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Interview with Richard Landes
· The selectively presented photo material, accompanied by the accusation of deliberate murder of a defenseless Palestinian boy, led to mass demonstrations against
· The Muhammad al-Dura affair took a dramatic turn in May 2008 when a French appeals court found that Philippe Karsenty was innocent of having defamed Enderlin. Karsenty had claimed that the images shown by
"The Muhammad al-Dura affair is now eight years old; efforts to question the original broadcast have fallen on deaf ears both in the mainstream media and even within the Israel-advocacy community. In May 2008 the affair took a dramatic turn when a French appeals court found that Philippe Karsenty-the founder and president of Media-Ratings, an agency that critiques various news media-was innocent of having defamed Charles Enderlin, the Jerusalem-based chief of the Middle East Bureau of the French television station
Prof. Richard Landes is a medievalist and teaches in the history department of
Landes explains how the affair developed: "On
Abu Rahma Contacts Enderlin
"Enderlin looked at the pictures, and believed Abu Rahma’s story that he had filmed a father and his murdered twelve-year-old son who had taken refuge behind a barrel when firing started that day between Palestinians and Israelis. The Abu Rahma version was that near the Netzarim Junction in Gaza Israeli soldiers had shot at these two people for forty-five minutes, injuring the father eight to twelve times and the son three times. One bullet hit the boy in the stomach, after which he lay bleeding to death for twenty minutes while the Israelis continued shooting. They did not allow an ambulance to approach, but fired on it and killed the driver. Finally a second ambulance came and took the father and son away. By this time the boy was dead. So far, Abu Rahma’s story.
"None of his footage supports any of the additional details. There are no scenes of the ambulance being fired on, none of the evacuation of either the boy or the father or the dead ambulance driver, no sign or footage of heavy Israeli fire for forty minutes.
"The ambulance driver testified that the boy’s guts had spilled out on the ground. He said that he scooped them up, put them in the ambulance, and drove to the
Enderlin Runs a Truncated Story
"After Enderlin watched the footage, he presented on the evening of 30 September on
"That day Enderlin also did something else, quite unusual in the world of TV news, and even more so for a man whose nickname is ’Scoop.’ He handed out free copies of the last three minutes of Abu Rahma’s rushes to many other news stations in
"A Belgian Jewish acquaintance told me that his rabbi was attacked on the way to synagogue the next day. He didn’t know what had happened, as it was the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) holiday and he had not watched TV. We also know that Osama Bin Laden was already in touch with Hamas before this happened. He put the footage of Mohammad al-Dura-with a poem denouncing cowardly Arab leaders for not taking vengeance-in a key place in his recruitment video for global jihad.
"Everybody heard the story. President Bill Clinton talked about the emotional impact of the image. President Jacques Chirac humiliated Prime Minister Ehud Barak in front of Yasser Arafat with a reference to it during a meeting on
"Probably the most appalling reaction was a mass demonstration in
Landes says that Enderlin reported that the father and son had been "the target of fire from the Israeli position," a careful phrasing that subtly confirmed Abu Rahma’s more explicit claim that they killed the boy "in cold blood." In the same statement under oath, Abu Rahma claimed he had taken twenty of the forty-five minutes of shooting, but later claimed to the German filmmaker Esther Schapira that he only sent about six minutes to Enderlin.
"The actual footage Enderlin got from Abu Rahma-not twenty minutes, not six minutes, but sixty seconds-is quite poor in quality and made up of fragmentary takes that do not really cohere. To make his narrative work Enderlin cut the final footage. In constructing his voiceover narrative, Enderlin declared the boy dead about halfway through (take 4). But in the final ’take,’ the last twelve seconds, the boy is neither clutching his wounded stomach nor crouched up in a fetal position as one might expect. Instead he is lying flat out, free hand over his eyes, lifting up his elbow, looking out and then slowly putting his arm down. There is no indication of death or even imminent death.
"In order to justify his editing, Enderlin told the world he cut scenes of the boy’s agony that were so unbearable he just couldn’t show them to the public. He continues to stick by this story and claims that he consulted a forensic expert; yet he has never offered that expert’s name or shown his alleged report."
Enderlin had, according to what Landes was shown when he visited the
Enderlin Still in Denial
Landes affirms: "Till this day Enderlin is in total denial. He continues to repeat what he said in 2002 to Schapira, that there was no manipulation. As far as giving the film for free to competitors, Enderlin said he did not want to make any money from this material."
Landes interprets Enderlin’s giving away his "scoop" for free differently. "I have not been able to verify that Abu Rahma went first to CNN with the story and they turned it down (clearly implying that it seemed too suspect to use). It would, however, make sense for Abu Rahma to go first to CNN, which has many more viewers worldwide than
"No journalist gives away scoops for free. Once again, one has to speculate why he did it. Enderlin probably gave it away so as to create a kind of ’rush’ on the market. Once other stations told the same story, it would be-and has been-impossible to deny it. Had Enderlin kept it as exclusive, other stations might have said the story wasn’t convincing. For him the wider distribution served as a safety guarantee. None of his colleagues, upon looking at this footage, raised the problems with the final scene that, I think, a less anti-Israeli public would have jumped on immediately."
