The world reacted with horror when it saw a 12-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers. But the footage, it transpires, told a lie
On September 30 2000, two days after Ariel Sharon, then the leader of Israel’s opposition Likud Party, went for a walk on Temple Mount, Palestinians mounted a demonstration at Gaza’s Netzarim Junction. A 55-second piece of video footage of that demonstration, transmitted that day by the French TV station France 2, was to cause unprecedented violence in the Middle East and throughout the world.
The footage, with a voice-over by France 2’s Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, showed what was said to be the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura by Israeli marksmen. Viewers saw the child crouching in terror behind his father, Jamal, as they sheltered next to a barrel under what Enderlin said was Israeli gunfire, and then slumping to the ground as Enderlin pronounced that he was dead.
That image of the boy screaming in terror before being killed was uniquely incendiary. It portrayed the Israelis as diabolically gunning down a child in cold blood, even as he cowered for his life. It ignited the Arab and Muslim world with apparent proof that the Israelis were deliberately killing their children, inciting a murderous frenzy.
Al-Dura became a poster boy for the Palestinian and Islamist war against Israel and the West. The day after the France 2 broadcast, the second intifada erupted in its full fury; according to the 2001 Mitchell report, the two events were directly connected. Twelve days later, a mob of Palestinians shouting, “Revenge for the blood of Mohammed al-Dura” lynched two Israeli army reservists and dragged their mutilated bodies through the streets of Ramallah.
When al-Qaeda decapitated the journalist Daniel Pearl, the video of this atrocity was punctuated with references to al-Dura. After -September 11 2001, Osama bin Laden said: “Bush must not forget the -image of Mohammed al-Dura.” Several Arab countries issued postage stamps with his picture. On Palestinian Authority TV and in its school books, al-Dura’s example is used to encourage other children to emulate his spirit of “sacrifice”.
But we now know that this whole fiesta of violence and incitement was based on a lie. For whatever people think they saw in those 55 -seconds, it was not the death of that boy. He was not killed by Israeli bullets; he was not killed at all. At the end of France 2’s famous footage, he was still alive and unharmed. The whole thing was staged, a fantastic piece of play-acting, an elaborate fabrication designed to blacken Israel’s name, and incite the Arab and Muslim mobs to mass murder.
It was, in short, a modern-day blood libel, an updated version of the medieval calumny that the Jews target gentile children for murder — which itself caused the murder of thousands of Jews over the centuries.
How do we know the footage was a lie? Because many of us have seen the evidence for ourselves in a French courtroom. Ironically, this blood libel was only exposed to public view because France 2 and its correspondent Enderlin brought a libel suit against a French media watchdog, Philippe Karsenty, for saying that the “killing” was “pure fiction” and that al-Dura wasn’t dead at all.
To begin with, a Paris court ruled in favour of the TV station. But in May this year, the appeal court ruled that Karsenty had every right to say what he said in the light of the evidence. This included the “inexplicable incoherence” of footage, whose images did not correspond to Enderlin’s commentary; the “inexplicable inconsistencies and contradictions” in Enderlin’s explanation; and the lack of credibility of France 2’s Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, upon whose -account of the events at Netzarim Enderlin — who was in Jerusalem at the time — had depended.
Denis Jeambar, the director of L’Express, and TV producer Daniel Leconte saw the untransmitted rushes and subsequently wrote in Le Figaro: “In the minutes that precede the gunfire, the Palestinians seem to have organised a staged scene. They ‘play’ at war with the -Israelis and simulate, in most of the cases, imaginary injuries.” At the moment when Enderlin declared the boy to be dead: “Nothing permitted him to affirm that he was really dead and even less that he was killed by Israeli soldiers.”
The implications for France 2 are shattering. The state-funded TV station is now appealing to the highest court in France. Enderlin has blustered that Karsenty is backed by US and French “right-wing”, pro-Israel organisations. This is the desperate flailing of a journalist whose reputation now lies in shreds. For he never imagined that his attempt to silence Karsenty would lead the court to order France 2 to produce the evidence it had hitherto refused to make public — the untransmitted 27 minutes of footage that Abu Rahma claimed he had filmed.
I was in the Paris court on the day France 2 reluctantly complied and I saw the footage (minus a few minutes that Enderlin had excised and which are said to be even more explosive). This showed clearly that the whole thing was a set-up from start to finish.
The cameraman said the Israelis had fired continuously for 45 minutes. Yet the footage did not show people falling under fire. It showed instead Palestinians demonstrating, throwing rocks and so forth, in a positively carnival atmosphere. Youths strutted about, giving declamatory interviews and grinning at the camera; boys rode by on bicycles. And no one showed any sign of injury. There were no wounds; there was no blood. From time to time, demonstrators were pushed on to stretchers and into ambulances — but with no evidence of any disturbance to their anatomy.
Enderlin said he had cut out the scenes of al-Dura’s actual death agony because “it was unbearable”. But when the footage was shown, it became clear no such scenes existed. There was no agony and no death. Al-Dura and his father showed no sign of any wound or injury throughout. Supposedly riddled with bullets, their bodies remained totally unmarked. There was no blood anywhere. A red stain on the child turned out to be a piece of red cloth, which suddenly materialised.
You see the boy slumping to the ground. But before he does so, while he is still hanging on to his father and screaming, a voice shouts in Ara bic: “The boy is dead! The boy is dead!” Asked to explain this astounding prescience, Enderlin’s team replied that the Arabic in fact meant: “The boy is in danger of dying.” At this, the courtroom laughed out loud.
After Enderlin pronounces the boy to be dead, the corpse mysteriously assumes four different positions. You see the cameraman’s fingers making the “take two” sign to signal the repeat of a scene. And then you see the lifeless martyr raise his arm and peep through his fingers — presumably to check whether his thespian services are still required or whether he can now get up and go home.
