13-Year Controversy Over Al Dura Incident Continues

A review by an Israeli government investigative committee concluded this week that a Sept. 2000 France 2 broadcast alleging Israeli soldiers shot dead 12-year-old Mohammed Al Dura — a claim which spawned intense violence and terrorism against Israel — had no basis in fact. This confirms what many skeptics have been contending for almost 13 years, but has not laid the issue to rest. See CAMERA’s  “Anatomy of a French Media Scandal.”)

Charles Enderlin, the France 2 journalist who made the apparently false claim, continues to insist he was right and the Israeli committee is wrong. Those journalists and human rights activists who routinely portray Israel in a negative light continue to support Enderlin’s version of events, dismissing evidence suggesting the event was staged, and attacking those who promote such evidence as conspiracy theorists and liars.

Meanwhile, the Paris Court of Appeals once again postponed its ruling on the defamation case by Charles Enderlin against media analyst Philippe Karsenty, who suggested on his website the Al Dura event was staged.

Karsenty was initially sued by Enderlin and France 2 in a libel suit that lasted two years. (See “France 2 Counters Accusations with Lawsuits“) While France 2 won that suit, the judgment was overturned by the Paris Court of Appeal in May 2008 because the network had refused to release the full footage it claimed to have of the event. (See “France 2 vs. Philippe Karsenty: The Appeal“)

Enderlin and France 2 then re-appealed to France’s highest court, which annulled the ruling exonerating Karsenty, on technical grounds, and sent the case back to the Court of Appeal. The latest court decision was expected today, after a delay of more than a month, but has been postponed once more until June 26th.

Review of the Latest Developments

The Israeli Government Review Committee was set up by Prime Minister Netanyahu to examine the information that has come to light regarding the Al Dura incident and to formulate an official Israeli government position. The committee, directed by Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, summarizes the evidence hitherto gathered indicating that France 2’s report was false.

A) Conclusion of the Committee, May 19, 2013

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 review revealed that there is no evidence that Jamal or the boy were wounded in the manner claimed in the report, and that the footage does not depict Jamal as having been badly injured. In contrast, there are numerous indications that the two were not struck by bullets at all. There is no evidence that the IDF was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal and the boy. The review showed that it is highly-doubtful that bullet holes in the vicinity of the two could have had their source in fire from the Israeli position, as implied in the France 2 report.”

B) Evidence Summarized in Israeli Report Suggesting Event was Staged

1) Footage sent to France 2 did not confirm the Palestinian cameraman’s two central claims – that shots fired at Mohammed and Jamal Al Dura came from an Israeli position and that the boy’s death were captured on film.

The final scenes of the video footage do not show Mohammed’s death throes (as Charles Enderlin had indicated) but show him picking up his head and moving his hand to his face.

Although Mohammed was said to have sustained a critical wound to his stomach, he did not clutch his stomach, but lifted his arm in a movement that would have been rendered impossible by such a wound.

2) There is no outflow of blood in the direction of the wall, nor any bloodstains there, as would be expected by the type of bullet wound he was said to have sustained. Media images the following day show no blood on the pavement where the boy had been.

Blood appears at one point on the boy’s leg, but is subsequently absent. The boy’s leg, which was presumably hit by bullets, is not shattered, as would be expected from such high velocity bullets.

3) The movement and position assumed by the boy after allegedly being shot is not natural or compatible with what would be expected had he had fallen over as a result of a bullet wound to the stomach. His position is more compatible with a situation in which he had intentionally repositioned himself.

4) While a doctor at Shifa Hospital reported that Jamal Al Dura, Mohammed’s father, sustained a severe paralysis of the right hand and a tear in the femoral artery and vein as a result of eight bullets entering his body, he is not seen bleeding in the video. Moreover, a femoral tear caused by high velocity bullets would be expected to lead to death within a short time from exsanguination (bleeding to death), but according to witnesses, Jamal was only evacuated to hospital after 45 minutes, yet recovered.

5) Jamal Al Dura’s scars that were claimed to have resulted from the Sept.2000 incident were recognized as the result of earlier injuries sustained by Al Dura in an axe attack by Palestinian thugs, for which he was treated by Israeli orthopedic surgeon Yehuda David.

6) In the course of a libel suit brought by Jamal Al Dura against the doctor for claiming the scars were not the result of the Sept. 2000 incident, records were sent presumably from Jordan’s Royal Hospital where Jamal was treated. These contained numerous contradictions regarding date of admission and descriptions of medical injuries, suggesting those records were fabricated.

7) There were notable discrepancies between records by the Royal Hospital that were displayed on film by Jamal Al Dura and the alleged hospital records brought by Al Dura’s legal team, with omissions that supported Dr. Yehuda’s claim of Jamal’s previous injuries.

8) There were three soldiers stationed at the IDF position on the date of the incident – a sniper, a sharpshooter, and a soldier operating a grenade launcher directed toward Palestinian shooters, not the Al Duras. The launcher could not have been physically moved to redirect the aim toward the the Al Duras. Moreover, snipers and sharshooters fire in single mode at armed gunmen, not in automatic mode, and are highly trained to hit their target in a matter of seconds, rendering the claim that Israeli soldiers fired at the father and boy for 45 minutes dubious.

