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|Mohammed Al Dura, or Anatomy of a French Media Scandal|
|Texte repris du site CAMERA|
Original report: October 13, 2005
Updated: September 14, 2006
The image of Mohammed Al Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy crouched in terror behind his father as he allegedly becomes the fatal victim of Israeli bullets, has become an icon of Palestinian "martyrdom," especially in the Arab world. It has been repeatedly broadcast on television, appeared in Palestinian posters, advertisements and on Arab country postage stamps, fueling Palestinian hatred of and violence against Israel.
The video clip of an apparent crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians originated with the French public television station, France 2, filmed by the network's Palestinian cameraman with voice-over by its Jerusalem bureau chief who attributed the mortal shots to Israel. Over the four and a half years since the incident, however, questions have been raised about the accuracy of the attribution and even about the authenticity of the scene. Those who accuse the television station and journalists of manipulating the facts have been met with cover-up, obfuscation, and threats of lawsuit. As the scandal simmers in the French media, CAMERA sorts out the claims and counter-claims.
Players FRANCE 2
France 2 – one of three stations comprising France Television, French public television.
Talal Abu Rahma – Palestinian cameraman who works for CNN and for France 2. Abu Rahma filmed the notorious clip of Al Dura's shooting and originated the claim that the boy was shot dead by Israeli soldiers.
Charles Enderlin – France 2's Jerusalem-based Middle East bureau chief since 1990 who broadcast as fact the claim that Al Dura was shot by Israeli soldiers.
Olivier Mazerolle – news director of France 2 at the time of the Al Dura broadcast. Found guilty by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA) – an administrative authority over audiovisual media whose councillors are appointed by the French government – of journalistic breaches of ethics, he resigned his post on February 11, 2004 after having approved a false news report that Alain Juppe was leaving politics after his conviction for corruption. (In fact, on a rival station, Mr Juppe had just announced he would stay on and appeal his conviction.)
Arlette Chabot – took over as news director of France 2 after Mazerolle's resignation. Under pressure, she screened the original raw footage for independent journalists Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, and Daniel Leconte. While she acknowleges that it is impossible to attribute Al Dura's death to Israeli soldiers based on the France 2 film footage, she vehemently denies that the scene was staged or that there is any need to investigate further. She defends the network and its journalists and has threatened lawsuits against those who impugn the network's professional integrity.
Christine Delavennat – communications director of France 2 who insists Abu Rahma's sworn affadavit to the Palestinian Human Rights Centre claiming Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted Al Dura was falsely attributed to him.
Metula News Agency (MENA) – French language Israeli news agency whose stated mission includes revealing and providing a counterbalance to missing and distorted information that may be disseminated by other news organizations. MENA has been at the forefront of accusations against France 2, Charles Enderlin, and Talal Abu Rahma of lying and manipulating the scene.
Stephane Juffa. – editor-in-chief of MENA whose investigation of the reported events concluded that the France 2 broadcast was fabricated in order to villify the Israel Defense Forces.
Gerard Huber – psychoanalyst and Paris correspondent of MENA who collaborated with Juffa in the investigation of the affair. He wrote a book entitled "Contre-expertise d'une mise en scene" (Re-evaluation of a Staged Event) published in 2003 by Editions Raphael, describing the investigation and its conclusion – that Al Dura was not shot by Israelis and that the whole scene was staged.
Others Skeptical of France 2's Claims
Nahum Shahaf – Israeli physicist and a reservist with the optical intelligence unit of the IDF who originally investigated the claims that Al Dura was killed by IDF soldiers. He concluded that the physical evidence indicates the fatal shots that killed Al Dura could not have come from the Israeli position. Shahaf eventually posited, as well, that the Al Dura shooting was a staged event.
Esther Shapira – German filmmaker who produced an investigative documentary suggesting that Mohammed Al Dura was more likely to have been shot by Palestinian gunmen than by Israeli soldiers. The documentary was broadcast on the German television network ARD in March 2002.
James Fallows – correspondent for the American periodical, Atlantic Monthly, who wrote an investigative article for the magazine in June 2003 that summarized evidence indicating Al Dura could not have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers.
