Commentary Magazine


Topic: cameraman

Koch Protesters Call for Clarence Thomas’s Lynching

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

Ed Morrissey has an excellent roundup of the increasing incivility at the Koch protests. CONTENTIONS previously reported on the use of swastikas at the demonstration, and yesterday a video surfaced of protesters calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be lynched.

The cameraman in the video asks attendees at the rally what should be done with Thomas after he’s impeached. Here are some of their answers:

Send him “back to the fields.” “String him up.” “Hang him.” “Torture.” One older woman wants his wife Ginny Thomas strung up as well. A younger and more creative woman wants Justice Thomas’ toes chopped off and forced-fed to him. Thomas isn’t the only one to get the necktie treatment; one protester wants Fox News executive Roger Ailes to get hung as well.

Common Cause has released a statement condemning the comments, asserting that the protesters who made them were outliers:

We condemn bigotry and hate speech in every form, even when it comes from those who fancy themselves as our friends.

Anyone who has attended a public event has encountered people whose ideas or acts misrepresented, even embarrassed, the gathering. Every sporting event has its share of “fans” whose boorish behavior on the sidelines makes a mockery of good sportsmanship; every political gathering has a crude sign-painter or epithet-spewing heckler.

Morrissey notes that “this is the exact same point that Tea Party organizers made when the media focused on the outliers (and usually provocateurs) that showed up at their rallies.”

Of course, the one difference is that the mainstream media has barely even touched this story. Can you imagine if this had been a Tea Party rally and protesters were making these same comments about President Obama?

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RE: Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

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Kike Wisse Like Me

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece called “Vexing Questions about Jewish Identity” that was the talk of the town, its subject being a documentary with the outlandishly provocative title Kike Like Me. Its director and star, Jamie Kastner, travels from Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn to Pat Buchanan’s house outside Washington to a Paris suburb to a Berlin Holocaust memorial to a Krakow synagogue and finally inside the gates of Auschwitz in an exploration of Jewish identity and what being a Jew means today. The movie is made Michael Moore style, with Kastner playing the role of ingenuous naif lost in the woods and looking for help trying to get himself out. The influence of Moore, combined with Kastner’s seemingly cutesy refusal in interviews to say whether or not he is in fact Jewish and its appearance on a cable channel associated with the reflexively leftist Sundance Film Festival, led me to expect Kike Like Me would be a standard-issue work of self-examination in which Jews and Jewry would effectively be put on trial, not anti-Semitism.

And…I was very, very wrong. Kike Like Me is bracing and tough-minded, and is, in fact, a study not of “Jewish identity” but of 21st century anti-Semitism. When Kastner, a Canadian with a modest and inoffensive manner, asks Pat Buchanan about a paragraph in one of his books that calls the patriotism of neoconservatives into question, Buchanan takes a quick look at the curly-headed Kastner and instantly terminates the interview. In London, he interviews Richard Ingrams, the odious one-time editor of Private Eye who has famously declared that he glances at the bottom of letters he receives to see whether its author has a Jewish name for, if so, he will simply not read it. An American expat in London tells him she has decided to return home because she is unable to have a single conversation with English friends in which the supposed perfidy of Israel is not referenced.

He wanders through Krakow looking for a Jew but finding only restaurants that cater to Jews, Israelis primarily, who have traveled there to see evidence of Polish Jewry before its destruction. Even the old woman in the Krakow shul who hands him a yarmulke isn’t a Jew, and once he discovers the fact, he takes back the $5 he gave her.

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Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece called “Vexing Questions about Jewish Identity” that was the talk of the town, its subject being a documentary with the outlandishly provocative title Kike Like Me. Its director and star, Jamie Kastner, travels from Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn to Pat Buchanan’s house outside Washington to a Paris suburb to a Berlin Holocaust memorial to a Krakow synagogue and finally inside the gates of Auschwitz in an exploration of Jewish identity and what being a Jew means today. The movie is made Michael Moore style, with Kastner playing the role of ingenuous naif lost in the woods and looking for help trying to get himself out. The influence of Moore, combined with Kastner’s seemingly cutesy refusal in interviews to say whether or not he is in fact Jewish and its appearance on a cable channel associated with the reflexively leftist Sundance Film Festival, led me to expect Kike Like Me would be a standard-issue work of self-examination in which Jews and Jewry would effectively be put on trial, not anti-Semitism.

