French media critic in bitter spat with US Jewish C'tee

Karsenty angry at Jewish group for not backing his effort to expose truth behind al-Dura footage.

Muhammad al-Dura 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Muhammad al-Dura 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In a bitter public dispute this week, a French media watchdog who recently won a landmark appeal against a French television station over their footage of the shooting death of a Palestinian boy has blasted members of a major American Jewish organization for their "destructive" role in the legal case. The nasty three-year-old spat between Philippe Karsenty and the New York-based American Jewish Committee burst out in the open just a week after a Paris appeals court ruled in favor of Karsenty in the high-profile libel case claiming that French 2 footage of the 2000 shooting death of Mohammed al-Dura was faked. "There is one organization, the American Jewish Committee, that should have been a natural ally," Karsenty wrote in a June 8 letter posted on his Web site. "Instead it functioned as an obstacle to all my efforts." Karsenty singled out the AJC's Paris Director, Valerie Hoffenberg, who has a close rapport with the French establishment, for the harshest criticism. He accused her of "working actively against his efforts to reveal the truth," and blocking his access to French government officials so as not to jeopardize her relationship with the establishment. "The most serious damage to our cause was done by certain members of the American Jewish Committee, notably the AJC's representative in Paris," he wrote in a damning May 30 letter circulated in e-mails and on the Internet. Karsenty said "her role was crucial and destructive." AJC Executive Director David Harris on Wednesday dismissed the allegations as "absurd and unfounded." "The AJC is a well-established organization with a very documented and known support for Israel and the Jewish people," Harris said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post from New York. Harris added that the "spurious" claims that members of his organization colluded with French authorities to deny Israel its day in court and to clear its name, made no sense and was patently absurd. "You might as well accuse us of passing nuclear secrets to the Iranians," he said. The image of the cowering figure of the Palestinian boy caught up in gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip, which was repeatedly broadcast around the world, became an icon of the second intifada which erupted in 2000. Karsenty had claimed on his web site that the French TV footage of the al-Dura killing was faked, prompting the public broadcaster and its Israel correspondent, Charles Enderlin, to file a libel suit. A Paris judge had ruled in their favor in 2006, but the decision was overturned last month on appeal. While critical of the AJC's role, Karsenty heaped praise on other American Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Congress, the Zionist Organization of America and Stand With Us. Founded in 1906, the AJC aims to safeguard and strengthen Jews and Jewish life worldwide by promoting democratic and pluralistic societies that respect the dignity of all peoples. The organization is known for its quiet, behind -the-scenes covert diplomacy, which evidently easily clashed with Karsenty's very open and unabashed public battle against the French establishment. The AJC executive director said that the criticism was misplaced. "We should be dealing with the real issues instead of internal artificial or contrived adversaries," Harris concluded.