The Israeli Army’s Reaction
"As the alleged killing of Mohammad al-Dura took place on the Jewish New Year, it took
"Shortly thereafter, Nahum Shahaf, a physicist, contacted Major-General Yom-Tov Samia, head of the IDF Southern Command. Shahaf had worked as a physicist with the army’s optical intelligence unit. He was among the leading developers of pilotless light aircraft and video instrumentation. Shahaf had also investigated the damage done in
"Samia agreed to let Shahaf investigate the affair on behalf of the IDF. Shahaf then carried out a series of phone interviews with, among others, Enderlin, Abu Rahma, and doctors at Shifa Hospital who gave the information showing the time discrepancies between Abu Rahma’s report and the arrival of the dead boy. Both Enderlin and Abu Rahma denied they ever blamed the Israelis for the death. Shahaf also has revealing interviews with the head of the Red Cross and with Jamal al-Dura. He has all these interviews on file but has never published them."
The Israeli Investigation
"It took several weeks before Shahaf’s investigation got under way. Samia had given instructions to level the area a few days after the event because there was firing at the Israeli army position near Netzarim from various places. The scene of the incident was thus entirely compromised. Shahaf then set up similar conditions in the
"Shahaf had a collaborator, an engineer who was convinced that the Palestinians intentionally killed the child. This seemed, at the time, a grotesque accusation, certainly in the weeks before there was so much evidence that the Palestinians regularly sacrifice their children for the cause. In an interview with Bob Simon of Sixty Minutes, the collaborator expressed this view before the end of the investigation, which caused a double scandal of unprofessional and politically incorrect behavior. The collaborator was fired but Shahaf was now in a difficult position.
"When Shahaf came out with his conclusion that the killing of Muhammad al-Dura was staged, it aroused great hostility. On the one hand, he blamed the supposed victim; on the other, he suggested something most people cannot imagine: that the entire press corps could be fooled. He was like the child who said the emperor was naked: ’What? You know more than all the emperor’s courtiers (i.e., the mainstream media)?’ Haaretz in particular among the Israeli media attacked him ferociously in an editorial and an article by Anat Cygielman, calling his investigation an embarrassment and humiliation to Israel.
"Bob Simon decided to devote his program not to the dubious nature of the al-Dura footage but to the Jewish settlements which, he explained, were ’the focus of Palestinian rage.’ On al-Dura he noted that ’in the
Landes observes: "Simon didn’t even tell what the conclusion of Shahaf’s investigation was. The ballistic tests had proved that the three bullets shown in the filmed sequence by Abu Rahma came from the Palestinian side and not from the Israelis. The bullets kicked up dust in a way that could not come from a 30-degree angle of a bullet shot against the wall behind the barrel. Furthermore, given the protection provided by the barrel, it would have been nearly impossible for the Israelis to have hit either father or son once, much less over a dozen times. Worse, the Palestinians were firing at the Israelis from behind the father and son.
"Whatever problems there were with the investigation, and there were some, the fundamental conclusions on the provenance of the identifiable bullets and the impossibility of Israeli shots hitting the two, remain solid. The implications are deeply disturbing to any impartial observer: there is no good reason for Palestinians to be firing from a circular mound of dirt called the ’pita,’ the source of the gunfire according to Samia’s report, at the barrel, when the Israelis are 90 degrees in another direction; and it is exceptionally reckless of them to fire from behind the father and son.
"Interestingly enough, Enderlin drew a map for me of Netzarim Junction in which he placed the Israeli position on the wrong side of the street-actually in the place where the Palestinian ’pita’ was. For someone who claims he went back to the junction shortly after the events, this is an extraordinary ’mistake’, especially since the major point of Samia’s report is that the supposedly Israeli bullets could not have come from the Israelis. It’s as if he read the report on the direction of the bullets and then relocated the Israeli position to accord with it.
"Meanwhile, Shahaf thought he was going to tell the world that Abu Rahma’s film was a fake, and this would be as great a news story as the original. Instead he was treated as the child who said the emperor was naked, and was told to shut up.
"As a result, General Samia, who had commissioned the investigation, steered clear of the radical claim that it was staged, and argued the minimalist position: it could not have been Israeli bullets that killed him. Even that brought cries of ’blaming the victim.’"
"Some journalists, however, came to visit Shahaf and published studies based on his work. Schapira did a documentary for ARD, a major German TV station, which was first shown in May 2002. James Fallows published a major investigative article in Atlantic Monthly in June 2003. Both of them stuck to the minimalist position instead of asking what-if the Israelis didn’t kill him-had actually happened. Schapira now acknowledges that at the time she was under heavy pressure, including threats to her life, against even publishing the minimalist thesis.
