By PJM's Paris Editor Nidra Poller. Paris 26 October 2006.
He who laughs last… yeah, sure, right… but to be she who laughs first isn't bad either.
This morning I am laughing all down the line. Here's why.
First laugh: al-Dura articles are popping up in the French media like mushrooms after a rainfall. We suddenly discover that all those journalists knew the ins and outs, the ups and downs, episode by episode, and never thought it was advisable to share the news with their audience. They are so excited about kicking Karsenty while he's down, that they don't realize they have let a big ugly cat out of the bag. Even if the journalists indulge in uninterrupted thought control nothing proves that the whole French population is equally lobotomized. Furthermore, a significant minority of said population understands English, knows the way to the blogosphere, and will be following the case chez nous.
2nd laugh: Journalists smugly, or objectively, or haughtily reporting the glorious legal victory of France 2 don't seem to realize that their articles are illustrated with an image that argues strongly for the staged scene thesis.
It's a freeze frame from the al-Dura report where you see Jamal's strong arm straight as a T protecting the boy from Israeli bullets. But that's the arm that was smashed by Israeli bullets, according to Jamal, who should know. It's his arm, and he says they shot him in the hand, the elbow, and the shoulder. Those are the wounds that were bandaged for photo-ops the next day. Those are the wounds that were exposed, four years after the fact, in a film shot by our very own Talal Abu Rahmeh, to prove that Jamal's arm had been so rudely mistreated by the evil Israeli soldiers who fired at him for 45 minutes.
Never forget: the al-Dura incident lasted a bit under one minute. One minute of film and there is not another source of images anywhere on this earth. And that T-arm image is frozen from one of the last frames of the al-Dura report. It is followed in short order by the last burst of fire and the boy is dead, the father critically wounded. Jamal's scars may well be authentic, his bandages were real bandages, but when in the name of heaven was he wounded? Where is the time in which it occurred? Journalists and photo editors, trusting the honorable word of the honorable Enderlin and apparently very fuzzy on the details of the report and its enveloping narrative, give you the evidence that the al-Dura news report is a hoax, hand it to you on a silver platter, and don't even realize know what they are showing.
Read all about it, France 2 wins the libel suit against Philippe Karsenty, and look here, the al-Duras father and son, targets of gunfire from the Israeli position. And the arm, straight as a lamp post. I've already commented on this propensity to illustrate such articles with such a damning image. Ok, those fancy journalists don't read me. I'm not looking for box office.
3rd laugh. I don't know who disclosed the full text of the judgment before it was signed by the judge. Maybe it was leaked by the France 2 lawyer or Enderlin himself. Some journalists used it as a source for articles filed right after the verdict was announced. They say that the court, in agreement with the plaintiffs, judged that Karsenty's accusations were not based on a thorough investigation and analysis, and relied almost exclusively on the investigation conducted by Metula News Agency. The MENA investigation was in turn dismissed, according to these news reports, because it was tardy and emanated from a pro-Israel source.
What is so funny about this, besides the fact that it is neither true nor relevant, is that the al-Dura news report is based exclusively on the testimony of one Palestinian stringer, Talal Abu Rahmeh, despite the fact that there were dozens of stringers at Netzarim Junction that day and France 2 has not been able to produce a single signed verifiable witness to the incident which allegedly lasted for 45 minutes, plus another 20 minutes of agony as the boy, who had been killed instantly, bled to death.
The second eyewitness, Jamal al Dura, tells essentially the same story as the cameraman, with two or three minor additional details. All the human interest stories, all the lurid blow by blow accounts of the tragic incident, all the elaborations, all the dramatizations are based on one single source: the multi-prize-winning France 2 cameraman. And I tell you, as a novelist with more experience than all your Enderlins could dream of, it is a shoddy story, and I can dismantle it with my eyes closed.
4th laugh: Before, during, and after the trial Charles Enderlin and his acolytes have been swearing that they have no objection to serious, respectful debate about the al-Dura report. But they will not tolerate insults! They sued Karsenty, Lurçat, and Gouze in order to put an end to this shameful slatherous slandering of their reputations.
Tell it to yer mother, brother. Do the headlines say France 2 has finally got the slanderers off its back? No! They say France 2 won! The icon of the second intifada is not a fake. If certain analysts, pundits, media watchers, and honest citizens reached the point of exasperation it is precisely because France 2 and most particularly Charles Enderlin refused and still refuse to engage in honest debate focused on the facts. Why won't they show the 27 minutes of outtakes to everybody and her brother? Where are the facts anyway? By what right are the pundits now declaring that the image was not a hoax, and if you don't believe me ask the judge.
And now that they've got one down and two to go, a pushover, are they ready to show the outtakes, open the debate, politely discuss the issues? Don't bet on it.
5th laugh: It seems, from those who had the privilege of reading the judgment, that the court leaned an elbow if not a whole arm on the absence of any sign of official Israeli doubts about the authenticity of the al-Dura report. Enderlin has been known to declare that if the Israeli government thought the scene was staged they would have kicked him out of the country. Danny Seaman, chief of the government press office, thinks the scene was staged and says it publicly. Why didn't he go after Enderlin? Because his government doesn't manhandle the foreign press. That doesn't mean they sit with their hands in their laps. There are all kinds of spigots to open and close. I've also been told that France 2 has put a serious crimp in Enderlin's career. My source says Enderlin wanted to be transferred to their Washington bureau. But he's stuck in Jerusalem. I have no way of verifying this. Other sources tell me Enderlin is disdained by his France 2 colleagues. Another source, a highly reliable source, tells me that Enderlin is no longer competent to work as a journalist; the inexplicable bitterness that drives his relations with Israel have blinded him to reality.
But that's not the laughable part. It's the idea that if only the Israeli government would have spoken up, France 2 would have opened up, and a friendly joint investigation would have resulted in… well, what do you think? In a joint corroboration of the impeccable authenticity of the prize-winning death of al-Dura scoop? The funny thing is that Maître Amblard cast abundant aspersions on the Israeli army investigation. It figures. They killed the boy in cold blood, and then they investigate to see if it's really true? It's almost as funny as the Palestinian general who said they never investigate when they already know who is guilty. So, if the Israelis investigate, they're partial. If France 2 says take my word for it, just take it and shut up.
6th laugh: I had a dozen when I started writing but a good joke should know where to stop. It's getting less funny as I go. So here's the last one: a French court convicted Karsenty of libel and all that goes with it. It's no fun and besides, how could our colleagues have exposed fauxtography and staged scenes in the recent Hizbullah war if they had to worry about being dragged into a French court? The judges apparently were not impressed by the impassioned words of la procureur.
Around the same time, in Orléans, another French judge ignored the recommendations of the parquet (that's another hard to translate legal nicety …it means the court as a whole, but it doesn't make sense), released the 25 year-old Muslim who had e-mailed death threats to Robert Redeker. Oh, he's not free as a bird. He's under some kind of unspecified surveillance. Nonetheless, his freedom to come and go seems to be more important than Redeker's safety. By the way, according to Libération, the police declared that the man had also sent death threats to anunidentified American professor. The suspect is also unidentified. Just an observant Muslim involved in some petty or not so petty crime, who worked for a tele-polling company. Hmm. Doesn't that give access to some potentially useful information… for death threats?
I'll be back next week with a follow-up on the al-Dura verdict.
[Correction: In a previous posting I indicated that Alexandre Adler is the brother-in-law of Charles Enderlin. I was mistaken. He is the cousin-in-law (his wife is a cousin of Enderlin's wife)].
[Article signalé par Media Ratings.]