Richard Landes – history professor at Boston University and director/co-founder of the Center for Millennial Studies, who became involved in 2003 when he was introduced to MENA's Gerard Huber. Landes subsequently met with Shahaf and was shown the raw footage of the event by Charles Enderlin. Convinced that the entire scene was staged, Landes has produced a documentary about the event entitled
Luc Rosenzweig – a former journalist for the French daily Le Monde and freelance contributor to MENA who viewed the raw footage of the incident at the offices of France 2.
Denis Jeambar – editor of the French news magazine, L'Expresse, who viewed the raw footage at the offices of France 2.
Daniel Leconte – independent filmmaker, producer and director, and former France 2 journalist, who viewed the raw footage of the incident at the offices of France 2.
Phillipe Karsenty – head of the French media watchdog agency called Media Ratings who examined raw footage of the clip broadcast on France 2 and claims it is a hoax.
(For more, see
Ronald Blum – French Member of Parliament representing Bouches-du-Rhône who called on France's Minister of Communications to investigate France 2's evidence for claiming Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mohammed Al Dura.
Serge Farnel – French citizen and France 2 viewer who has filed requests with a mediator, the CSA, and the state council - the country's highest court - to urge France 2 to publicly acknowledge that there is no proof that the gunshots came from Israeli soldiers.
Nidra Poller – writer and author who lives in Paris. Her most recent article on Al Dura "Myth, Fact and the al-Dura Affair" appears in the September 2005 edition of Commentary.
2000Sept. 30, 2000:
Palestinian gunmen and Israelis soldiers clash at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip. A large contingent of foreign reporters, photographers and television crews are present, including France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma. Much of the day's events are filmed by the various (20 or so) television crews, but only Abu Rahma records what he claims to be Mohammed Al Dura's death by Israeli bullets. (A Reuters clip apparently captures Jamal and Mohammed Al Dura filmed from a different angle.) He records 27 minutes of footage that day. While France 2 Middle East Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin is not at the scene at this time, he later views Abu Rahma's clips and accepts the cameraman's account of events.
Enderlin edits the film and provides the voice-over commentary for that evening's news broadcast. Only a small portion (55 seconds) of Abu Rahma's footage is broadcast on the evening news. The footage shows Jamal Al Dura and his son Mohammed huddled behind a thick concrete barrel, gunshots hitting the wall behind them. The footage does not show the child dying.
Correspondent Charles Enderlin comments on the footage for France 2 :
France 2 distributes the footage – free of charge – to the global media, and it is broadcast around the world.
Oct. 1, 2000:
ABC's Gillian Findlay also says the boy died "under Israeli fire." She repeats this language a few days later. Other media outlets make clear that the father and son were caught in the crossfire between Israelis and Palestinians.
Oct. 3, 2000:
Palestinian Cameraman Testifies
Talal Abu Rahma volunteers to testify in a sworn statement to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights the details of what he saw at Netzarim on Sept. 30. He says:
(For complete statement, click here.)
Preliminary IDF Investigation
There is no autopsy on the boy and no bullets recovered. After a hurried preliminary investigation, the IDF expresses sorrow over the tragedy, concluding that its troops were probably responsible for killing Al Dura. IDF Major General Giora Eiland says:
While the IDF attempts to put the incident to rest by accepting responsibility for Al Dura's death, Major General Yom Tov Samia, commanding officer at the time, and other senior officers in the Southern Command are convinced that IDF soldiers have not shot the boy.
Nahum Shahaf, an Israeli physicist, contacts Major General Samia to voice his doubt about Israeli responsibility and offers to collaborate in an investigation of the matter. Samia agrees and the IDF investigates further.
Oct. 23, 2000:
An IDF re-enactment of the Al Dura incident, with the participation of Nahum Shahaf, raises serious doubt about whether the gunfire could have come from Israeli positions. Investigators lay out replicas of the Israeli army position, and the concrete barrel and wall which sheltered Al Dura. Soldiers fire shots at the barrel and wall using a variety of different weapons and study the indentations made by the bullets. Also studied is the dust clouds which result from the wall being struck by bullets from various angles. The shape and size of the clouds is compared to the shape and size of dust clouds in the video of Al Dura.