And…I was very, very wrong. Kike Like Me is bracing and tough-minded, and is, in fact, a study not of “Jewish identity” but of 21st century anti-Semitism. When Kastner, a Canadian with a modest and inoffensive manner, asks Pat Buchanan about a paragraph in one of his books that calls the patriotism of neoconservatives into question, Buchanan takes a quick look at the curly-headed Kastner and instantly terminates the interview. In London, he interviews Richard Ingrams, the odious one-time editor of Private Eye who has famously declared that he glances at the bottom of letters he receives to see whether its author has a Jewish name for, if so, he will simply not read it. An American expat in London tells him she has decided to return home because she is unable to have a single conversation with English friends in which the supposed perfidy of Israel is not referenced.

He wanders through Krakow looking for a Jew but finding only restaurants that cater to Jews, Israelis primarily, who have traveled there to see evidence of Polish Jewry before its destruction. Even the old woman in the Krakow shul who hands him a yarmulke isn’t a Jew, and once he discovers the fact, he takes back the $5 he gave her.

But the most stunning scene in the movie takes place in a Paris suburb called Sancerre Sarcelles, when with his digital camera rolling he finds himself in the middle of an outraged argument between two Jewish women and five male Muslim youths. As the woman argue heatedly, the boys claim Jews own all the businesses in France, that the local synagogue is a palace — this after Kastner has been taken to a nondescript shul hiding inside a Paris building that was nonetheless firebombed — and that Jews “dominate us. They’re dominators.” Kastner asks the boys what they think of him. “If you’re a Jew,” one says, “then we don’t like you…If you get a chance, you’ll screw me over…Because they’re bastards. They’re traitors.” As the boys get more and more revved up, Kastner’s translator quietly suggests it’s time for him to leave, and in a state of some alarm, he and his cameraman climb into their rental car and speed away.

Once Kastner arrives at Auschwitz, he has a negative epiphany — the gift shops and tourist stops all seem to be trivializing the enormity of the crime. “Strange to see it here like a movie set preserved for our benefit,” Kastner says. His cameraman says he needs to see the ovens, that the film needs a shot of him looking into the ovens. He has had enough. In a state of revulsion, he declares as he storms off, “This is f—ing horrible and I don’t need to see anything else. You can call me yellow, you can call me a lily-livered Y-d…this whole f—ing place should be blown up and the people who did it with it. How’s that for Jewish identity?”

(Now how would we call him a “lily-livered Y-d” if he weren’t a Jew?)

In the end, it seems, the real influence on Kike Like Me isn’t Michael Moore but COMMENTARY’s own Ruth Wisse. Now, I have no idea whether Kastner knows who Ruth is or has read her work. But in her passionate exploration in the recent Jews and Power of the threat posed to Jewry by its own historic passivity, and in other writings in which she has expressed her deep concern about the sentimentalization and pseudo-sacralization of the Holocaust (she has an unforgettable memoir on the subject in the upcoming issue of COMMENTARY), she has given intellectual voice to many of the concerns expressed in Kastner’s scorchingly honest and literally provocative documentary. (For those with TiVos and DVRs and a cable package that includes the Sundance Channel, it airs again on December 27 at 5 am.)

Review of Jews and Power from the September issue of COMMENTARY.
COMMENTARY Onscreen: An Interview with Ruth Wisse

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Al-Dura Raw Footage? It Doesn’t Exist.

On November 14, 2007, before a packed courtroom with an overflow of dozens left outside, a three-judge appellate court panel screened raw footage turned over by France 2/Charles Enderlin, plaintiffs in a defamation case against Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings. Convicted in October 2006 for declaring the al-Dura news report a scandalous hoax, Karsenty is conducting a vigorous counterattack that has been met with a heavy silence in France and that has repercussions in high profile international media. Throughout seven years of controversy, France 2/Enderlin had consistently refused to show the raw footage shot by France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000, the day when twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Dura allegedly was shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers.

The cameraman declared under oath three days after the incident that he had filmed, intermittently, 27 minutes of the ordeal, which lasted 45 minutes. Elsewhere, he claimed that he had filed a satellite feed of six minutes that day and subsequently turned over two full cassettes to his producers. Enderlin claimed he edited out the boy’s “agonie” (death throes), too unbearable to show.