"It was Fallows’s article that renewed my interest in the al-Dura affair. As a medievalist, I was already familiar with the blood-libel motif. It didn’t seem to me that the Israelis would fire for forty-five minutes at a father and son behind a barrel, nor that, if they had, it would take that long to kill the boy. But until I read Fallows, I assumed that the boy was caught in crossfire and that the ’blood-libel’ dimension came primarily from the accusation of deliberate murder. I had no idea the whole thing might be fake. Fallows, of course, did not make so radical a claim, but he allows Shahaf to speak, and the evidence seemed fairly clear to me...if Shahaf’s descriptions were accurate.
"That summer I went to
"When Schapira produced her movie on the al-Dura affair in 2002, she came to the conclusion that there were significant hints-though no proof-that al-Dura was shot by the Palestinians, as well as significant evidence that the event had been staged, whether or not he was shot.
"In particular, all the Palestinian sources, from the hospital doctors to the police investigators-’We don’t do an investigation when we know who did it, and in this case, it’s clearly the Israelis’-to the cameraman Abu Rahma came across as dubious. Abu Rahma told Schapira on camera that ’we’ (the Palestinians) have the bullets that killed the child. She then asked him what kind of bullets they were. Abu Rahma replied that she would have to ask the Palestinian general who was in charge of the investigation.
"When Schapira told Abu Rahma the general had no bullets, he responded that ’
"Enderlin told Schapira that he trusted Abu Rahma one hundred percent. He repeated that he is a professional photojournalist of the highest standard. Abu Rahma informed Schapira that he had sent six minutes of rushes of the actual shooting incident to Enderlin. If Enderlin had six minutes of footage of the actual incident-that is, of the son and father behind the barrel under heavy fire, or the son lying bleeding to death on the ground-he would certainly have used them to back up his story and give it credibility. But he has never shown them, not to me or anyone else who got to view the rushes, not even to the court. One presumes this is because they never existed.
"When I asked Enderlin about the bullets he replied, ’The general has them’- apparently he never bothered watching Schapira’s movie. ’They’re in a sack in his drawer.’ ’And you believe him?’ I replied. ’I believe him as much as I do Yom-Tov Samia.’ Nice move, there: Enderlin believes a Palestinian general, who didn’t do an investigation because he assumed
Landes explains: "After reading Fallows in June 2003 and meeting in
"Then a common acquaintance-Elie Barnavi, who was the Israeli ambassador to France at the time of the al-Dura affair-introduced me to Enderlin and I got a chance to see Abu Rahma’s rushes from that day and the next. Before this, Enderlin had only shown the tapes to people whom he thought would back him up. I was introduced to him as a professor of medieval history and I think, because I came recommended, he expected me to be on his side.
"Much of the footage had a familiar quality: it resembled the footage I had seen in Shahaf’s studio, either boring or staged. At one point a Palestinian adult grabbed his leg as if he’d been shot and limped badly. Here, for the ’scene’ to work, a half-dozen others should have picked him up and run him past cameras to an ambulance. But only kids gathered around him who were too small to pick him up. The man shooed them away, looked around, realized no one’s coming, and walked away without a limp.
"Enderlin’s Israeli cameraman laughed. When I asked why, he said, ’It seems staged.’ I replied, ’Everything seems staged.’ And then the other shoe dropped. ’Oh, they do that all the time,’ Enderlin offered helpfully, ’it’s a cultural thing; they exaggerate.’ ’But if they do it all the time, why couldn’t they have done it with al-Dura?’ ’Oh, they’re not good enough for that.’
"At that moment I realized the full-double-extent of the problem: Palestinians stage all the time, and Western journalists have no trouble with that. Any serious journalist who had a cameraman who filmed extensive staged scenes for him should either have told him that was unacceptable or fired him. Enderlin, the dean of
"Walking out of his office that Friday afternoon, I was in a state of shock. ’Oh my God,’ I thought, ’they do it all the time...and the Western journalists just use the most believable seconds to run as news. It’s a national industry!’ That’s when the term Pallywood occurred to me: just as Bollywood refers to Bombay Hollywood, Pallywood refers to the national Palestinian film industry that produces staged news footage. It tells a story of how the Israeli Goliath is pummeling the Palestinian David and both the Muslim and the Western media lap it up.
"The main products are scenes of injury and ambulance evacuation, as well as street fighting off-scene. In one well-documented case that Karsenty showed in court, cameramen film a Palestinian shooting not at the Israelis, but into an empty building he had been inside only minutes earlier.
"Realizing this and getting the word out were two very different matters. Like Shahaf, I ran into what I call the ’Emperor’s New Clothes Effect.’ No one, not even sympathetic folks, not even Zionists, wanted to hear that the mainstream media could get it so wrong. I tried to get the media itself interested-ABC, PBS, the
Blogs and the Gutenberg Moment
"Then Rathergate happened, and I saw how blogs like Instapundit and Little Green Footballs managed to force CBS News anchorman Dan Rather to retire in September 2004, after running a forged news story attacking President George W. Bush just before the elections. Rather complained bitterly about people taking his critics seriously-a bunch of bloggers sitting in their pajamas at 2 a.m.; and one commentator called it a ’Gutenberg moment.’
