Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dura

The Crisis of Israeli Crisis-Management

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

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Dubai Does PR Right

It’s always funny to hear people talk about Zionist manipulation of the media, because the truth of the matter is that there’s hardly anything I can think of that the Zionists are more incompetent at. I wish the Zionists were manipulating the media. Israel vs. the media generally has the feel of the Washington Generals vs. the Harlem Globetrotters.

An example of a government doing a skillful job of using the media is on display in the case of the assassinated Hamas agent in Dubai. The Dubai police quickly and efficiently tracked down video footage of the (alleged) hit team, assembled the clips to show the progression of the team through passport control, into the hotel, in the hallway outside the target’s room, and so on. This video was narrated in English, broadcast on the local news, and then uploaded to YouTube for the entire world to see.

I think it’s great news that a senior member of Hamas has been knocked off, and I congratulate whomever did it for their courage and intrepidity. But it’s understandable that the Dubai authorities aren’t pleased that it happened on their soil, and so they’re doing their best to expose the assassins.

Now imagine if the Israeli government had shown the same speed, efficiency, and common sense in getting information out to the world about, say, a headline-making Arab claim that the IDF had committed an atrocity (pick one among dozens: the Al-Dura affair, the Gaza beach explosion, the “Jenin massacre,” or any number of incidents from the Lebanon and Gaza wars).

The relevant officials would start by not reflexively apologizing; then they would quickly determine what happened; put together a short video presentation, with English narration; complete said presentation while the story was still in the headlines — in days, not weeks, months, or years later; and get it online and sent to journalists and bloggers around the world.

The Dubai authorities did this on the fly in a one-off crisis. The Israeli authorities have been dealing with crises on a constant basis for decades, and they still can’t put something like this together, even when they have months to prepare. Has anyone seen the slightest effort by the Israelis to discredit, say, the Goldstone Report in a way that is accessible and relevant to ordinary people? (Ordinary people don’t read 1,000-page documents.) I sure haven’t, and they’ve had a year to work on it.

It’s always funny to hear people talk about Zionist manipulation of the media, because the truth of the matter is that there’s hardly anything I can think of that the Zionists are more incompetent at. I wish the Zionists were manipulating the media. Israel vs. the media generally has the feel of the Washington Generals vs. the Harlem Globetrotters.

An example of a government doing a skillful job of using the media is on display in the case of the assassinated Hamas agent in Dubai. The Dubai police quickly and efficiently tracked down video footage of the (alleged) hit team, assembled the clips to show the progression of the team through passport control, into the hotel, in the hallway outside the target’s room, and so on. This video was narrated in English, broadcast on the local news, and then uploaded to YouTube for the entire world to see.

I think it’s great news that a senior member of Hamas has been knocked off, and I congratulate whomever did it for their courage and intrepidity. But it’s understandable that the Dubai authorities aren’t pleased that it happened on their soil, and so they’re doing their best to expose the assassins.

Now imagine if the Israeli government had shown the same speed, efficiency, and common sense in getting information out to the world about, say, a headline-making Arab claim that the IDF had committed an atrocity (pick one among dozens: the Al-Dura affair, the Gaza beach explosion, the “Jenin massacre,” or any number of incidents from the Lebanon and Gaza wars).

The relevant officials would start by not reflexively apologizing; then they would quickly determine what happened; put together a short video presentation, with English narration; complete said presentation while the story was still in the headlines — in days, not weeks, months, or years later; and get it online and sent to journalists and bloggers around the world.

The Dubai authorities did this on the fly in a one-off crisis. The Israeli authorities have been dealing with crises on a constant basis for decades, and they still can’t put something like this together, even when they have months to prepare. Has anyone seen the slightest effort by the Israelis to discredit, say, the Goldstone Report in a way that is accessible and relevant to ordinary people? (Ordinary people don’t read 1,000-page documents.) I sure haven’t, and they’ve had a year to work on it.

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Better Late than Never?

