The following article was published two years ago in Hebrew in Makor Risho, in English on the site of Israel Hasbara Committee. The IHC version had been edited. Badly. Nidra has restored the original version and I am running it here, unedited. This is the first time this piece has appeared in English.
BLOOD LIBEL INTERNATIONAL
How many times over how many centuries have Jews been killed by murderous mobs inflamed by the accusation of blood libel? Christian children who had died of natural causes were held up for the crowd to see, and then the real blood flowed, Jewish blood. The pogroms are a matter of historical fact. And the Christian children murdered by Jews? How many of these accusations were based on the truth? We can fairly reply without further research: none.
Then how are we to explain the indelible quality of the Mohamed Al-Dura international blood libel accusation? And how can we dare to underestimate its power to motivate a new type of worldwide pogrom, a new wave of jihad against the Jews? A jihad that, if it is not stopped in its tracks, could put the Shoah to shame! Irony of ironies, people who have taken the pains to study and analyze all available evidence and present the results of this research for public scrutiny are labeled “revisionists.”
Let us put it simply: at the dawn of the 21st century, television audiences in the entire world were convinced by a crudely concocted fictional death scene instantly transformed into the founding myth of the so-called Al Aqsa Intifada. Global village indeed! Global shtetl, in fact.
One is hard put to know where to begin. An avalanche of questions hurtles down the sharp peak from myth to reality, carrying millions in its wake: they would rather be buried than face such immense doubt. They would prefer to believe there is no way of knowing the truth than to withdraw the emotional investment provoked by their initial reaction to the scene. They do not want to wade through the factual evidence, picking over small details, comparing conflicting testimony, discerning discrepancies; they will not dare to stand up against a mountain of belief.
The child “died in his father’s arms.” So what if the image contradicts the belief induced by the France 2 journalist’s voice-over commentary? He died in the arms of his father who tried frantically to shelter him. It would seem considered heartless to point out that the image shows no such thing. Clearly visible details contradict features discernible only to the believing eye: the blood soaked t-shirt, the fatal moment captured live, the father’s frantic appeals--in the wrong direction--to stop the shooting. Even before examining discrepancies in testimony by people directly involved in the incident, we must admit that the emblematic image imprinted on the collective mind contradicts the myth it sustains.
The death—real or fictional—of Mohamed Al-Dura is an accusation against Israel, against the Jews.
If the truth could be chosen, if one could choose the truth in the Al-Dura affair, what would be the best truth? That the “death scene” displayed before the eyes of the world is a fiction and the child, as seen in the film, was not shot and killed. It doesn’t matter if we cannot find him and bring him back to take a bow on the world stage, offering catharsis, ushering in a new era of peace and harmony. The human best truth is that this child was not killed before our eyes, was not killed at all.
If, as it would seem, the organizers of the “intifada” or more precisely the latest phase in the ongoing jihad against Israel, created and distributed the myth of the child murdered in cold blood by Israeli soldiers, that can be repaired. If all’s fair in love and war, meaning all is unfair, peace can be pieced together. If the child is dead, the loss is irreparable. If he is alive, that’s good news.
Why does this possible good news provoke reactions shading from disdainful skepticism to vicious hostility? The refined intelligence searches for truth without arbitrarily excluding potentially valid hypotheses. Honest research is impossible when alternative hypotheses are previously hooked up to ideological poles erected at opposite extremes like goals on a football field. The truth lies ahead on a road that cannot be traced in advance. It isn’t a football disputed by two teams.
For what could be broadly described as the Arab/Muslim/antiZionist team the truth is undeniable: Mohamed Al-Dura was killed in cold blood by brutal Israeli soldiers. And in fact the role of the soldier implied in the soft version distributed worldwide is made explicit in the hard version peddled to this day in the Muslim world: the image of an Israeli soldier aiming at the Palestinian boy is spliced into the Al Dura scene. Western viewers who have never seen Palestinian propaganda films will be surprised to discover how similar they are to the Al Dura film: same crude style, same amateur acting, same slipshod directing. According to the football game version of the truth the position defended in Contre-expertise--the death scene is a fiction--is necessarily at the opposite extreme from the hard version--the child was killed in cold blood by Israeli soldiers. Two extremes to be avoided by the discerning mind.
Which leaves us in the crossfire. The child was killed by accident, by Palestinian gunmen? If this is the truth, it’s worthless. No one knows what really happened, there is no way of ever knowing? Again, worthless. Mohamed Al Dura cannot be the founding myth of the “intifada” unless he was deliberately killed by Israeli soldiers.
This explains, at least partially, the ambiguity entertained by those who brought the myth into the world and those who need it to sustain a movement, which is not finished but only just begun.