"I’d been a fan of the analogy ’The internet is to the twenty-first century what the printing press was to the sixteenth only at a much faster pace.’ But this was a new wrinkle. Here was a blogosphere that resembled the ’city of letters’ three years into the new century, a ’city of bytes’ showing its power to crash the old technology’s monopoly on the public sphere precisely where empirical issues were in question.
"That’s when I realized that instead of going, hat in hand, to the mainstream media and asking for their help, I should just make the documentary and present it, and the evidence, at a website. Hence, in September 2005, I launched ’The Second Draft’, and posted both the archival material necessary to understand it-my footnotes as it were-and a short documentary called Pallywood where I provided the best examples of how Palestinians-street folk, doctors, journalists, cameramen, ambulance drivers-all participate in a collective scam.
"I included an essay on the history of Pallywood whose origins I dated to the First Lebanon War in 1982. There was clearly staged footage there, and a credulous press eager to believe anything (six hundred thousand refugees from southern Lebanon when there weren’t that many people living there) and to compare Israel to the Nazis (news anchors standing outside Beirut comparing it to the Warsaw Ghetto).
"The same year that the Christian Phalange slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla, the Syrians killed twenty thousand inhabitants of
"My strategy of using the internet paid off well. Within three months there were fifty thousand downloads of Pallywood from our site. When I attended the launch of the PajamasMedia blog in November 2005, I was amazed to find that many people I met had already seen Pallywood. Most of my university colleagues, however, still don’t know I’ve made documentaries.
"Then, in 2006, the Second Lebanon War broke out. In August 2006 Reuters published a digitally doctored photo that contained enhanced plumes of smoke over
"At that time bloggers gradually began to find more forged pictures and texts that had been passed on by the mainstream media-phony shots of a Red Cross ambulance allegedly hit by an Israeli missile; burning tires identified as a downed Israeli jet; the ’pietà’ of Beirut, a fellow photographed as if dead or unconscious from Israeli bombing when he can be seen in earlier photos evacuating people from the scene; and, of course, Kafr Qana, where a building was bombed by the Israeli air force, causing civilian casualties, leading to extensive staging of photo-ops for photographers. Most of these bloggers had seen Pallywood. It was as if Pallywood had alerted them to look for the fakes, and they appeared almost nonstop."
Landes also uses the al-Dura case in teaching students. "I have a class on Communication Revolutions and we deal with cyberspace and TV. I tell them that in the al-Dura affair there are five possibilities that have to be investigated. The first is that the Israelis did it on purpose. The second is that the Israelis did it by accident. The third is that the Palestinians did it by accident. The fourth is that the Palestinians did it on purpose. Then I ask them what might be the fifth.
"The students couldn’t come up with this fifth possibility-that the scene was staged. They couldn’t think laterally and question a basic assumption (i.e., that you see him die). As a historian I am trained to think in terms of a working hypothesis. In particular, when a case has as many anomalies as this one, I’m willing to consider the wildest hypotheses to see if they work. My students - and many other Westerners with whom I played this game -were, however, incapable of thinking out of the box here. I think that’s because they could not believe the Western media could be so dramatically fooled."
Landes, when analyzing the al-Dura case, also points out that any sensible parent would have put the child in front between him and the barrel, rather than behind him. "There is also the question of why the father never reaches for his son at any point. He changes position between each of the last three takes-that is, after his son has been allegedly hit and is lying at his feet. Yet he never reaches for him.
"In one class in which we analyzed this incident, one student commented that she thought Haaretz was an Israeli paper. I said it was and wondered why she mentioned this. She said, ’It sounds like a Palestinian one.’ It gave me a chance to explain how hyper-self-critical the Israeli media can be, especially Haaretz."
The Reluctance to Go Further
"Another student commented that she was fully convinced by what I showed but reluctant to assent to the obvious conclusion because if she did, she felt she would be taking sides, and she didn’t want to take sides. This was a variant of the attitude of one news editor: ’We couldn’t do just this, we’d have to balance it.’ It’s as if people cannot allow themselves to think this one through, despite the fact that, if the Israelis didn’t do it, the obvious next question is ’Then what did happen?’
"I wanted to answer that question, political correctness be damned. There was a strong probability that the incident had been staged. Yet none of the news agencies that got the footage, including the scene Enderlin cut, saw any problem with the story as he told it. This broad consensus of the media, all of whom either explicitly back Enderlin or refuse to report the critique, is so impressive that anybody who tries to break it is called a ’conspiracy nut.’ It appears to be the media’s solidarity that gave Enderlin the confidence to take his case to court.