The re-enactment indicates that based on the location of the Israeli soldiers, the concrete barrel would have prevented Israeli bullets from hitting Jamal and Mohammed Al Dura. The bullet holes and dust clouds in the Al Dura video further indicate that the fatal shots could not have come from the Israeli position, but rather from an area more directly across from the father and son, near a Palestinian police position.
Oct. 25, 2000:
Telerama, a French magazine, publishes an interview with Charles Enderlin in which he explains the brevity of the news clip broadcast of the incident. He asserts:
Nov. 27, 2000:
IDF releases the findings of its comprehensive investigation into the Al Dura killing. It concludes that Al Dura was likely killed by Palestinian gunfire. States Israeli Major General Yom Tov Samia:
2002March 18, 2002:
German television station ARD broadcasts a documentary produced by filmmaker Esther Shapira investigating the Al Dura shooting incident. The film suggests that the boy was more likely to have been hit by a Palestinian bullet than an Israeli bullet.
Sept. 28, 2002:
In a fax sent to France 2 offices in Jerusalem, Talal Abu Rahma contradicts his Oct. 3, 2000 testimony. He states:
Oct. 2, 2002:
Thousands of demonstrators gather outside the offices of France 2 in Paris to protest the network's handling of the Al Dura footage, and its refusal to broadcast Esther Shapira's documentary. Protesters "award" France 2 the "Prize for Disinformation."
Nov. 18, 2002:
The Metula News Agency (MENA) requests a meeting with France 2 Director General Christopher Baldelli to discuss MENA's ongoing investigation into the Al Dura affair. This investigation finds that France 2's footage of Mohammed Al Dura does not correspond to that of someone mortally wounded by high velocity bullets. Baldelli does not reply.
2003Jan. 13, 2003:
"Contre-expertise d'une mise en scene" (Re-evaluation of a Staged Event), a book written by French writer Gerard Huber, is published, detailing MENA's ongoing investigation into the Al Dura affair. The book's thesis is that the event was staged.
An investigative article by James Fallows is published in the Atlantic Monthly. Fallows presents the known facts and different opinions surrounding the Al Dura affair. His conclusion is that Al Dura could not have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers. He writes:
Atlantic Monthly publishes letters in response to the Fallows piece.
Charles Enderlin again asserts that he cut scenes of the boy's death throes:
Esther Shapira writes:
Fallows responds that what changed his mind about the incident was "watching footage of the shooting replayed dozens of times." Fallows states that:
2004Oct. 22, 2004:
Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte, and Luc Rosenzweig are invited to view the full 27 minutes of unedited footage with France 2's Arlette Chabot. They are informed by France 2's counsel that cameraman Talal Abu Rahma had already recanted his previous testimony to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. (Note: This is the first that anyone has heard about recanting of the testimony.) They also discover that the overwhelming majority of the footage is not of Al Dura, but of Palestinians staging re-enactments of injuries. There are no scenes of the agony and death throes that Enderlin claims to have edited from the broadcast.
France 2 does not accede to the request of Rosenzweig, Jeambar, and Leconte to meet with and interview Talal Abu Rahma when he is in Paris.
Nov. 12, 2004:
France 2 Director of News Arlette Chabot holds a press conference for a select group of journalists in France 2's offices to back claims by the network that it was on firm ground when it broadcast the Al Dura news report on September 30, 2000. According to AFP, Chabot has attendees screened at the door in order to bar MENA representatives and other critics of the network. Attendees are shown the September 30 France 2 footage and a Reuters film clip taken from a different angle. Also shown are France 2 film clips of Jamal Al Dura in the hospital shortly after the incident, a later film of Al Dura revealing his scars to the camera, and film of a child in the morgue said to be Mohammed Al Dura .
Nov. 18, 2004:
France 2 Director of News Arlette Chabot announces France 2's intention to file defamation suits against unnamed parties (known in French legal terminology as suits against 'X') in response to accusations that the scenes of Al Dura were staged.
Nov. 25, 2004:
Roland Blum, French Member of Parliament, writes to the Minister of Communications requesting an investigation of France 2's evidence that Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mohammed Al Dura.
Nov. 26, 2004:
Writing in Wall Street Journal Europe, Stephane Juffa of MENA states that the affair is "nothing but a hoax."
Dec. 7, 2004: