Exactly seven years after the iconic images of Muhammad al-Dura's alleged death in Gaza inflamed Palestinian sentiment and provoked terrible bloodshed, Israel has finally officially denied responsibility:
"The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead," said Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman.
Addressing France 2's original report, of which only 59 seconds out of some 27 minutes of raw footage were aired, Seaman stated: "It turns out that the events could not have occurred as they were described by the network's reporter Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the laws of physics… Furthermore, it was not even possible to hit them (the boy and his father) in the place they were hiding according to the report."
Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center intends to take legal action, demanding that the Israeli press credentials of France 2 TV reporter Charles Enderlin and Gaza-based cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma be revoked.
These latest developments come against the backdrop of Philippe Karsenty's appeals case in Paris. France 2 successfully sued Karsenty for defamation after he accused the network of staging the al-Dura footage. A French judge, however, has ordered that the formerly withheld 27 minutes of raw footage be screened in court on November 14.
Natan Sharansky writes in the Jerusalem Post:
The al-Dura incident wasn't the only media report to inflame passions against Israel in recent years, but it was the one with the highest profile. Moreover, if, as Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the al-Dura incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources (recall the Jenin "massacre" that never was, or the doctored Reuters photos from Israel's war against Hizbullah in 2006), then France 2 must be held accountable...
Tragically, there is no way to repair the damage inflicted on Israel's international image by the France 2 report, much less restore the Israeli and Jewish victims whose lives were exacted as vengeance. It is possible, however, to deter slanderous news reporting - and the violence that often accompanies it - by setting a precedent for media accountability via the handover of Abu Rahmeh's full 27 minutes of raw footage. Encouragingly, the judge presiding over Karsenty's appeal has now requested the tapes. France 2 must make a full public disclosure. If there is nothing to hide, why should it refuse?
HonestReporting will be following the court case, ensuring that our subscribers receive the full story the moment it breaks from Paris.
LIED TO BY CNN?
Jewish community professional Jay Tcath describes in the Jerusalem Post what happened when CNN asked him to assist in and appear on Christiane Amanpour's "God's Warriors":
She [CNN's producer] learned of our JCRC through her mother, a non-Jewish resident of a Chicago suburb who admired our leading role in advocating an end to the Darfur genocide. It was precisely this type of activity, the noble pursuit of justice by grassroots people motivated by religious impulses and acting through religious institutions that the young producer claimed the network and its star correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, wanted to explore. After all, she told us, it is such a decent, important activity and so much more real, common and under-reported than the conventional stereotypes promoted by the mass media. She insisted that CNN's aim was not to focus - as others do ad nauseam - on the radical fringes among the Jews, Christians and Muslims....
Tcath said the CNN crew arrived in February to film his organization painting Israeli bomb shelters and holding talks with representatives on Capitol Hill on subjects ranging from Israel and Darfur to hate crime legislation and social services.
So why then did virtually all of the footage end up on the cutting room floor? I have my suspicions:
1. The producer was sincere and she and perhaps others at CNN wanted to create a program along the lines she originally described, but lost an internal battle over editorial content;
2. She and perhaps others at CNN sought to lull us into doing or saying something on tape that would have fit their "Jewish Warrior" story line, or;
3. We were simply lied to.