French TV sues over al-Dura killing

Defendant: Video taken by Palestinian cameraman in 2000 a blatant forgery.

pals carry sahamdana 298 (photo credit: AP)
pals carry sahamdana 298
(photo credit: AP)
Almost six years after the September 30, 2000 Gaza Strip gun battle in which Muhammad al-Dura, 12, was killed, the Paris Lower Court of Justice on Thursday will hear a defamation case pressed by French state-run TV channel France 2 against individuals who claim the footage aired that day showing the death of the boy was a hoax. Philippe Karsenty, 40, the leading defendant, claimed the video taken by Palestinian cameraman Talal Hassan Abu Rahma is a blatant forgery. Head of a Paris-based media analysis company named Media-Ratings, Karsenty sent a communique to most of the editorials of French and foreign media in November 2004 about what he termed the "deception," "farce," "imposture" and "fake death" of Dura. The terms of the communique were made public by Media-Ratings' Web site. Following publication, France 2 and its Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin, who had voiced-over the controversial footage, sued for defamation. Contrary to France 2's extremely discreet attitude, Karsenty publicized the upcoming court hearing widely, hoping the media would pick up again the whole polemic around Dura's death. The footage showed an adult and a young boy crouching between two barrels filled with concrete in front of a wall. The two looked terrorized by the ongoing gunfight, the adult apparently trying to shelter the boy from the bullets. The next shot showed the boy lying apparently dead. Enderlin was not on the scene but he voiced-over the footage according to the information given to him by Abu Rahma. He explained that the footage showed a father and his son caught in a gunfight and that the boy was killed by shots coming from the IDF position at the Netzarim junction. France 2 offered the video for free to all television stations. Dura was instantly turned into an icon of the Palestinian people. Arab stations aired the footage again and again. The following day, Enderlin quoted on France 2 an official IDF statement saying it regretted the loss of human life and denouncing the cynical use of women and children by the terrorists. On October 2, 2000, Enderlin interviewed then deputy chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who said: "The child and his father were between our position and the place from which we were shot at. It is not impossible - this is a supposition, I don't know - that a soldier, due to his angle of vision, and because one was shooting in his direction, had seen someone hidden in this line of fire and may have fired in the same direction." The IDF eventually acknowledged there was a "high probability" that its bullets had hit Dura. Unhappy with these statements, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia initiated a reenactment of the scene at an IDF firing range, intending to prove the boy was hit by Palestinian fire. Based on Samia's conclusions, Karsenty and his supporters have ever since relentlessly attacked both Enderlin and France 2. Enderlin is a long-time bete noire of numerous French Jews who cannot stand his allegedly anti-Israel reports. According to France 2 news editors, almost all of Enderlin's reports are harshly criticized by both pro-Israel and by pro-Palestinian viewers, Karsenty's Web site developed a theory according to which the whole scene was a forgery, that Dura was not killed in front of the camera, and insinuating that the boy was in fact alive. Based on an analysis of the footage filmed by Abu Rahma prior to Dura's death, Karsenty claimed that he was filming fake shoot-outs and staged casualties. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Enderlin said, "I don't mind people elaborating any conspiracy theory about me and France 2 and writing about it. Another French guy even made a fortune by writing a book about 9/11 saying that it was a missile that hit the Pentagon. I can accept any polemic; what is unacceptable is to be publicly insulted and be called a liar. This is why we sued Karsenty, not for his eccentric theories." The Paris court will have to state whether Karsenty's accusations against France 2 and Enderlin are acceptable. Karsenty will have to produce hard evidence supporting his opinion. If he fails to do so, he could be fined up to €12,000.