In place of the unedited raw footage filmed that day, France 2 submitted a “certified copy” that lasted eighteen minutes. Instead of 27 minutes focused on Jamal al-Dura and his son Muhammad, the document consisted of miscellaneous scenes, three brief interviews, and less than one minute of the al Dura incident. The accusation that the “victims” were the “target of gunfire from the Israeli positions” is baseless; it does not appear. There is no crossfire, no hail of bullets, no wounds, no blood. In the final seconds that had been edited out of the France 2 broadcast, the boy whose death had just been dramatically announced lifts his elbow, shades his eyes, glances at the camera, and resumes the appropriate prone position.

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On November 14, 2007, before a packed courtroom with an overflow of dozens left outside, a three-judge appellate court panel screened raw footage turned over by France 2/Charles Enderlin, plaintiffs in a defamation case against Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings. Convicted in October 2006 for declaring the al-Dura news report a scandalous hoax, Karsenty is conducting a vigorous counterattack that has been met with a heavy silence in France and that has repercussions in high profile international media. Throughout seven years of controversy, France 2/Enderlin had consistently refused to show the raw footage shot by France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000, the day when twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Dura allegedly was shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers.

The cameraman declared under oath three days after the incident that he had filmed, intermittently, 27 minutes of the ordeal, which lasted 45 minutes. Elsewhere, he claimed that he had filed a satellite feed of six minutes that day and subsequently turned over two full cassettes to his producers. Enderlin claimed he edited out the boy’s “agonie” (death throes), too unbearable to show.

In place of the unedited raw footage filmed that day, France 2 submitted a “certified copy” that lasted eighteen minutes. Instead of 27 minutes focused on Jamal al-Dura and his son Muhammad, the document consisted of miscellaneous scenes, three brief interviews, and less than one minute of the al Dura incident. The accusation that the “victims” were the “target of gunfire from the Israeli positions” is baseless; it does not appear. There is no crossfire, no hail of bullets, no wounds, no blood. In the final seconds that had been edited out of the France 2 broadcast, the boy whose death had just been dramatically announced lifts his elbow, shades his eyes, glances at the camera, and resumes the appropriate prone position.

Reports of the boy’s death resounded in September 2000 when the “al-Aqsa intifada” was revving up. The alleged child killing inflamed the “spontaneous” rage that led to an unprecedented wave of murderous Jew hatred. Today’s resurrection of this supposed witness to Israeli incursion is not yet earth-shaking, but it has generated extensive coverage in reputable media. (My account of the screening, along with links to other sources, can be found here.)

Neither the terse Agence France Presse release nor an authentic international buzz has been able to penetrate the French media firewall. Imagine the Dan Rather incident percolating everywhere but in the United States. Imagine Dan Rather seven years after the fake memo still enthroned as reliable reporter. Above and beyond any particular harm caused by the al-Dura news report as blood libel, broad issues of media ethics are engaged. And they concern all media in the free world.

The screening of the raw footage proved that the al-Dura news report was baseless. For seven years, Charles Enderlin has claimed that the raw footage would prove, on the contrary, that the report was accurate, authentic, verified, and verifiable. And yet he was able to stand before three judges and recite a monotonous tale of intifada as the images unfolded.

Is it possible that no one remembered what was supposed to be contained in that cassette? Eighteen minutes or 27, that’s not the issue. This was supposed to be the raw footage of the al-Dura ordeal that, according to the cameraman and the boy’s father—sole living witnesses—lasted 45 minutes. Talal Abu Rahma declared under oath three days after the incident that he had been at Netzarim Junction since seven in the morning, that the incident began around 3 P.M., and that, filming intermittently “to conserve his battery,” he shot a total of 27 minutes of the terrible ordeal.

The France 2 stringer was filming all day long. The eighteen minutes screened in the Paris courtroom is not the raw footage of that day. And it is not, albeit truncated, the 27 minutes he himself unambiguously described.

While the esteemed French journalist stationed in Jerusalem may have acted in haste when he edited and broadcast the footage for prime time news that evening and distributed the news report free of charge to worldwide media, when he received the cameraman’s cassettes the next day, he had to notice the total absence of raw footage of the al-Dura scene.

In conclusion: nothing of what has been said about the incident can be seen in the 55-seconds of sole existing footage. No crossfire, no shots hitting the man or the boy, no duration of the ordeal. There is no footage to substantiate the report or the framing human interest narrative that accompanied it.