This week offered two milestones in the history of the Palestinian media war against Israel. Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, publicly apologized for an editorial run in 2002 which declared that the Israeli operation in the Jenin refugee camp was “every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.” The Jenin operation, it will be recalled, was originally dubbed a “massacre” by the Palestinians and much of the Western world, but later was revealed to have been one of the most careful operations in the history of urban warfare, fighting house-to-house in the most entrenched terrorist wasp nest in the Palestinian areas, taking unprecedented risks to their own forces to avoid civilian casualties.

Second, an independent ballistics expert testified to a French court that the Mohammed Al-Dura could not possibly have been shot by Israeli forces. The incident in 2000, in which film footage showed what appeared to be a Palestinian child being shot to death by the IDF, became a rallying cry for the second intifada, yet serious evidence later emerged suggesting that the entire film was staged.

There is something tiresome about all this. If the Palestinian cause is so righteous, why do its proponents need to fabricate so much? One would hope that the Western media would learn to double-check itself, or at least that some kind of organic, internet-based mechanism would emerge to keep them in check. Oh wait: That’s us.

This week offered two milestones in the history of the Palestinian media war against Israel. Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, publicly apologized for an editorial run in 2002 which declared that the Israeli operation in the Jenin refugee camp was “every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.” The Jenin operation, it will be recalled, was originally dubbed a “massacre” by the Palestinians and much of the Western world, but later was revealed to have been one of the most careful operations in the history of urban warfare, fighting house-to-house in the most entrenched terrorist wasp nest in the Palestinian areas, taking unprecedented risks to their own forces to avoid civilian casualties.

Second, an independent ballistics expert testified to a French court that the Mohammed Al-Dura could not possibly have been shot by Israeli forces. The incident in 2000, in which film footage showed what appeared to be a Palestinian child being shot to death by the IDF, became a rallying cry for the second intifada, yet serious evidence later emerged suggesting that the entire film was staged.

There is something tiresome about all this. If the Palestinian cause is so righteous, why do its proponents need to fabricate so much? One would hope that the Western media would learn to double-check itself, or at least that some kind of organic, internet-based mechanism would emerge to keep them in check. Oh wait: That’s us.

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Bloody Lies!

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

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Sahwa

Michael Howard has a fascinating story in today’s Guardian. In his piece, Howard profiles Muhammad Rafiq (not the man’s real name):

Muhammad is one of the thousands of young Baghdadi men to have joined neighbourhood security groups, which have mushroomed over the last year and are a crucial factor in the dramatic decline in civilian deaths. U.S. soldiers call them “concerned local citizens”; Iraqis just call them sahwa (awakening) after the so-called Anbar awakening in western Iraq, which has seen Sunni tribal sheikhs take on foreign-led Islamists. There are now an estimated 72,000 members in some 300 groups set up in twelve of Iraq’s eighteen provinces, and the numbers are growing. They are funded, but supposedly not armed, by the U.S. military. “It is Iraq’s own surge,” said a western diplomat, “and it is certainly making a difference.”

It is a moving story about the reconciliation that is taking place in a nation that was traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s 35-year Reign of Terror, and the chaos and bloodshed that followed in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We grew tired and angry about the killing, and so decided to act,” according to Muhammad. “Muhammad, a Sunni Arab, and his Shia colleagues in the neighbourhood watch group are determined to reverse the ethnic cleansing,” according to Howard.

This story is anecdotal evidence of two important trends: Iraqis are increasingly taking back their streets, and the Petraeus Plan is allowing political progress and reconciliation to take place from the bottom up. Critics of the war who insist that the surge has “only” shown progress on the security side are quite wrong. The success in pacifying Iraq is, in fact, allowing many other good things to take place.

Howard’s story comes during a week in which Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of the Multinational Division Baghdad and 1st Cavalry Division, reports that attacks against citizens in Baghdad have dropped almost 80 percent since November 2006, murders in Baghdad province have decreased 90 percent since November 2006, vehicle-borne IED incidents have declined approximately 70 percent since November 2006, and more than 500 shops are now open in the Dura Market in southern Baghdad, compared to less than a handful in January 2007. “Commerce has returned to many of the marketplaces in Baghdad,” Fil reports, “and many Iraqis now can shop without fearing for their lives.”

