Committee finds IDF didn't kill Palestinian al-Dura

Gov't panel refutes death of 12-year-old, 2nd intifada icon.

Muhammad al-Dura mural 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muhammad al-Dura mural 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF fire did not kill or injure 12-year-old Gazan Muhammad al-Dura – a Palestinian icon of the second intifada – or his father Jamal in 2000, an Israeli committee tasked with reviewing the incident said on Sunday.
The findings were presented to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a 36-page report.
Al-Dura was allegedly killed by IDF fire during the second intifada as he crouched behind his father, crying, according to a report on French television station France 2. He became one of the most potent symbols of the second intifada for Palestinians, and footage of him cringing in fear and of his alleged death was broadcast repeatedly across the globe.
Charles Enderlin, the journalist who was the source for the original al-Dura report, rejected the government’s report and expressed frustration, telling The Jerusalem Post that the investigators never made contact with him.
Enderlin added that he, his cameraman who filmed the incident and Dura’s father Jamal, were all willing to take polygraph tests.
The contents of the government report were first revealed last week by Ben Caspit in Sof Hashavua magazine, published by The Jerusalem Post Group.
The government review of the incident and its implications found that “the France 2 report’s central claims and accusations had no basis in the material which the station had in its possession at the time… There is no evidence that the IDF was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal or the boy.”
The committee determined that “contrary to the report’s claim that the boy is killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive” and that he “moved his arm and turned his head.”
Netanyahu directed then-minister of strategic affairs Moshe Ya’alon to set up the governmental review committee in September 2012.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, “the purpose of the committee was to examine the al-Dura affair in light of the continued damage it has caused to Israel, and to formulate the government of Israel’s position with regards to it,” specifying that the incident had been used by Israel’s adversaries to “justify terror, anti-Semitism and delegitimizaton of Israel.”
Upon receiving the report on Sunday, Netanyahu stated, “It is important to focus on this incident – which has slandered Israel’s reputation.
This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel.
There is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth. Only the truth can prevail over lies.”
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz, who presented the report to the prime minister, called the al- Dura affair “a modern-day blood libel against the State of Israel, alongside other blood libels like the claims of an alleged massacre in Jenin.
The France 2 report was utterly baseless.”
In addition, the review revealed that “there is no evidence that Jamal or the boy were wounded in the manner claimed in the report, and that the footage does not depict Jamal as having been badly injured. In contrast, there are numerous indications that the two were not struck by bullets at all.”
The committee added, “The review showed that it is highly doubtful that bullet holes in the vicinity of the two could have had their source in fire from the Israeli position, as implied in the France 2 report.”
The review committee criticized France 2, stating that the station’s report was “edited and narrated in such a way as to create the misleading impression that it substantiated the claims made therein.”
In response, Enderlin reiterated a statement from France 2, “From the start of the incident until today, France 2 has shown a willingness to participate in any official legal proceedings accompanied by legal counsel and carried out according to international standards.”
Enderlin explained that he did not consider the committee independent or objective, and would have been fully ready to comply with an outside investigation according to objective criteria.
He noted that Jamal had even sued a newspaper and other individuals in France for defamation for attacking his story of what had happened to his son.
According to Enderlin, the case is still pending on appeal to the French Supreme Court.
He added that France 2 was also “ready to help Jamal al- Dura in any way to exhume the body of his son Muhammad for a pathological examination, including, if necessary, a DNA test to help clarify the circumstances of the incident.”
“It is hard to believe that the special committee formed by Moshe Ya’alon – today Israel’s defense minister – did not approach France 2 or [to the best of our knowledge] Mr. al-Dura – despite his willingness to exhume the boy’s body,” said Enderlin.
The government committee dismissed “a small number” of official Israeli statements that denied intentionally hitting Dura but admitted to hitting him by mistake, as having been made “in the fog of war” before all evidence was gathered.
On the other hand, the committee said that the report reflected a widespread phenomenon of unprofessional reporting on incidents such as this one in the media, with media outlets rushing to conclusions and even being blind to ethical considerations to sweeten a story.
It also accuses Tal’al Abu- Rahmah, who filmed the incident, of contradicting himself in his version of events, and saying that he publicized only 55 seconds of a claimed 27-minute filming.
Next, the report said that the site of the incident was tampered with, stating that no blood was on the ground where it had occurred, but that at a later date someone had placed blood at the scene that was incongruous with the claimed incident.
The report especially highlights the importance of carefully covering “asymmetrical armed conflict,” in which it says asymmetrical parties to the conflict try to create situations and scenes to mislead the media and the world regarding the overall factual context.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.