Can this be responsible journalism? Could it be so widely practiced that professionals, and particularly French media, do not consider it noteworthy? Is there no difference between a news report based on ample verifiable evidence and a news report based on an inconclusive snippet of what appears to be a clumsily staged one-minute scene? How is it possible to obtain total compliance with an unwritten law to the point that no one in French media will break ranks and give the facts about this controversial affair?

One week before the shaky Annapolis meeting, the al-Dura affair stands as a pinpoint of evidence in a vast enterprise of media sabotage. The fate of the free world hangs on our capacity to conserve a free press. Informed citizens must make life and death decisions about their own lives and the commitments of their nation.

How is it possible that a Palestinian faction (or individual or authority…we don’t know who) could produce false news and inject it directly into international media without encountering the slightest resistance, while the exposé that shows that the news report does not respect any normal journalistic criteria knocks its head against a stone wall and cannot reach the general public?

This explains the somewhat disarming passion of the al-Dura debunkers, which often works to their (our) disadvantage. The issue is burning and the flames are still spreading. They could be extinguished by intelligent international scrutiny. Perhaps this requires a brilliant strategy that has not yet been devised.

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More on al-Dura

In a brief hearing today, Appellate Court judge Laurence Trébucq read out the court order enjoining France 2 to hand over, no later than October 31, the raw footage filmed by cameraman Talal Abu Rahma on September 30 and October 1, 2000. Bénédicte Amblard, representing France 2, confirmed her client’s intention to comply. This confirms the request announced at the September 19 hearing of Philippe Karsenty’s appeal of his October 2006 conviction for defamation against France 2 and Charles Enderlin in the “al-Dura affair.” In the absence of mention of a huis clos, it is assumed that the November 14 hearing will be open to the public. An overflow crowd is expected.

This court order, which would seem perfectly reasonable to someone acquainted with the United States legal system, apparently is unprecedented in France. In fact, if the October 2006 defamation suit had been brought in an American court, the defendant’s lawyer certainly would have asked to examine the outtakes. (“Discovery” as we know it does not exist in French law. The burden of proof in a defamation case rests on the defendant.) The court of first resort had ruled that Karsenty’s public accusation of France 2 and Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin, on his watchdog site Media-Ratings, was not based on a serious investigation of the facts. Further, the court discredited Karsenty’s arguments, “drawn from a single source—Metula News Agency.” The irony of this judgment is that Charles Enderlin relied on a single source—Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma—for the report of Muhammad al-Dura’s “death,” and failed to investigate the report after he received the raw footage, which contradicts the sworn testimony of the cameraman.

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In a brief hearing today, Appellate Court judge Laurence Trébucq read out the court order enjoining France 2 to hand over, no later than October 31, the raw footage filmed by cameraman Talal Abu Rahma on September 30 and October 1, 2000. Bénédicte Amblard, representing France 2, confirmed her client’s intention to comply. This confirms the request announced at the September 19 hearing of Philippe Karsenty’s appeal of his October 2006 conviction for defamation against France 2 and Charles Enderlin in the “al-Dura affair.” In the absence of mention of a huis clos, it is assumed that the November 14 hearing will be open to the public. An overflow crowd is expected.

This court order, which would seem perfectly reasonable to someone acquainted with the United States legal system, apparently is unprecedented in France. In fact, if the October 2006 defamation suit had been brought in an American court, the defendant’s lawyer certainly would have asked to examine the outtakes. (“Discovery” as we know it does not exist in French law. The burden of proof in a defamation case rests on the defendant.) The court of first resort had ruled that Karsenty’s public accusation of France 2 and Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin, on his watchdog site Media-Ratings, was not based on a serious investigation of the facts. Further, the court discredited Karsenty’s arguments, “drawn from a single source—Metula News Agency.” The irony of this judgment is that Charles Enderlin relied on a single source—Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma—for the report of Muhammad al-Dura’s “death,” and failed to investigate the report after he received the raw footage, which contradicts the sworn testimony of the cameraman.

As for the “single source,” all investigators and analysts working over the past seven years to unearth the truth about the al-Dura affair have drawn on documentation collected and developed by Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf. The mass of documentation, analysis, and reasoned argumentation subsequently accumulated would fill several books in several languages. On the other hand, France 2 and Charles Enderlin are still presenting the same flimsy arguments used ever since the report was aired, immediately provoking serious inquiry from many quarters. It should be noted that CNN rejected the al-Dura report proposed by Abu Rahma on September 30.