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Michael Howard has a fascinating story in today’s Guardian. In his piece, Howard profiles Muhammad Rafiq (not the man’s real name):

Muhammad is one of the thousands of young Baghdadi men to have joined neighbourhood security groups, which have mushroomed over the last year and are a crucial factor in the dramatic decline in civilian deaths. U.S. soldiers call them “concerned local citizens”; Iraqis just call them sahwa (awakening) after the so-called Anbar awakening in western Iraq, which has seen Sunni tribal sheikhs take on foreign-led Islamists. There are now an estimated 72,000 members in some 300 groups set up in twelve of Iraq’s eighteen provinces, and the numbers are growing. They are funded, but supposedly not armed, by the U.S. military. “It is Iraq’s own surge,” said a western diplomat, “and it is certainly making a difference.”

It is a moving story about the reconciliation that is taking place in a nation that was traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s 35-year Reign of Terror, and the chaos and bloodshed that followed in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We grew tired and angry about the killing, and so decided to act,” according to Muhammad. “Muhammad, a Sunni Arab, and his Shia colleagues in the neighbourhood watch group are determined to reverse the ethnic cleansing,” according to Howard.

This story is anecdotal evidence of two important trends: Iraqis are increasingly taking back their streets, and the Petraeus Plan is allowing political progress and reconciliation to take place from the bottom up. Critics of the war who insist that the surge has “only” shown progress on the security side are quite wrong. The success in pacifying Iraq is, in fact, allowing many other good things to take place.

Howard’s story comes during a week in which Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of the Multinational Division Baghdad and 1st Cavalry Division, reports that attacks against citizens in Baghdad have dropped almost 80 percent since November 2006, murders in Baghdad province have decreased 90 percent since November 2006, vehicle-borne IED incidents have declined approximately 70 percent since November 2006, and more than 500 shops are now open in the Dura Market in southern Baghdad, compared to less than a handful in January 2007. “Commerce has returned to many of the marketplaces in Baghdad,” Fil reports, “and many Iraqis now can shop without fearing for their lives.”

As we reach the end of the year, there are many things for which we can (collectively) be grateful. Right at the top has to be the progress we’ve seen in Iraq in 2007. The situation remains fragile and the challenges there are enormous. The United States liberated a broken nation, and we lost crucial years while pursuing the wrong counterinsurgency strategy. Yet with all the appropriate caveats in place, we can still say the gains we have seen since the surge began earlier this year are staggering. A nation that was in a death spiral a year ago is reconstituting itself. Al Qaeda has absorbed tremendous punishment and is now scattered and on the run (if still lethal). Iraqis are now siding, in huge numbers, with a Western, “occupying” power in an effort to defeat Islamic militants. And, according to recent data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, much of the rest of the Arab world is turning against bin Ladenism (in Lebanon, for example, 34 percent of Muslims say suicide bombings in the defense of Islam are often or sometimes justified; in 2002 – pre-Iraq war—74 percent expressed this view). And what seemed almost impossible a year ago now seems within reach. If we prevail in Iraq, the United States will have done so on a battlefield chosen by our enemies. And if we do, the war in Iraq—for all the cost in blood and treasure—will be seen as a key, and maybe even a decisive, moment in the war against militant Islam.

We’re not there yet. But we’re much closer than we were a year ago.

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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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Hands Off My DNA

The Saintly Brigades of France have found their cause célèbre: DNA tests for immigrants who want to be reunited with their families. The Opposition—ranging from the Centrist François Bayrou to the Socialist Ségolène Royal to the hard leftist Olivier Besançenot—fumbled every opportunity to grasp a Big Issue during last year’s presidential campaign and the first six months of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential term. Now they have it! A moral issue of gigantic proportions: the UMP-dominated legislature is about to pass an immigration law that would allow immigrants lacking reliable documents to prove filiation by way of DNA tests and expedite reunification with their minor children.

Brushing aside practical considerations—eleven European countries are already using the tests as recommended in a 2003 EU directive—the Brigades are playing on the symbolic value of DNA to raise immigrants to the pinnacle of victimhood. The Brigades’ reasoning goes something like this: since the Nazis classified Jews by genetic quotients from 10 to 100 percent, touching an immigrant’s DNA is equivalent to sending him/her to Auschwitz.

Charlie Hebdo, the pornographic satirical weekly that earned hero’s stripes for publishing the Muhammad cartoons, is at the forefront of the anti-DNA campaign. Editorial director Philippe Val, who defended the freedom to insult the prophet of Islam, is now defending immigrants against the ill-concealed genocidal intentions of the Sarkozy government. (Sarkozy is, himself, a first generation immigrant on his father’s side, and second generation on his mother’s side.) A petition launched by Charlie Hebdo has garnered 200,000-plus signatories, including high profile figures from the Right alongside Sarkozy’s bitterly disappointed rival, Dominique de Villepin.

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The Saintly Brigades of France have found their cause célèbre: DNA tests for immigrants who want to be reunited with their families. The Opposition—ranging from the Centrist François Bayrou to the Socialist Ségolène Royal to the hard leftist Olivier Besançenot—fumbled every opportunity to grasp a Big Issue during last year’s presidential campaign and the first six months of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential term. Now they have it! A moral issue of gigantic proportions: the UMP-dominated legislature is about to pass an immigration law that would allow immigrants lacking reliable documents to prove filiation by way of DNA tests and expedite reunification with their minor children.

Brushing aside practical considerations—eleven European countries are already using the tests as recommended in a 2003 EU directive—the Brigades are playing on the symbolic value of DNA to raise immigrants to the pinnacle of victimhood. The Brigades’ reasoning goes something like this: since the Nazis classified Jews by genetic quotients from 10 to 100 percent, touching an immigrant’s DNA is equivalent to sending him/her to Auschwitz.

Charlie Hebdo, the pornographic satirical weekly that earned hero’s stripes for publishing the Muhammad cartoons, is at the forefront of the anti-DNA campaign. Editorial director Philippe Val, who defended the freedom to insult the prophet of Islam, is now defending immigrants against the ill-concealed genocidal intentions of the Sarkozy government. (Sarkozy is, himself, a first generation immigrant on his father’s side, and second generation on his mother’s side.) A petition launched by Charlie Hebdo has garnered 200,000-plus signatories, including high profile figures from the Right alongside Sarkozy’s bitterly disappointed rival, Dominique de Villepin.

Since Sarkozy began to deliver on his promise to make French immigration policy more selective, pro-immigration forces have exploited the vocabulary of Vichy collaboration. Meanwhile, commando associations intervene to prevent deportation of illegals; instigate in your face operations like parachuting tents, filled with aggressive mal logés [ill-housed], into a side street at the stock exchange; and accuse the government of pushing illegals to acts of desperation. Drawing on the vocabulary of the 1930’s and 1940’s, pro-immigration forces accuse the government of organizing “rafles [sweeps],” the word used to describe mass roundups of French Jews. Citizens and policemen are urged to resist, and reminded in no uncertain terms that this time they will not be able to say they didn’t know.

French media, thrilled with this juicy bone of contention, have extended a friendly microphone to virulent critics of the bill, which is misleadingly identified as “DNA testing for immigrants.” The height of frenzy was reached when PM François Fillon publicly criticized the undue attention focused on one detail of a broad immigration bill. “Detail”? How dare he use the word “detail”?!? He knows perfectly well that Jean-Marie Le Pen (leader of the near-defunct Front National) said the concentration camps were a “detail” of World War II.

This trivial brouhaha is monopolizing public debate, while a French court raises serious doubts about the veracity of the al-Dura “news report,” produced and broadcast by state-owned French television in September 2000. The al-Dura blood libel doesn’t interest the Saintly Brigades and their cheerleading media, who have transferred the symbols of the Shoah to immigrants. Ironically, it is often immigrants to France who perpetuate the culture of violence against Jews. There is no DNA testing to screen for that!

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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.

Read More

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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