"Obviously this isn’t a real conspiracy theory. In the al-Dura faking, ten or twenty Palestinians at most are involved and they cannot even agree on a common story. It was barely planned. Yet neither the Israelis nor the Western media were alert. If there had been minimal filters for fakes out there, the al-Dura forgery would have been picked up right away.
"For example, an alleged forty-five minutes of continuous shooting at the barrel area-’bullets like rain,’ says Abu Rahma-produced, in total, nine bullet holes in the wall and two in the barrel. These bullets appear to have gone straight into the wall, whereas the Israeli position was at a strong angle. One shot would have had to "turn a corner" in order to come from the Israelis. Yet Suzanne Goldenberg, an award-winning journalist for The Guardian, said it was clear the Israelis targeted the two Palestinians because all the bullet holes in the wall clustered around the barrel. The media advocacy - or stupidity - in this case is nothing short of breathtaking."
The Consequences of the Affair
Landes analyzes the longer-term impact of the staged al-Dura affair. "It’s hard to think of a single news item that did this much damage, not only to
"Since al-Dura, however, Jose Saramago, a Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning writer, European officials, German Catholic bishops, and many others repeat this odious comparison. Shortly after the al-Dura incident, French journalist Catherine Nay proclaimed on Europe 1 TV: ’The death of Muhammad cancels out, erases that of the Jewish child, his hands in the air from the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto.’
"Many Europeans saw the al-Dura affair as an opportunity to further reduce Holocaust guilt and loved the story. The rushes were shown many times on many European media. In the
"French TV showed it and thought they were pleasing their Muslim populations who would intensify their hatred against
"It was also in
"The French scholar Andre Taguieff, in the first book on the ’new Anti-Semitism’ of the twenty-first century, linked these incidents to the images of Muhammad al-Dura. The affair became regular table conversation in the country’s upper-class circles. Nidra Poller says she lost a large number of friends because of her support for Israel. Quite a few liberal French Jews were stunned by the reactions to the intifada. Some worked for human rights and suddenly many of their colleagues turned on them fiercely and would no longer recognize them as friends."
Blood Libel: A New Mutation
"The al-Dura story operated as a new mutation of one of the core motifs of anti-Semitism-blood libel. There was an accusation that Jews somewhere in the world had intentionally killed an innocent child. For that, all Jews in the world were held responsible. I gave a talk at a conference in
"Part of the irony here is that it was a Druze unit that manned Netzarim Junction that Rosh Hashanah. So even if Israeli soldiers had killed the boy, they weren’t Jews. But when we deal with the irrational, such details are meaningless. What the immediate and ferocious acceptance of this story shows is the immense appetite for what I call ’moral Schadenfreude’-the delight that some, especially Europeans and the ’Left,’ take in dumping on Israel morally. It’s as if they somehow make themselves look bigger by making Israel look smaller. How else can you preen on the world stage as the cutting edge of progressive morality when you’re in bed with Islamists of the most vicious and regressive kind?
"And, as Andrei Markovits has shown so clearly, that moral Schadenfreude links up with the anti-American politics of ressentiment. Nietzsche, who wrote extensively in Genealogy of Morals about the bad faith of those who don’t have power and resent those who do, would have a field day with what’s happened to the ’Left’ since al-Dura. The British writer Nick Cohen and the French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy already have."
What the Story Tells Us about the Media
"An al-Dura case study also teaches much about how journalism functions. First of all, there is an enormous power of what one might call emotional imagery. Viewers are presented with a picture of a young boy supposedly being killed, which trumps everything. There is no way one can maintain distance from this. It affects people in a way statistics cannot.
"Journalists are supposed to keep their distance. Yet there is, particularly in
"One saw this at play, for instance, when in November 2005 the dying Arafat left the Palestinian territories to be treated in
Two Categories of Journalists
"There is often rather aggressive identification with the Palestinians. In Jenin, for example, one of the reporters was outraged and carried on about how the Israelis were massacring Palestinians-itself a reflection of her eagerness to believe whatever her Palestinian sources claimed. Later she was confronted by the pediatrician Dr. David Zangen. He said to her: ’We are here because the Palestinian terrorists are blowing themselves up among our civilians.’ She answered with a typical trope from the postcolonial paradigm: ’I’ll give you one word: occupation.’ Zangen replied: ’Jenin hasn’t been occupied for eight years.’ And, one might add, the bombs in the midst of Jewish populations predate the ’occupation’ by decades.
"These journalists are not reporters. They are advocates for the Palestinian cause. There are two categories. Some, such as a few from The Independent, as well as many journalists from The Guardian-are open advocates of the Palestinian cause. They oppose
"A second category of journalists comprises those who have been intimidated by Arabs. This is done in various ways. In
"We have also seen threats of violence against journalists of the Italian private network Mediaset when they filmed the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in October 2000. Thereafter Riccardo Cristiano of the Italian state television RAI wrote a letter to a Palestinian paper disclosing that the pictures had been taken by Mediaset rather than RAI, and saying he would never have published them had they been his. The Mediaset journalists then had to flee the country.