Skeptical readers of this blog suggest that even if the truth about the al-Dura report fully and convincingly were to be exposed, that would not change the underlying story or the attitudes the report has fostered. Beyond the realistic assessment of the enormous difficulties facing those who would reveal a giant media lie, stands our hope that democratic societies can demand a minimum of integrity from the journalists who claim to inform us. Recent developments in the al-Dura affair should encourage us to persevere.

French mainstream media do not even want to admit they know about this turn of events in the al-Dura affair. But Charles Enderlin whistles in the dark on his France 2 blog. “Finally,” he exclaims, “the raw footage will be projected…” and, he hopes, his critics will be silenced.

We shall see…

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The al-Dura Hoax

Daniel Seaman, chairman of Israel’s Government Press Office, declared today that the al-Dura news report was staged. This was the report filmed on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip by a Palestinian cameraman employed by state-owned French channel France 2, which purported to show the death of a Palestinian boy at the hands of the Israeli army. The news broke in the Israeli media this morning, is spreading in the United States, but has not pierced the firewall of mainstream media in France.

In the voice-over to the footage, France 2 Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin dramatically described the “death” of the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, “target of gunfire from the Israeli position.” The 55-second video was immediately broadcast worldwide and assimilated by unsuspecting viewers. It functioned as a blood libel, justifying atrocities against Israelis and Jews.

For seven years investigators and analysts have labored relentlessly to counter that unfounded accusation. For seven years Charles Enderlin and France 2, protected by the Chirac government and upheld by mainstream media, have stifled criticism and discredited these investigators. The Israeli government, pursuing a “let sleeping dogs lie” policy, discouraged efforts to expose the hoax. Jewish organizations shied away from the controversy.

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Daniel Seaman, chairman of Israel’s Government Press Office, declared today that the al-Dura news report was staged. This was the report filmed on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip by a Palestinian cameraman employed by state-owned French channel France 2, which purported to show the death of a Palestinian boy at the hands of the Israeli army. The news broke in the Israeli media this morning, is spreading in the United States, but has not pierced the firewall of mainstream media in France.

In the voice-over to the footage, France 2 Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin dramatically described the “death” of the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, “target of gunfire from the Israeli position.” The 55-second video was immediately broadcast worldwide and assimilated by unsuspecting viewers. It functioned as a blood libel, justifying atrocities against Israelis and Jews.

For seven years investigators and analysts have labored relentlessly to counter that unfounded accusation. For seven years Charles Enderlin and France 2, protected by the Chirac government and upheld by mainstream media, have stifled criticism and discredited these investigators. The Israeli government, pursuing a “let sleeping dogs lie” policy, discouraged efforts to expose the hoax. Jewish organizations shied away from the controversy.

The al-Dura affair is a smudge on the face of coverage of the “Middle East conflict”; every attempt to wipe it away spreads and deepens the stain. In 2005, France 2 and Enderlin, apparently confident that they could wipe away the smudge, brought defamation lawsuits against three French-based websites that had posted material questioning the authenticity of the al-Dura video. The cases were heard in the autumn and winter of 2006-2007. France 2 lost one on a technicality, and won the other two. Suddenly mainstream media in France discovered the affair . . . long enough to report that the al-Dura scene was not staged!

But one of the defendants, Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings, appealed his conviction and has achieved a major victory—the Appellate Court asked France 2 to produce the 27 minutes of raw footage from which the 55-second “news” video was excerpted. If France 2 has not turned over the document by tomorrow, the Court will order them to do so. The raw footage will be projected at a hearing scheduled for November 14, and the case will be heard in full on February 27, 2008.

The Palestinian cameraman, Tala Abu Rahma, testified under oath that Muhammad al-Dura and his father Jamal were pinned down by uninterrupted gunfire from the Israeli position for 45 minutes. Rahma claims he filmed the incident off and on from beginning to end for a total of 27 minutes, from which Charles Enderlin excerpted 55 seconds for the news report. Enderlin, backed by his hierarchy, insists that the raw footage confirms the authenticity of the news report . . . but has refused to make it available for public scrutiny.

Four reliable witnesses who have viewed the footage testify that it is composed of staged scenes, faked injuries, and falsified ambulance evacuations. There are no images of the al-Duras.

If the raw footage is projected in the courtroom, the battle will be half won, no matter how the court rules on Karsenty’s appeal. If a dozen world-class journalists attend the November 14 hearing, the al-Dura affair will be brought out of its dark alley and into the agora of democratic societies, where it should receive its final judgment.

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