This extraordinary footage was first uncovered by Nahum Shahaf, a physicist in Israel’s defence establishment, who was at the centre of the Israeli army’s own investigation of the incident. Shahaf analysed frame by frame the untransmitted rushes from many TV crews.
He observed, from pictures of al-Dura’s autopsy, that the state of the body suggested he had been dead for at least a day; that this boy was older than 12; and that although there were bullet holes in his forehead, there had been no blood on the ground nor on the wall behind him. He also noted, from pictures of the boy’s funeral on the day of the shooting, that shadows indicated this took place around midday. He was told by two doctors at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital that al-Dura’s lifeless body was brought to them before 1pm. But the incident at Netzarim had not started until 3pm.
Shahaf then discovered from al-Shifa’s records that a dead boy named Rami Jamal al-Dura had been brought into the hospital the day before. According to Palestinian TV and the earliest accounts of the incident, the full name of the boy who was killed at Netzarim was -Mohammed Rami Jamal al-Dura.
Shahaf concludes: “It was just lie after lie after lie.” He also found several short films shot in the Netzarim area on and around the day of the incident. “They used directors, cameramen and volunteer actors,” he said. “You can see them shooting little horror scenes. Often the director scolds the volunteers for their bad acting. The wounded get up and go back for another take; Palestinian bystanders laugh and applaud.”
The implications of this scandal are enormous, going far beyond a disgraced journalist and his TV station. For France itself, it raises a century-old spectre. In 1894, a Jewish French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted for treason on fabricated evidence that he was a spy, in an atmosphere of institutionalised state antisemitism. The al-Dura libel is being seen in some quarters as a second Dreyfus affair — but with Israel playing the role of the defamed army captain.
This perception of France’s revived shame was given fuel by the -extraordinary behaviour of the lower court, which found Karsenty guilty of libel. For most of that trial, it had looked as if France 2 would lose, not least because it had failed to answer any of Karsenty’s allegations. But at the last minute, Enderlin’s team produced a letter to Enderlin from the then French President, Jacques Chirac, extolling him as a brilliant and authoritative journalist. As a result, the three judges promptly found for France 2. This disgraceful piece of political nobbling and judicial grovelling has now been reversed by the higher court. But few in France would realise this — what scant coverage there has been of this judgment managed to suggest that the integrity of the al-Dura footage remained intact.
It’s not just the French media that is in the frame here. Over the years, Shahaf’s findings made their way into a handful of newspaper articles, TV documentaries and on to the internet; yet this evidence was studiously ignored by the rest of the media.
It is the most egregious example of the animosity towards Israel of much of the Western media, which routinely reports Palestinian or Hezbollah propaganda as fact and refuses to correct the record whenever these falsehoods are exposed. One thinks of the Jenin “massacre” that never was, or the evidence revealing that alleged Israeli atrocities during the 2006 Lebanon war were either staged by Hezbollah or significantly embellished. Indeed, the presentation of theatrical fictions as Israeli atrocities has become so widespread that the practice has been dubbed “Pallywood” — a grotesque new genre of terrortainment.
Why do Western journalists go along with such deadly fabrications? The answer lies in a combination of their dislike of Israel, professional self-preservation, and the fafct that they depend on local stringers who are virtually all partisans of the Arab and Islamist cause.
According to Danny Seaman, director of the Israel government press office, almost every stringer now delivering local copy and images from Gaza to Western journalists answers to Hamas. Western journalists know that if they cross Hamas, their lives will be in danger — and British journalists, Seaman says, are the most compliant of all.
Palestinian stringers in general, he says — who all see their role as propagandists for the Palestinian cause — have virtually taken over foreign media offices. The result is that footage from Gaza has long been routinely fabricated or doctored, to which practices Western media organisations turn a blind eye. “These were good pictures, -always getting on the front pages and eliciting an emotional response,” says Seaman. ‘Bad Jews, poor Arabs’ sold papers. Then it became so much the reality that no one ever challenged it.”
What Western dupes fail to realise is that Pallywood is a key weapon in the asymmetrical warfare being waged against Israel and the West. Realising they cannot achieve victory by conventional military means, the Palestinians and Islamists use psychological warfare — psy-ops — as a key strategy both to recruit their army of terrorists, and to demoralise, confuse and suborn their victims.
Israel fails to grasp that it is in a psy-ops war — hence its ineptitude in reacting to the al-Dura claims. Within hours, the Israeli army assumed it must be responsible for the boy’s “death” — and said so without even questioning the commander on the ground. It then set up an investigation, which concluded that its soldiers could not have been responsible. But it left it at that for seven years, despite Shahaf’s discoveries.
Although Seaman said repeatedly during that time that the boy’s “killing” was a fabrication, he was slapped down by Israel’s foreign ministry. It decided that the al-Dura image had taken on a life of its own, and so anything that reminded people of that image would be bad for Israel. It failed to grasp that if left unchallenged, that life of its own would cause the deaths of untold numbers of Israelis and other innocents.
Even after the startling developments in the French appeal court, Israel’s government has said nothing (although it has now quietly let it be known that it agrees with its own spokesman Seaman). Similarly in Britain, at time of writing, no daily newspaper has reported any of this; and around the world, only a handful of papers has done so. So the public is unaware that images that have convinced such a lamentable number of them of Israel’s iniquity are false, and that the iniquity belongs -instead to the Arabs and the Western media.
In medieval times, the Christian blood libels led to the annihilation of Jews. Today, al-Dura and other similar libels are promoting the annihilation of the collective Jew in the form of the state of Israel. The Western media have shown themselves once again to be the Islamists’ most powerful weapon against the free world on what few realise is the real battleground of the mind.