Karsenty, Accountability lose

A few weeks ago Israel’s government released a critique of the Al Dura case. During the so-called “Aqsa intifada,” Mohammed al-Dura was allegedly killed by the IDF during a shootout at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza. Or so it was reported by France’s Channel 2 and its reporter Charles Enderlin. Al-Dura became a cause in the Arab world. His image was put on postage stamps to inflame the “Arab street” against Israel. The Palestinian Authority released a video starring “Al-Dura” encouraging other children to become martyrs.

When the report was released, the Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wondered:

But still. Israel, by releasing this report 13 years on, has put this picture back into people’s minds, and it is not entirely clear whose interests are served by resurrecting this potent image.

Richard Landes responded:

What I’m afraid Keinon and the many others like him might be saying here is, in addition to our enemies, who will never drop that bone as long as there’s the most remote trace of the taste of blood on it – al Durah as symbol of Israeli evil – they also fear that the should-be rational people in the West, the liberals who should care about the truth, the journalists whose job it is to care about the truth – who won’t listen either.

But it’s these folks who are our target audience. They are the people – especially the journalists – who need to learn, when they see that image, that it is a symbol not of Israeli desire to kill children as Osama bin Laden and other blood libelers interpreted it, but a symbol of the incompetence of the media and the devastating impact of that incompetence, fortified with a stubborn, honor-shame reflex to deny any fault. Because we – and here I speak on behalf of democracies around the world, indeed all peoples who wish to live in peace and tolerance of the “other,” – we cannot afford the destructive impact of lethal journalism. We cannot afford to have our public sphere become the sewage dump of toxic, hate- and war-mongering lies, especially those of our enemies.

I agree. It wasn’t simply about setting the record straight, but about holding the media accountable. Israel’s decision to take a look at the case was a sign that Israel wasn’t going to let the media get away with broadcasting straight propaganda anymore.

Yesterday, however, a French court disagreed. In 2008 media critic, Philippe Karsenty was vindicated of the charge that he had libeled Enderlin and France 2. Apparently a major factor in that verdict, was that Enderlin was ordered to release the all the footage of the incident, but refused. But the case was appealed and, yesterday, Karsenty was found guilty of defamation. The AP reports:

In a report issued in 2004, Philippe Karsenty said the footage was orchestrated and there was no proof that the boy had been killed.

France-2 sued for defamation, and after a long legal battle, a Paris court fined Karsenty 7,000 euros Wednesday. He called the verdict “outrageous.”

Over the past decade Karsenty has amassed hours of video about the day of the shooting. At the heart of his claim is the fact that, according to the reporting by France-2, father and son received a total of 15 high-velocity bullets but in the video, neither appears to be bleeding. He says the firefight is real, but the shooting of the man and boy was staged for the camera.

At the end of the article, the AP gets reactions. Here’s one:

Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said the ruling confirmed that Israel and their supporters lied about the military’s practices in the coastal territory.

“They deceive and cover their crimes in front of the media and the world,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

A spokesman for Hamas?!?!!?

Hamas is a terrorist group committed to Israel’s destruction and that’s who the AP gets a reaction from! Jonathan Tobin addressed statements like this that is encouraged all too often in the media:

The al-Dura myth is significant not so much because it annoys Israelis and their friends but because it reinforces the way Palestinians think of themselves and gives them carte blanche to commit any outrage. Debunking it is not pointless. It is the starting point for any effort to answer the lies about Israel that have become the foundation for efforts to isolate and boycott the Jewish state. Friends of Israel ignore it at their peril.

There is no libel against Israel that is too outrageous not to be published uncritically.

Perhaps the best debunking of the report comes from James Fallows who wrote Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? in the Atlantic ten years ago.

The footage of the shooting is unforgettable, and it illustrates the way in which television transforms reality. I have seen it replayed at least a hundred times now, and on each repetition I can’t help hoping that this time the boy will get himself down low enough, this time the shots will miss. Through the compression involved in editing the footage for a news report, the scene acquired a clear story line by the time European, American, and Middle Eastern audiences saw it on television: Palestinians throw rocks. Israeli soldiers, from the slits in their outpost, shoot back. A little boy is murdered.

What is known about the rest of the day is fragmentary and additionally confusing. A report from a nearby hospital says that a dead boy was admitted on September 30, with two gun wounds to the left side of his torso. But according to the photocopy I saw, the report also says that the boy was admitted at 1:00 P.M.; the tape shows that Mohammed was shot later in the afternoon. The doctor’s report also notes, without further explanation, that the dead boy had a cut down his belly about eight inches long. A boy’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag but with his face exposed, was later carried through the streets to a burial site (the exact timing is in dispute). The face looks very much like Mohammed’s in the video footage. Thousands of mourners lined the route. A BBC TV report on the funeral began, “A Palestinian boy has been martyred.” Many of the major U.S. news organizations reported that the funeral was held on the evening of September 30, a few hours after the shooting. Oddly, on film the procession appears to take place in full sunlight, with shadows indicative of midday.

Fallows critique is important. He is not, in any way pro-Israel. He also refuses to believe that Mohammed al-Dura is alive. Still he carefully reviewed all the available evidence and concluded that Enderlin didn’t tell the correct story.

That is what any reasonable critic should have concluded. Unfortunately many in the media simply don’t care. They would rather see their preconceived narratives confirmed rather than examining their prejudices, premises or procedsses. Yeterday’s verdict was a victory for continued media malpractice.

The Algemeiner carried a brief interview with Karsenty yesterday.

 
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