"Access intimidation is another method. Basically, Palestinians say that journalists who do not tell the story their way cannot come back to the territories. If one cannot report from the disputed territories that means one cannot be a journalist. Thus one has to accommodate the Palestinians. This leads to ’access journalism’ in which journalists voluntarily cease to speak of issues that might embarrass their hosts.
"An interesting psychological process takes place. These journalists cannot admit to the public that they have been intimidated. If they did, it would invalidate what they report. They are in a Catch-22 situation. They lose their jobs if they don’t give in to the intimidation. They also lose their jobs if they admit that they have been intimidated.
"The only way such journalists can live with themselves is by becoming pro-Palestinian advocates. They tell themselves that they are censoring the news so as to help the Palestinian people resist an unjust occupation. That way, they submit to intimidation but imagine they are acting freely-and morally. It seems this is a major element in the mainstream media’s stunningly widespread advocacy for the Palestinians."
French Media and the Al-Dura Affair
The French media have traditionally backed up Enderlin and given very little attention to the accusations that the al-Dura story is forged. Landes says, "At the end of 2004, however, three journalists-Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, and Daniel Leconte-researched the affair for the French weekly L’Express. Rosenzweig, formerly of Le Monde but now independent, had convinced the editor in chief, Jeambar, to run a story arguing that the al-Dura story was staged: a perfectly legitimate piece that the public deserved to see. But when the editorial board of L’Express heard of this, they revolted. No such argument would grace their pages.
"When Jeambar informed Rosenzweig that he could not publish his article, Rosenzweig challenged him to come with an independent journalist and demand that
"The three saw the material in October 2004. Both Shahaf and I had spoken with Rosenzweig before and told him what to look for. The L’Express representatives went to
"At this point one would have expected Jeambar to run the article in L’Express. But instead, a number of events triggered a retreat by both Jeambar and Leconte. They wrote an article-which only the ’right-wing’ Le Figaro would run-denouncing Enderlin’s professional behavior, and for a brief moment gave radio interviews. But they took care to argue that, though the first twenty or more minutes of the tapes were full of staging, this told nothing about the final footage on al-Dura, on which they were not prepared to pass judgment. Indeed, they rapidly dropped the subject entirely.
"Ostensibly they did so because
"When I got to
The Karsenty Process
Landes observes: "Under wraps everywhere but the internet...and that’s where things began to unravel. It began with the mistake of France 2 and Enderlin of picking on Philippe Karsenty."
"Karsenty was a Jewish businessman and the day after Enderlin’s notorious news broadcast ran, one of his employees asked him ’Why did you kill that boy?’ In reaction Karsenty set up a website called Media Ratings. With the help of professors of media study, he developed an objective methodology for analyzing media coverage. He did not want to deal with the intifada exclusively so he covered a broad range of issues. It was quite a Herculean task.
"In response to the revelations of Leconte and Jeambar, Karsenty wrote a piece calling on Chabot and Enderlin to resign that he published on his own relatively obscure website. Aside from the small group of people who followed the story closely, few noticed, and even fewer took the publication seriously."
Suits against Animators of Websites
"Then Chabot and Enderlin made a major mistake, perhaps out of overconfidence at having survived the incident with L’Express, perhaps out of an aggressive response to that momentary fright. They sued Karsenty for defamation. They already had three suits against the animators of websites who had carried material they considered defamatory. They chose carefully: not Stéphane Juffa who had produced the film, not Gerard Huber who had written a book on the subject, but people who happened to post material at their websites that
"By some kind of serendipity,
"The behavior of the court’s ’Chamber 17’ that examines defamation cases-and thereby punishes what is politically incorrect-was lamentable from start to finish. It was a wonder to those of us from the
Guilty in the
"Initially, Enderlin’s strategy of suing Karsenty worked. Despite a strong presentation (I was one of the witnesses), and no response from France 2’s lawyers-neither Enderlin nor Chabot deigned to even show up-and despite the recommendation of the Procureur de la République in Karsenty’s favor, the lower court found Karsenty guilty of defamation on 19 October 2006. Karsenty’s lawyers had asked to have the rushes shown in the court, but
"But Karsenty was of a different mettle than the others. Alone of those accused of defamation, he appealed the decision of the lower court. That’s where things began to unravel. Once again neither Enderlin nor Chabot showed up, and that may have annoyed the judge, who demanded that Enderlin show the court Abu Rahma’s rushes. In the appeals court, the judge said she wanted to see the rushes-a surprising decision that electrified those who had been following this story and had not seen them. When the court convened to view the rushes, it was packed. Luc Rosenzweig and I testified that we had seen the footage beforehand, and answered questions about how long it was.
