Supporters of Philippe Karsenty in his appeal against France 2 and its reporter Charles Enderlin are crying "foul" against the television network and feeling assured of Karsenty's victory after the Wednesday viewing of footage from the September 30, 2000 apparent shooting death of 12-year-old Muhammed al-Dura at Gaza's Netzarim Junction.
For some in the courtroom, the key to last week's dramatic showing of footage from the 2000 shooting is the length of the footage shown. France 2 failed to produce all 27 minutes of raw footage said to exist from that day, instead delivering roughly 18 minutes of footage to the court.
"We're going to sue them for not bringing the [full] tape," declared Karsenty, who is the appealing defendant in the libel suit brought against him after he called for Enderlin's and France 2 news director Arlette Chabot's dismissal because the al-Dura footage was "a hoax."
"[France 2] was under a court order to bring a piece of evidence and they didn't do it," Karsenty added, since "others have seen at least 20 minutes. Talal Abu Rahma himself [the independent cameraman who took the footage that day while Enderlin was in Ramallah] testified under oath that there were 27 minutes."
This testimony is publicly available through the website of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Prof. Richard Landes, who has followed closely and written extensively about the case, particularly in his online blog, Augean Stables, said after the screening that "the big story is that France 2 presented tampered evidence to the court. They cut scenes." Landes lists "at least two scenes I remember and one I can prove" that were tampered with, including one showing a man pretending to have been shot in the leg and then, when he believes no one is watching, walking away unharmed.
Middle East and media expert Tom Gross, who attended last week's court hearing, told The Jerusalem Post that after seeing the footage he was surprised that France 2 were standing by their claim that Israel killed al-Dura.
"France 2 told the court that this was all the raw footage they had. And yet when they played it for the court, we didn't see even one instance during the 18-minute film of an Israeli soldier shooting. And we didn't see the boy Muhammad al-Dura die. "For Charles Enderlin, a very respected reporter working for a very respected news channel, to claim he knows Israel killed this boy is the worst kind of irresponsible journalism. Enderlin has acknowledged that Palestinians were playacting various injuries for the cameras at Netzarim Junction that day. So for Enderlin, who wasn't then in Gaza, to broadcast that this boy was killed, and killed by Israel, was a potentially very inflammatory thing to do. "
As we know," added Gross, "al-Dura's name was then screamed by a mob who lynched two Israeli reservists in Ramallah a few days later. Al-Dura was referred to by Osama bin Laden in his post-9/11 video. And al-Dura's picture can be seen in the videotape of Daniel Pearl's beheading."
For British commentator Melanie Phillips writing in her blog shortly after the courtroom screening, "this sequence was not a continuous narrative but was repeatedly broken up and spliced onto footage of other scenes from the demonstration. Although the France 2 cameraman had told a German film-maker, Esther Schapira, that he had filmed six minutes of the al-Dura father and son under continuous Israeli fire, the footage of them lasted for less than one minute," and included "no evidence of the boy actually being hit."
The added footage beyond the original three minutes released to the media showed boys throwing rocks at the Israeli troop position at Netzarim Junction, but "there was no evidence of any of them being killed or injured," writes Phillips.
The 55-second footage released by France 2 to the general media in 2000 did not in fact show the child killed, and showed only seven bullet holes in the wall behind al-Dura, despite Abu Rahma's repeated statements that there had been 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli forces at the boy and his father Jalal, who are seen cowering behind a barrel.
The film's technical problems mount quickly once it is examined. Twelve seconds before the boy is shown lying down and apparently dead, there is a scream of, "the boy is dead! The boy is dead!" Asked about this in court, Enderlin explained that in Arabic one says the boy is dead when one means that the boy might die soon.
Enderlin "lied during the whole [screening]," said Karsenty. "And his three lawyers spent their time [during the screening] building a human shield with their bodies to prevent people from watching the tape. It was ridiculous."
"Perhaps out of sympathy, perhaps out of laziness, perhaps out of vanity, Enderlin has put his credibility at the service of Rahma's forgery," concluded David Frum, writing over the weekend in the Canadian newspaper the National Post. It was Enderlin who sued Karsenty over the legitimacy of the footage. For those who believe Karsenty, however, the lawsuit forced the matter to light in a way no mere public debate could have. While the court will only hand down its ruling in late February, for Karsenty, speaking shortly after the Wednesday screening, "the Al-Dura hoax is dead tonight."
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