It was close to 13 years ago when I first sat, glued to my television set with
horror, watching the footage of Muhammad al-Dura broadcast by France 2, a French
public television station. It was September 30, 2000. Just two days before,
Ariel Sharon had visited the Aqsa mosque. Little did we realize how the
“outrage” at that visit and that video were being carefully orchestrated to
allow Palestinian terrorists the pretext they sought to abandon all pretense of
“negotiating for peace” as they ignited the horrors of the infamous second
intifada, which took the lives of a thousand Israelis, very nearly including my
own as I sat with my family in the Park Hotel on Passover eve 2002.
the beginning, I admit, I couldn’t believe it. The IDF targeting unarmed
civilians, deliberately killing a child? No way! I waited for the IDF to share
my outrage and issue a public denial. Instead, what I heard was a mumbled
apology by an obviously confused IDF spokesperson who while not admitting it,
didn’t deny it either.
Indeed, had it not been for Israeli physicist
Nahum Shahaf, the al-Dura affair would have been left there, a horrible blot on
the honor of our country and our people. Shahaf, however, unlike most of us, got
off the couch and devoted himself to finding the truth. Given permission by
General Yom-Tov Samia, then the head of the IDF Southern Command, who appointed
him as head of the IDF committee to investigate the incident, he restaged it,
showing convincingly that the Palestinian narrative was impossible. But an
article in Haaretz
belittling his qualifications led then IDF chief of staff
Shaul Mofaz to distance himself from Shahaf, the first in a long line of
disgraceful Israeli moves abandoning all efforts to clear the name of Israel of
this ugly lie.
Without a vigorous Israeli defense, the video, freely and
widely distributed by France 2, became the iconic excuse for barbaric terrorist
attacks against Israeli civilians.
“You are child killers, and so we have
no choice but to become child killers as well” was the cynical cry of the
murderers who blew up our buses and baby carriages; a cry accepted and heeded by
the Western media and otherwise civilized people all over the world.
Israeli reaction, although terribly wrong, was human. Why bring this terrible
story back to life, have the photos recirculated, just to have a hostile,
careless world condemn Israeli all over again? Better to let it die
I realized that I was guilty of the same reasoning during a
chance meeting with Dr.
Richard Landes, an early online activist who
fought the al-Dura myth, and who happened to be my son’s neighbor and friend in
Dr. Landes invited us for Shabbat lunch.
really see the work I’m doing about al-Dura,” he offered, explaining that he had
uploaded footage not yet seen by the public.
“Oh, no,” I
“Now, that’s the reaction I’m getting from many people,” he
complained. “Why is that?” “It’s because, whatever you write about it, no one
wants to look at those horrible pictures of a dying child again! We want it to
He looked at me as if I was a child who had disappointed him.
“It’s not going away. It’s vital that people understand the truth. The entire
incident was staged. You really need to look at this.”
Later that night,
I did. As I reluctantly watched, my eyes opened in amazement.
Why, it was
so clear! The Israelis were not in a position to have fired at the child at all.
And there was no hellish gunfire, certainly not the 45 minutes of it France 2
claimed. There were also no holes in al-Dura’s clothes where his father claimed
he’d been shot and most tellingly, not a drop of blood
Moreover, the shadows on the floors and walls showed it had
been taken at the time of day al-Dura was supposedly already dead in the
But most importantly, at the very end, in footage never aired,
the “dead” boy looked up and raised his elbow, before obviously being told to go
back and play dead once more.
It is clear from other tapes that fake
scenes were being filmed all the time, with Palestinians falling “dead” then
getting up; a “dead” man falling off a funeral pallet then climbing back
“It’s Pallywood,” Dr. Landes said, coining the perfect term for
Interestingly, Israel’s supporters outside the country were the ones
who fearlessly picked up the gauntlet. In addition to Bostonbased Landes, there
was German television journalist Esther Shapira, who came determined to condemn
Israel and, after realizing the truth, wound up debunking the entire incident,
as well as France-based writer Nidra Poller.
But most of all, the fight
was taken up by charming French politician and Jew, Philippe Karsenty, head of
the media watchdog group Media-Ratings, who invested 11 years of his life and
enormous personal resources in outing the French libel, fearlessly taking on
France 2 and its bureau chief Charles Enderlin, a friend of Shimon Peres and
all-around media bigshot who had narrated the footage but had been nowhere near
the actual filming.
Publicly calling the France 2 report and footage a
fraud, he called for Enderlin’s resignation for “being misled and misleading
others.” Karsenty was promptly sued for libel by France 2.
recommendation of the public prosecutor, who argued Karsenty had presented ample
evidence and was entitled to freedom of speech, the court found Karsenty guilty
and ordered him to pay a symbolic fine of one euro to each plaintiff.
in September 2007, the Eleventh Chamber of the Appeals Court of Paris heard
Karsenty’s appeal. When the judge demanded that France 2 turn over its 27
minutes of raw footage, Enderlin suddenly claimed the footage “wasn’t relevant,”
bringing only 18 minutes with the excuse that the agonizing death throes of the
child had been cut out to “spare the viewer.”
But three respected French
journalists who had been invited by France 2 to see the entire footage testified
that the “agony” described by Enderlin didn’t exist and in fact the footage
withheld revealed that the boy was still alive.
Karsenty won his appeal
on May 21, 2008.
The judges had harsh words for Enderlin’s journalistic
France 2 went to the Supreme Court, which annulled the lower
court’s ruling over a technicality. Apparently, under French law, the Appeals
Court had overstepped its bounds by looking at the tapes at all! Putting off its
decision time and again, the court finally ruled against Karsenty on June 26,
throwing out his victory for truth and instead ordering him to pay 7,000 euros
in compensation to Enderlin and France 2 over their damaged
According to Karsenty, while they’ve condemned him, they have
still not provided him with the reasoning behind their verdict.
interview conducted by The Algemeiner
, Karsenty called it a “dark day for
democracy in France and a dark day for truth.” Asked in 2008 if there was a
French bias against Jews, Karsenty said the following: “Yes, the French will
never forgive Jews for exposing French collaboration in the Holocaust. This is
one motivation for depicting Israel as a Nazi state.
It is the French way
of saying ‘We behaved no worse than the Jews do now.’” All this time, Israeli
journalists including Gideon Levy, Arad Nir and Tom Segev have done their best
to ridicule and discredit anyone questioning the al-Dura myth. The Israeli
government has repeatedly done nothing to help Karsenty financially or morally,
even though he is clearly fighting their battle.
Indeed, The Kuperwasser
Report, the first Israeli attempt to exonerate Israel and undo the damage of its
decade-long silence on the al-Dura blood libel, would probably never have been
written if people like Karsenty hadn’t kept the debate alive.
Shahaf, Landes, Shapira, Poller and others are angels who stepped in where the
Israeli government feared to tread, proving themselves true Jewish heroes, men
and women who fought for truth and exposed terrorist lies and blood libels
responsible for Jewish deaths, including that of Myriam Monsenego, the French
child shot by a Muslim barbarian who cited revenge for al-Dura as a
While former president Nicolas Sarkozy honored Charles Enderlin
with the Legion of Honor, we Jews have yet to honor these heroes with anything.
I propose the Israel Prize. At least.
In the meantime I thank them all
for their tireless efforts to bring light into the darkness.
I thank them
on my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of Israel and Jews everywhere.