9) To date
, France 2 has refused to provide a full copy of the footage to any official Israeli body for analysis.

What Other Evidence Supports the Israeli Position?

There has been extensive evidence by journalists and other investigators supporting Israel’s position. See, for example:

Al-Durah Project

Charles Enderlin’s Position

Charles Enderlin, France 2’s Jerusalem-based Middle East bureau chief who broadcast as fact the claim that Al Dura was shot by Israeli soldiers, continues to insist he was right. Below is a history of comments he made regarding the incident.

Original France 2 evening newscast, Sept. 30, 2000:

3 pm… everything has turned over near the Netzarim settlement in the Gaza Strip…here Jamal and his son Mohammed are the targets of gunshots that have come from the Israeli position…. A new burst of gunfire, Mohammed is dead and his father seriously wounded.

In response to the question of why there was no footage showing the boy dead:

Telerama, Oct. 25, 3000:

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…  

Letter to Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 2003:

We do not transform reality. But since some parts of the scene are unbearable, France 2 cut a few seconds from the scene, in accordance with our ethical charter.
In response to the accusations that there was no support for his claim in the newscast that Israeli soldiers killed the boy:

Interview with Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche, June 4, 2003:

The accusations are calumnies, spread by extreme right-wing organizations that claimed that that picture was staged.
In response to the argument that he could not show that the bullets came from the Israeli position:

Letter to Le Figaro, Jan. 27, 2005:

Why [did I] state … that the bullets came from the Israeli position?… Talal [Abu Rahma], who filmed the scene, indicated that this was the case…

…Talal has worked for our network since 1988, with our full confidence…In the following days, further evidence – from journalists and certain sources – came in confirming these facts to me…

…Never at any moment did the [Israeli] army…propose to collaborate in a proper investigation…

…Furthermore, for me, the image corresponded not only to the reality of the situation in Gaza but also to that in the West Bank. The Israeli army responded to the Palestinian uprising with massive firing of live bullets.

In response to the conclusions of the Israeli government review commission:

Enderlin’s blog, May 20, 2013:

I must say the commission never contacted France 2 or [Mohammed Al Dura’s] father, Jamal Al Dura. In 2008, France 2 responded to the Israeli High Court of Justice stating that since the day one, we are ready to participate in an independent survey conducted in accordance with international standards, and with legal force. At the time, Arlette Chabot announced that France television was ready to assist Jamal al Dura exhume the body of his son for analysis and DNA testing. No Israeli authority has contacted France 2, Jamal al Dura, the cameraman , Talal Abu Rahmah or any other protagonists for the investigation.

Enderlin quoted in Reporter’s Without Borders Press Release, May 22, 2013:

This report is absurd. How can the report’s authors omit the fact that Jamal Al Dura was hospitalized the next day in the Jordanian capital of Amman? How can they claim that the Israel Defence Forces did not open fire?

Who Else Supports Enderlin’s Position Against the Israeli Report?

Facebook Group of Foreign Correspondents and Human Rights Activists

According to The Washington Free Beacon, a “secret” Facebook group of foreign correspondents and human rights activists have virulently attacked the Israeli report.  They include:

Julia MacFarlane, The Independent
Since I first saw the footage few years back when I read about the story, the first thing I thought was how realistic it was…If they really wanted irrefutable evidence it was staged, they would have ordered DNA tests from the boy’s grave. They haven’t.

Marc Bastian, AFP
And [expletive] no, it’s not true that “Everyone in France knows the footage is a hoax,’ as Karsenty says. Everyone here knows that Enderlin is an honest man, and Karsenty is an extremist.
Javier Espinosa, El Mundo
The lobby uses all its streng
th and is able to push anything in majors English newspapers or in the NYT …Israeli embassies call their contacts in all those newspapers and they agree to publish that information.

Jerome Delay, AP
The IDF thinks the earth is flat, btw.
Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch
…typical IDF lies…As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood…It really isn’t good journalism to write this up as if these are credible allegations when it is a pack of lies.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB)

Press Release, quoting RWB Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, May 22, 2013:

“While the Israeli government has the right to respond publicly to a media report it regards as damaging, the nature and substance of this report are questionable and give the impression of a smear operation…”

[The committee] claims there is no evidence to support Enderlin’s account of the incident but produces no evidence to support its own claim.

Editorial, May 21, 2013:

It would have been better had this committee never been established. The obsession with the al-Dura case should have been left to a handful of investigators who represent only themselves, instead of becoming an issue that consumed government resources. This report doesn’t lift the fog off this case, if there ever was any. Instead, it raises a more painful issue: the many young people killed by IDF soldiers during the second intifada.

If the government had chosen to investigate that, perhaps it would have been reasonable to include a chapter on the al-Dura incident. But focusing only on him is mere propaganda that won’t in any way improve Israel’s problematic image of being responsible for too many children’s deaths.

Diplomatic Correspondent Barak Ravid, as quoted in RWB Press Release, May 22, 2013:

This report on the Muhammad Al Dura case is probably one of the least convincing documents produced by the Israeli government in recent years.

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