We must not forget that the Al-Dura image is a Palestinian creation backed up by French credibility. According to the news report spread around the world with the speed of light, a French cameraman filmed the incident (which he claims lasted 45 minutes) as the child was felled by Israeli bullets. In the reportage offered free of charge to all the world’s television, the cameraman’s evidence is corroborated by a voice-over from the France2 Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin speaking as if he were on the spot (he was in Ramallah). In fact the “French” cameraman is a Palestinian stringer named Talal Abu Rahma. His sworn testimony presented to the Palestine Human Rights Commission is still available on sites such as www.solidarité-palestine.org where his detailed account of the incident is posted under the headline “Mohammed Al-Durreh was murdered deliberately, in cold blood.” Abu Rahma’s extensive description of the events is illustrated with the famous pictures of father & son crouched behind the concrete “barrel,” and authenticated by his credentials as an experienced journalist working for France2 and CNN. His unambiguous assertion that the shots that killed the boy and wounded his father could only have come from the Israeli position stands as gospel truth for millions who would never believe a word that could contradict it, not even when the contradiction is written and signed by the very same Talal Abu Rahma in a fax addressed to the France2 Jerusalem news desk on 28 September 2002: “I never said to the Palestinian Human Rights organization in Gaza that the Israeli soldiers killed willfully or knowingly Mohamed Al Dura, and wounded his father….”
As James Fallows observed in his Atlantic Monthly (June 2003) article, Who shot Mohamed Al-Dura? the same image is functioning on radically different levels in different regions of the international community.
So where does the French public stand on this continuum? Curiously enough, this French society that prides itself on the finesse of its cinéma d’auteur while demeaning lowbrow glitzy Hollywood products has swallowed the Al Dura film with uncritical candor. In an obvious attempt to deflect attention from the French peacenik foreign policy fiasco, America bashing took to gasps and tut tuts over the biased American media manipulated by a dictatorial warmongering government. French media, you understand, would never stoop so low. In a world of sordid self-interest and backroom deals France has elected itself to a permanent seat on the higher plane. Did France not show its valor in opposing the heartless war machine of the hyperpuissance? Does France not stand, alone if necessary, for a just solution to the Middle East crisis?
There is no Mohamed Al Dura affair in France! It is an open and shut case. Charles Enderlin, the journalist who brought the Mohamed Al Dura image to the world’s screens, always has the last word in the French press. Interviewed by the lightweight weekend magazine VSD (N° 1344: 52) after he was awarded the Peabody prize for the English language version of Le Rêve brisé, Charles Enderlin was asked:
VSD: How did you feel when you were accused of misinformation on the death of Mohamed al-Dura before the cameras on 30 September 2000?
Charles Enderlin: It's defamation, propagated by extreme right organizations that pretend the scene was staged. The Israeli army never investigated. We suggested they contact us to get the rushes, but no request was presented to our legal service. Since that time France2 and I have filed 4 lawsuits in Paris.
(See www.menapress.com info # 012905 for a full reply to the above)
None of the alleged lawsuits ever reached Gérard Huber or any other person involved in this investigation!
When the subject was raised in whispers on a television program called Campus, Libération journalist Hatzfeld shrugged it off with "nous assumons le dérapage," which freely translated means okay it was a fiction film, so what? We might call this media libertinisme. Everyone’s doing it so what’s the big deal? Maybe so.
But it is legitimate to ask why the Al Dura affair is such a big deal in the United States? David Kupelian’s in-depth investigation (Whistleblower March 2003) and the abridged version posted on WorldNetDaily circulated widely. Fallows’ Atlantic Monthly piece has attracted attention in all quarters. It is reasonable to expect that TV stations unwittingly involved in broadcasting the myth will come into the fray.
And, further, one can ask whether French-speaking people have been given a chance to decide for themselves, since the issue has never been openly treated in the French media and, we might add, not even in French Jewish media. Contre-expertise, a serious, solidly documented study of the Al-Dura case, published in January 2003, has met with dismissive silence. Total refusal to consider the evidence and respond to the arguments is coupled with a pernicious smear campaign against the author Gérard Huber--labeled “right wing extremist”--and assorted supportive individuals, associations, and news agencies bunched together in an anonymous mass and accused of being unconditional supporters of Sharon, Likud fellow travelers, dangerous members of the Betar, etc.
There is no need for a conspiracy against those who suggest that the Al Dura story is weighted with too many discrepancies to float undisturbed in the upper atmosphere of journalistic reliability; the defensive reaction draws on ingrained attitudes and habits of thought. The reaction of contemptuous silence is eating away at the French media culture and making serious inroads into French democracy. Because of course the Al-Dura affair is not an isolated incident; it is an essential element in a troubling climate of antisemitism cloaked in antizionism. The distress of French Jewry is no secret to anyone…but the French. In the same way that the media cannot dare to ask if Mohamed Al Dura is alive and well and living somewhere, French society cannot ask what French Jews are complaining about. And this is leading to ever more complicated contortions and variations on the theme of “don’t we have the right to criticize the government of Ariel Sharon without being accused of antisemitism?” Of course the answer is yes. But the corollary is not heard: if criticism supposedly directed against the Israeli government is constantly translated into acts of aggression against French Jews is this not evidence of the underlying antisemitism that motivates this “criticism”?