"Enderlin brought in eighteen minutes of film material; he made cuts. I was stunned. People had warned me he might do this. And he did. I assumed that when the footage was over, I’d be able to say, ’He cut scenes.’ The court took what I thought was a recess. I assumed we’d reconvene, and they’d question me at least on whether I had seen things not in this presentation. I was itching to tell the story of the most outrageous scene of faking that had made the cameraman laugh when he saw it with me for the first time. But court was adjourned, and I later found out that Karsenty and his lawyer decided not to push the issue. What would have got Enderlin charged with contempt of court in the
"Still, what the court did see seems to have troubled them. One scene has a fellow with-at most-a wrist injury being pulled in different directions by his Pallywood handlers to take him hurriedly to an ambulance. In the end they’re almost choking him. Another farce was that Abu Rahma was interviewing Palestinian radicals in front of the Israeli position, with their backs to it. This, at a time when the Israelis were supposedly killing people right and left.
"When the footage of the last twelve seconds appeared, there was an audible gasp in the court. Enderlin had already declared the child dead, but then Muhammad lifted his arm and looked around. Anyone who sees this scene cold recognizes that there is something wrong with the accompanying story. He’s not dead, he’s not even acting injured from a stomach wound. Yet Enderlin went ahead with his story and has maintained it over the years.
Karsenty Found Innocent
"At a later court session
"The court found Karsenty innocent and wrote a decision that included several fairly sharp rebukes of Enderlin for his unprofessional behavior. It found that, in view of the major international impact of the original story, Karsenty had had every right to express his doubts about the authenticity of
"The next step is that France 2 and Enderlin have appealed to a higher court, which will judge whether the procedure was correct. If not, it will send it back to the same appeals court that rendered the last opinion, for revision. I think that
The Media’s Reaction
"While this was a landmark judgment, the media in
"The French media did briefly cover the story; major newspapers-not, however, Le Monde-carried laconic articles that did not explore the significance of the decision. Nevertheless, even that was enough to elicit a cry of outrage from supporters of Enderlin. About two hundred French journalists signed a public statement denouncing the court’s decision as surprising and worrisome. They thought it was scandalous that the court considered Karsenty’s testimony as equal to Enderlin’s. They said this was an invitation to having people who didn’t understand journalism criticizing journalists, and this would inhibit their freedom. And of course, in all this, they did not address the actual evidence. It’s like a medieval guild: ’One of ours has to be right; don’t bother me with the facts.’"
Landes remarks: "This is a very embarrassing document. It reveals the real attitude of the French mainstream news media: solidarity, contempt for the public, from whom they keep secrets that those in the profession know well. ’What? Me edit staged tapes to make the news? How dare you!’ The document belongs in the same category as Riccardo Cristiano’s letter to Arafat saying it wasn’t his crew that smuggled out footage of the Ramallah lynch and showed it to the Israelis. ’We would never do such a thing. We always follow the rules of journalistic procedure when working in
"It was interesting to see the reactions that the Nouvel Observateur got when they published this statement of solidarity. Ninety percent of the comments were negative, condemning Jean Daniel, the editor and probably author of the text, and the rest for corporatism, for not addressing the evidence.
"At that point some key players who had long remained silent, spoke up. Elie Barnavi published an article in the French journal Marianne criticizing Enderlin. The French Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut also came out in defense of Karsenty. Apparently, when their intellectual integrity is actually on the line, some French intellectuals will step up to the plate.
"Daniel responded by saying he was in favor of an investigation, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry. CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, also called on President Nicolas Sarkozy to launch an investigation into the television broadcast of the alleged Israeli shooting of Muhammed al-Dura. For a while nothing happened, but now
"I have also put up on Second Draft the eighteen minutes of film that were shown in court, as well as two analyses of the material and France 2’s use of it: even when they know they’re being watched, they still do Pallywood. Thanks also to the blog, there is now a public that is much more knowledgeable about the affair. Our task now, in the wake of the new decision to hold a commission, is to help explain to the public the significance of this affair. We certainly can’t count on the media to do so. Pierre-André Taguieff is planning to put out an essay collection."
Landes observes: "Who knows? This may be the first time a blood libel gets reversed in its own time."
The Israeli Government
Landes comments that it is sad to observe the position of the Israeli government in all this. "The al-Dura affair has caused huge damage to
"It may well have been at the outset that, since the whole world immediately accepted the Palestinian version and the Palestinians were in an uproar, Israel could not immediately react - after its initial apologies - by claiming it hadn’t killed al-Dura. Stating that in the last months of 2000 would have ruined any possibility of renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, i.e., Taba. Viewed retrospectively, it probably would have been a good idea not to try to negotiate by making still more concessions, including the ’fact’ that
Landes summarizes the process, of which the al-Dura affair is the epitome: "The Palestinians stage an incident or, as in the
"Prime Minister Ehud Barak went even further and offered to divide
"Yet, even after Karsenty’s victory, the spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry basically said in an interview that Karsenty should not have expected the Israeli government to come to his aid.
