullets and a Dead Child: Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?” in which she concludes that Israeli bullets could not have killed the boy. France 2, sister station of the German ARD which produced the film, refuses to air it.
March 19, 2002
Several prominent Israeli dailies— Yediot Aharonot, the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, and Israel Insider — devote coverage to Schapira’s movie. Outside of Israel, however, the film makes little immediate impact.
July 15, 2002
Amnon Lord, Israeli journalist and author publishes “Who killed Mohamed al-Dura? Blood Libel—Model 2000,” arguing that indeed the event was staged.
September 30, 2002
Talal abu Rahma sends a fax to France 2 offices in Jerusalem, rescinding his testimony of October 3, 2000, claiming that it was given under duress.
October 1, 2002
France 2 director Olivier Mazerolle sends a letter of support to Charles Enderlin, saying France 2 is behind him. Charles Gouz, a French physician, republishes an article on his website ArabicNews.com,an article by Stéphane Juffa of MENA condemning the protest and the award of the “Disinformation Prize” to Charles Enderlin. This article was the alleged cause of France 2’s lawsuit against him.
The Metula News Agency (MENA) releases a documentary entitled ‘Al Dura – The Investigation’, in which they allege that the entire affair was staged.
November 18, 2002
The Metula News Agency (MENA) headed by Stéphane Juffa, requests a meeting with France 2 in order to conduct an investigation of the al-Dura incident. France 2 does not reply.
January 13, 2003
French author Gérard Huber releases his book Contre-expertise d’un mise en scene (Editions Raphaël). In the book, Huber argues that the event was staged. An English summary of the book is available here.
March 5, 2003
David Kupelian of World Net Daily dramatically concludes, in the monthly Whistleblower, that the entire Mohammed al-Dura affair was a hoax. This article is reprinted in World Net Daily on April 26, 2003.
James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly becomes the first ‘mainstream’ journalist to shed light on the controversial issue. His conclusion is the minimal one: the Israelis could not have shot the boy.
July 14, 2004
French filmmaker Pierre Rehov, in an article published in World Net Daily, reveals his beliefs that the al-Dura events were staged. Rehov has since committed himself in part to documenting this development.
August 27, 2004
The Jerusalem Post, in the last of a four-part series on Palestinian life four years into the Intifada, publishes a feature article about the al-Duras, and their continued manipulation at the hands of Hamas and Tanzim.
Reader’s Digest examines past and present manipulations of news photography. Media Backspin excerpts the portion of the article discussing Mohammed al-Dura.
September 7, 2004
Lee Kaplan favorably reviews and analyzes Esther Schapira’s movie about the al-Dura affair on FrontPageMagazine.
October 22, 2004
France 2 relents under constant pressure and allows three journalists, Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, and Daniel Leconte, to view the complete rushes of Talal from that day.
November 16, 2004
France 2 News Director, in an interview with French radio station Radio J, admits that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty whether the Israelis or the Palestinians killed the boy. The interview (in French and in mp3 format) is available here.
November 18, 2004
At a press conference, France 2 news director Arlette Chabot declares the station’s intention to file suit against defendants ‘X’ for defamation, in response to allegations that the al-Dura footage was staged. Available here (in French).
November 19, 2004
French magazine Télérama examines the possibility that the event was staged, presenting evidence from both sides.
November 22, 2004
Philippe Karsenty publishes an article on his website, Media Ratings, calling for the resignation of Charles Enderlin and Arlette Chabot. It is over this article that France 2 will sue Karsenty for defamation.
November 26, 2004
Stéphane Juffa, of MENA, authors an article in the Wall Street Journal Europe titled “The Mythical Martyr.” It is reprinted on MediaBackspin.
Nidra Poller publishes an article in the New York Sun lambasting the French media for its role in the scandal.
December 7, 2004
The French administrative body presiding over audio-visual media (CSA) meets to discuss France 2’s handling of the footage, following a complaint written by MENA writer Serge Farnel.
December 28, 2004
Alyssa Lappen writes an article in Front Page Magazine titled “The Israeli Crime That Wasn’t,” in which she discusses al-Dura and other media manipulations.
January 13, 2005
Cybercast News Service publishes an article about France 2’s tactics in combating accusations made by Karsenty, Juffa, and others, about the authenticity of Mohammed al-Dura’s death.
January 25, 2005
Months after viewing the raw footage, Jeambar and Leconte publish an op-ed in French daily Le Figaro in which they deny any concrete proof that al-Dura was even killed.
January 27, 2005
Charles Enderlin responds to Jeambar and Leconte with an article in Le Figaro. He claims that “the image [of al-Dura] symbolized what was happening at the time not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank.”
February 3, 2005
Luc Rosenzweig, a French journalist, and writer for MENA, publishes an article in French accusing Enderlin of lying about the nature of the footage.
February 6, 2005
An article in the International Herald Tribune summarizes the controversy thus far. Though the reporter was allowed to view the rushes, she did not conclude that the event was staged. The article is available here.
Pierre Lurçat, a French-born Israeli lawyer, and former member of the Ligue de Defense Juive, is summoned to appear in court on the charges of defamation against France 2 for his role in organizing the demonstrations of October 2, 2002.
February 10, 2005
In an interNet forum discussion on Nouvel Observateur, a French website, Charles Enderlin insists that the only difference he would make if he were presenting the al-Dura case again, would involve including the child’s death-throes [agonie] in the video footage.
February 15, 2005
Cybercast News Service writer Eva Cahen publishes an article detailing the ongoing controversy and interviewing some of the major players.
September 7, 2005
The International Herald Tribune publishes a feature piece on the al-Dura family titled, “One martyr from this family is enough.” The article shows the manipulation of the al-Dura tragedy by Palestinian elites, and the continued suffering of the al-Duras.
September 15, 2005
Richard Landes, history professor at Boston University, launches his DVD, Pallywood, on the Second Draft website. He argues that al-Dura is merely the most famous instance of a larger practice of staging news events among Palestinians.
December 12, 2005
Ma’ariv, an Israeli daily with no English translation, publishes an article speculating on the current well being of Mohammed al-Dura. Translated into English by Richard Landes.
December 20, 2005
The al-Dura dossier and movie is made available on the Second Draft.
September 10, 2006
In anticipation of the trial, Honest Reporting interviews Philippe Karsenty about the case, the al-Dura video, and the implications of the lawsuits.
September 14, 2006
The first trial in France 2’s defamation suit commences. Philippe Karsenty, founder and editor of Media Ratings, is the defendant.
October 19, 2006
The French judicial system rules in favor of France 2 in its suit accusing Philippe Karsenty of defamation. An English version of the court’s decision is available at the Augean Stables.
November 28, 2006
France 2 loses its lawsuit against Pierre Lurcat, also sued by the channel for defamation. Pajamas Media carries the story.
June 13, 2007
Richard Landes releases his latest movie, Icon of Hatred. It is available at The Second Draft and YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2.
September 12, 2007
Philippe Karsenty’s appeal of the decision in France 2’s lawsuit against him for defamation in 2006 is heard before a French court.
September 17, 2007
The IDF formally requests, from France 2, the complete rushes pertaining to the al Dura incident. The text of the request is available in French at the Augean Stables.
September 19, 2007
Appelate judge Laurence Trébucq orders France 2 to hand over the raw footage to the court. A hearing, in which the footage will be viewed in open court, is scheduled for November 14.
October 5, 2007
Iran’s Ministry of Education adopts the motto, “Defending Dura.”
November 1, 2007
The Jerusalem Post reports Israeli officials are divided on whether the raw footage’s screening will help or harm Israel, and that the government has no official position on the legal proceedings.