On September 3, 2000, a drama took place at the Netzarim junction in the center of the Gaza Strip. Father Jamal and son Muhammad al-Dura were caught in the crossfire between Israeli forces and Gazans militant-terrorists. In the end, 11 year old Muhammad ended lying in the road, no one knows if he was dead or alive faking death, his head in his father’s lap.
The incident was recorded by Tallal Abu Rahman, a cameraman for French television station France 2. He filmed 27 minutes of footage, which were “edited” into a two-minute news item. That evening, reporter Charles Enderlin announced on the France 2 news broadcast: “The child is dead.” The report was picked up by news stations around the world.
The real-time reporting of al-Dura’s death was one of the formative events of the second intifada in Israel. This was firstly because it took place right at the beginning of the intifada, but beyond that, as it turned to be, the power of the image was so great that it generated a long-term, ongoing effect; even today, al-Dura is the most famous name of the second intifada. Journalist Daniel Pearl’s abductors beheaded him, on camera, in front of the picture of al-Dura, and PalArab organizations turned him into a symbol of Israel’s unjust behavior during its ongoing conflict with belligerent Hamas.
The argument that has been going on for over decade is, was Muhammad dead and if so who killed him.
The al-Dura case has received unprecedented coverage, its dimensions cannot be exaggerated. There is evidence, some of it on video, and there is a strong basis for making the case that it was actually the Gazan-militant-police who were shooting indiscriminately at the junction at the time who were responsible for Muhammad’s death. But for all purposes, Israel became the villain guilty party. Shedding doubt on the al-Dura “original story” will constitute an important achievement for Israel in the media-public diplomacy arena. The media played an important role in shaping the conflict in the eyes of public opinion. The media was a full partner in determining its public frame, whether with the al-Dura case or all the operations and wars that ensued, which Hamas dragged Israel into. Israel has been taught that even if you win in the military arena, you may lose the public battle in the media, to a large extent a battle Israel has lost to Hamas and the PLO/Fatah years ago.
Hamas’s war with Israel can be called “the war of perceptions.”
And the media continues playing an important role in shaping the conflict in the eyes of public opinion and that is the core story of the newly released docufilm ‘Eyeless in GAZA’ which I had the privilege to attend its Los Angeles premiere screening this week.
‘Eyeless in GAZA’ takes the al-Dura case a step further. Israel will continue telling the truth, the truth the world conveniently twists and obfuscate; till when?
‘Eyeless in GAZA’ sets up to discover how skewed was the media coverage of the 2014 Protective Edge war in Gaza. It confirms that the international public opinion is shaped by unhealthily bias reporting, by media that failed and continues failing to tell both sides of the story while keeping its neutrality intact.
A fair world should have concluded that the news from Gaza is fake news, it is Paliwood, it is bias, it encompasses much lies and it is unprofessional, even anti-Semitic. But no, when it comes to Israel, to Jews, reporting truth may not help the media’s true agenda. It in fact may defend Israel’s actions and that is not what the media would like to see as an outcome.
Inevitably, sooner or later there will be another war between Hamas and Israel. It is already brewing in that direction. We will all live another Déjà vu, the poor Gazans, caught in the Hamas merciless ruling arms, and the forces of occupation, evil Israeli-Jews.
A serious and fundamental investigation reveals that what, at the time was considered to be the truth about the al-Dura case, does not stand up to the test of credibility today. This outcome will call into question many other seminal stories about the many aspects of the conflict in the land of Israel. More so, it will call into question the entire coverage of the ongoing conflict with Gaza, the case in point of ‘Eyeless in GAZA’ documentary.
Since Israel has already been held responsible for Muhammad al-Dura’s death, there is nothing for her to lose. Today there are good grounds to reopen the case without fear. Today ‘Eyeless in GAZA’ prepares good grounds to reopen any and all cases regarding the way the media mishandles its reporting on what in fact does, or does not, transpire in Gaza.