No doubt about it - Phillippe Karsenty and his allies have a lot of evidence that the killing of Mohammed al-Dura was a hoax, that it was staged by France 2 TV in cahoots with the Palestinians.
In fact, Karsenty, Richard Landes and the rest of the conspiracy theorists have so much evidence that it may even add up to .001% of the evidence that the Mafia, or Castro, or the Pentagon killed JFK. They may have the merest, slightest fraction of the evidence there is that Shimon Peres masterminded the Rabin assassination, or that the Mossad was behind 9/11.
In other words, it's a bunch of crap, all these theories that say journalist Charles Enderlin, his Palestinian cameraman, al-Dura's father, a hospital in Gaza, a hospital in Amman, the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, the UN, the Palestinian people and/or any number of other anti-Semites conspired to stage the killing of that 11-year-old boy.
And this is the most cautious of the theories - that some or all of the above framed the IDF for killing al-Dura in a shootout in Gaza at the start of the intifada, when they knew he was really killed by Palestinian gunmen. A more adventurous theory has it that the Palestinians - including al-Dura's father, who was shot trying to protect him - deliberately killed Mohammed so they could pin it on the IDF and create an intifada martyr. Probably the most exotic theory, the one that appeals most to the conspiracy-monger's turn of mind, is that al-Dura was never killed at all, that he's walking around somewhere today. Like Elvis, or Hitler.
The killing of Mohammed al-Dura and wounding of his father at Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000 drove the Arabs crazy - and it's driven the Jews crazy as well. There are all sorts of paranoid, lurid ideas floating around the Jewish blogosphere, a free-flowing demonization of the foreign media (not to mention the Palestinians), while the so-called sane Jewish community won't say a word against it. It's seeped into the mainstream, into Israeli officialdom. Daniel Seaman, director of the Government Press Office, lent the campaign credence last year when he spoke of the "myth" surrounding Mohammed al-Dura and the "blood libel" against Israel. Yom Tov Samia, the IDF general in charge of Gaza at the start of the intifada, engaged two confirmed conspiracy freaks, neither of them a ballistics expert, to investigate the shooting.
MEANWHILE, KARSENTY has become a Jewish hero - and, since winning an appeal last week of his libel conviction in France, a supposedly triumphant one. The French court's decision is being hailed by the Jewish Right as vindication of Karsenty's charges that Enderlin's story was a murderously anti-Israeli "hoax" - when the court decision said nothing like that at all.
The court was not deciding between Enderlin's and Karsenty's versions of the al-Dura killing - it was deciding whether Karsenty had committed a crime by making such accusations against Enderlin, and the ruling was that he had not. While explicitly offering no opinion on the accuracy or intent of Enderlin's story, the court found that Karsenty seemed "serious" about his defamatory charges, so, according to French libel law, he was entitled to make them.
In short, the French appeals court upheld Karsenty's legal right to cry hoax. It by no means upheld the substance of his claim. There are light years of difference between the two.
Yet while it's pure Jewish paranoia to claim that Enderlin and his co-conspirators knew all along that the Palestinians killed al-Dura, and it's way beyond paranoia to think the Palestinians killed the boy deliberately or that he never died at all, there is an apparent element of truth in the outcry. Aside from the paranoids and the politically self-interested, there are credible, impartial investigators who have also concluded that the IDF did not kill that poor, terrified boy.
THE MOST authoritative is James Fallows, one of America's most prominent journalists. After coming here and talking to a lot of Israelis and Palestinians and seeing a lot of evidence, he wrote in the June 2003 Atlantic Monthly that Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal, could not have been shot by IDF soldiers at Netzarim junction - as Enderlin and many others reported - because they were completely shielded from IDF fire by a big, impenetrable concrete block. The al-Duras had to have been shot from another direction, or directions, Fallows writes, and while he doesn't suggest who did shoot them, the people doing the shooting from those other directions were Palestinians.
But as for the conspiracy theories, he writes: "The reasons to doubt that the al-Duras, the cameramen, and hundreds of onlookers were part of a coordinated fraud are obvious." Referring to Nahum Shahaf, one of Yom Tov Samia's investigators and the fountainhead of al-Dura conspiracy mania, Fallows continues: "Shahaf's evidence for this conclusion, based on his videos, is essentially an accumulation of oddities and unanswered questions about the chaotic events of the day."
Add these to the Zapruder film, the grassy knoll, and "blank, blank." Despite millions upon millions of "oddities and unanswered questions," no conspiracy has been discovered in the killing of JFK, Yitzhak Rabin, or Mohammed al-Dura. And considering that the IDF initially took responsibility for al-Dura's death, there was no conspiracy in the reporting of it, either, even if the story by Enderlin and others turned out, it seems, to have been incorrect.
I agree: Israel and the Jewish world are right to be appalled at how the Palestinians and the Arab world distorted and exploited al-Dura's death as grotesquely as they did. They took what was at worst an accidental IDF shooting and turned it into a mind-shattering act of Israeli sadism. They took their outrage at a Palestinian boy's death and indulged themselves in wild incitement.
Now outraged Jews are indulging themselves in the same thing. My suggestion is this: Instead of meeting Arab fanaticism with Jewish fanaticism, why not meet it with Jewish sanity?