Today a ruling by a French court confirmed, after years of legal wrangling, that a French media critic was guilty of libeling a journalist who was largely responsible for turning a Palestinian child into a martyr for opponents of Israel. France 2, the television channel that employed Charles Enderlin, the reporter that first told the story of al-Dura, is representing the conviction of Phillipe Karsenty as a victory for French journalism. Karsenty was first convicted of libeling Enderlin in 2006 for saying he had fabricated parts of the original story. That verdict was reversed on appeal in 2008, but that ruling was overturned by France’s highest court last year allowing a lower court to fine Karsenty 8,000 euros.
Those who cling to the claim that the iconic image of the boy dying in his father’s arms after being killed by Israeli gunfire was accurate will take this as a vindication of their cause. Even some who call themselves friends of Israel will hope this will put an end to the ongoing discussion about al-Dura, which they claim is a distraction from the need to seek peace with the Palestinians. But Karsenty, who rightly called the final verdict “outrageous,” isn’t going to shut up. And, since the Israeli government has endorsed his account, neither should anyone else who cares about Israel. As I wrote at length about this story last month, the al-Dura blood libel still matters because the demonization of Israel that Enderlin’s fakery helped reinforce is at the heart of the conflict with the Palestinians.
Critics of Karsenty and the Israeli government claim that those who point out that al-Dura wasn’t shot by Israeli fire and perhaps was not even killed that fateful day at the start of the second intifada are fighting a losing battle whose only purpose is to evade the necessity of putting away old grudges. But this formulation has it backwards. It is the willingness of the Palestinians to cling to their blood libels against Israel and to concoct endless variations on them as they seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state that continue to fuel the conflict.
Those who would like to write off the efforts to uncover the truth about al-Dura as a crackpot conspiracy theory are way off base. Legitimate journalists of all stripes have looked at it and long ago realized that Enderlin’s initial story had more holes in it that a piece of Swiss cheese and didn’t make much sense. Yet the French pressman has consistently refused to re-examine what happened or to own up to the fact that the edited tape he first broadcast blatantly misrepresented the facts and was a triumph for Palestinian propaganda.
The problem is the Palestinians and their cheerleaders seem to think it is important to cling to the idea that the famous photograph of al-Dura wasn’t a hoax because they see it as validating a larger truth about Israeli misbehavior. But while Israel is far from perfect, this obsession with portraying the Jewish state as guilty until proven innocent speaks to a conception of the conflict as being one between Israelis who steal land and murder children and Palestinian victims. It is that mindset that has allowed Palestinians to think of their violent culture of terrorism in which the indiscriminate shedding of Jewish blood—over 1,000 Israelis were slaughtered by terrorists in the conflict that followed the al-Dura incident—is not only permissible but a laudable act.
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.