"This articulates the classic position of the Israeli government. The IDF apologized for something they hadn’t done because they thought the world wouldn’t like them if they didn’t. They thought they could not fight back against the media because ’If we declare war on the media, we’ll lose that war.’
"Ultimately, such an attitude is similar to that of the Jew in Muslim lands as a dhimmi, a subjected, second-class citizen.
"The Israelis have had repeated opportunities to break the cycle, but so far they haven’t done so. However, the emergence of the blogosphere with its offer of an alternative way to reach the public and thus break the mainstream media’s monopoly, changes the dynamics significantly. Since Pallywood is a deeply ingrained habit in current mainstream-media practice, the Israelis will have many occasions in the future to do something about this."
Interview by Manfred Gerstenfeld
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 Amnon Lord, "Who Killed Muhammad Al-Dura? Blood Libel-Model 2000,"
 For a detailed discussion of Shahaf’s findings, see Lord, "Who Killed Muhammad Al-Dura?"
 Anat Cygielman, "Dubious Probe of the Al Dura Case Backfires," www.pmwatch.org/pmw/manager/features/display_message.asp?mid=55.
 See the ballistics expert’s report to the French court of appeals, www.m-r.fr/balistique.pdf.
 James Fallows, "Who Shot Muhammad al-Dura?" www.theatlantic.com/doc/200306/fallows.
 Gerard Huber, Contre-expertise d’une mise-en-scène (Paris: Editions Raphael, 2003). [French]
 Richard Landes, "Printing and the 16th Century, Cyberspace and the 21st -Lessons from the Past, Thoughts on the Future," http://digitalarchive.oclc.org/da/ViewObjectMain.jsp;jsessionid=84ae0c5f82408b96643ae4934010b5a39097e056790f?fileid=0000070504:000006276612&reqid=7.
 In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an international community of scholars and intellectuals arose, independent of the university world dominated by clergy and parchment, centered around printing presses. It became known as the "city of letters" and it is in these circles that the Enlightenment emerged.
 Ze’ev Chafets, Double Vision: How
 Uri Dan, Blood Libel: The Inside Story of General Ariel Sharon’s History-Making Suit against Time Magazine (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987).
 Raphael Israeli, Poison: Modern Manifestations of a Blood Libel (
 This was the argument of
 Andre Taguieff, La nouvelle judeophobie (Paris: Fayard, 2002) (www.amazon.fr/Nouvelle-judéophobie-Pierre-André-Taguieff/dp/2842056507) [French]. Taguieff has a second book on the subject that goes further into the al-Dura affair: La judéophobie des Modernes: Des Lumières au Jihad mondial (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2008) (www.amazon.fr/judéophobie-Modernes-Lumières-Jihad-mondial/dp/2738117368/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221364425&sr=1-1). [French]
 Nidra Poller, personal communication.
 Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Andrei S. Markovits, "European Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism: Similarities and Differences," Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 16,
 Nick Cohen, What’s Left (
 Tamar Liebes and Anat First, "Framing the Palestinian Israeli Conflict," in Framing Terrorism: The News Media, the Government and the Public, ed. P. Norris, M. Kern, and M. Just (
 Chafets, Double Vision.
 Donna Rosenthal, Israelis (
 For a link to the interview and translation of the transcript, see www.theaugeanstables.com/2007/09/18/background-on-the-rushes-interview-with-jeambar-and-leconte/.
 For the best analysis of these events, see Nidra Poller, "Myth, Fact, and the al-Dura Affair," Commentary, September 2005, www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/myth--fact--and-the-al-dura-affair-9935.
 On Dieudonné, see http://www.jcpa.org/David/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/5D9B2EZI/www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/11/19/071119fa_fact_reiss; on his trial, see http://lesogres.org/article.php3?id_article=818; on Morin (who was initially found guilty but then exonerated), see http://www.jcpa.org/David/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/5D9B2EZI/www.ldh-toulon.net/spip.php%3farticle1389. On "alter-juifs" who judge themselves (or their fellow Jews) through the eyes of the hostile "other," see the volume of Controverses dedicated to the topic, edited by Shmuel Trigano (www.lyber-eclat.net/lyber/controverses/sommaire4.html).
 For all of these developments, see Menahem Macina’s complete list of articles at Debriefing.org: http://www.jcpa.org/David/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/5D9B2EZI/www.theaugeanstables.com/al-durah-affair-the-dossier/debriefingorg/.
 The eighteen minutes is available at: http://www.jcpa.org/David/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/5D9B2EZI/www.theaugeanstables.com/al-durah-affair-the-dossier/sign-the-petition/; my two video analyses, Pallywood Strikes Again and Pallywood Strikes Again2:
 Amos Harel, The Seventh War (Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 2005) [Hebrew); for translation of a key passage, see www.seconddraft.org/article.php?id=195&a_tit=seventh+war.
* * *
Prof. Richard Landes is a medievalist and teaches in the history department at
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