The false accusation of ritual murder has led to the real murder and mutilation of thousands of victims…with no real end in sight. Israeli children murdered in their beds, homes, streets, schools, playgrounds, cars, restaurants. Palestinian children killed accidentally in actions aimed at terrorists embedded in the population; children foolishly throwing stones at soldiers and tanks and taking the fire directed at killers hiding behind them; children roped into blowing themselves up in terrorist bombings; a whole generation of the living dead, children with no model but suicide, no hope, no future. Demystifying the Al Dura myth could help to roll back this culture of suicide.
Whatever provisions might be made and eventually respected in this road map or that peace process, no plan for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine—between Jews and Muslims--can succeed if it does not include an end to the incitement to murder Jews. Which is more degrading? To pursue the incitement and make peace impossible, or to renounce jihad and build new relations based on mutual respect? It takes courage to dismantle the emblematic myth of this “Intifada,” but we believe that the hope generated by such a gesture is no less crucial than the hope of political autonomy.
In today’s “we are not anti-Semitic” France, Jews are called to task from morning to night, from right to left, from a vulgar-to-sophisticated wide spectrum of commentators, and summoned to answer for a century’s hit parade of crimes attributed to the “Hebrew state”: genocide, apartheid, occupation, colonialism, crimes against humanity, war crimes.Certainly the death of Mohamed Al-Dura is in the top ten of this hit parade. It is the knot that holds together the intricate enterprise of deligitimization of Israel, denied the right of self-defense against attacks perpetrated with the ultimate aim of extermination. It is the beginning, or the fake beginning, of this “intifada.” The “provocation of Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount” has already been deflated. The Al Dura myth will not resist much longer. This leaves the atrocious murder of two Israeli reservists in a Ramallah police station as the real first bloody horror of this conflict.
In questioning the authenticity of the claim that a Palestinian child was killed in cold blood—or by accident--by Israeli soldiers—or Palestinian gunmen--at the Netzarim crossing on 3o September 2000 we are not seeking to whitewash Israel, to save face, to cover crimes in order to have a free hand to pursue a criminal project. We are simply showing that the image of the “death scene” does not stand up to unbiased examination. Then why should it be left standing?
Dateline Gaza, 11 October 2000, 11 days after the alleged death of the Palestinian child and one day before the bloody mob murder of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah: Le Monde, France’s newspaper of record, publishes a full-page article signed Gilles Paris--Mohamad, a simple child from Gaza. A tour de force of narrative journalism studded with endless details of local color that place the reader in the heart of the tragedy --the stairway, the metal door, chirping birds in cages, plastic chairs for condolence visitors. The child in the article is named Mohamad El Dirah, the woman identified as his mother is known today as his stepmother, the shoulder injury sustained by her husband Jamal in the France2 news report has turned into an unspecified injury that will cause him to limp for the rest of his life. The mother comments “I know that martyrdom is the best way to die but I doubt that it will change anything….when it comes to international negotiations.”
The Gilles Paris article, twisted with wilful bias stitched into every word and dripping in gooey pathos that curdles into anti-Israeli poison, is a stunning demonstration of the confused and contradictory gospels built up around the Al Dura legend and glibly presented as factual reporting. Why quibble about the discrepancies when the point is that Mohamad, “the martyr of Al Aqsa….an ordinary child who loved birds…” is dead.
But what if he isn’t dead? If the death scene is a fiction film then where did the Le Monde journalist draw such vivid details for his human interest story? How did he pump such convincing authenticity into these tales embroidered on a myth?
Mohamad’s older brother Iyad remembers a marvellous trip to Jaffa with their father, the only time he and Mohamad had ever left Gaza. Compared to Gaza, Jaffa is a “paradise.” Iyad would love go there again. But, writes Gilles Paris, “he will never go to Tel Aviv. ‘Because there are many Jews there and it’s the Jews who killed my brother,’ says Iyad calmly.” And Gilles Paris adds, as if the words fell from heaven, “It’s perfectly clear.”
For example the “rape” scene reproduced in Pierre Rehov’s Contre-Champs video Israel and the War of Images. Palestinians dressed as Israeli soldiers rape a Palestinian woman and slit her husband’s throat. The scene is so grotesque that it is limited to domestic distribution. But French journalist Sara Daniel made the no less grotesque claim in a Nouvel Observateur article that Israeli soldiers deliberately rape Palestinian women so they will fall victim to honor killings.