Consider This: Fighting the myth-makers from hell

Had it not been for Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf, the al-Dura affair would have been left a horrible blot on the honor of our country, our people.

Muhammad al-Dura mural 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muhammad al-Dura mural 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
From 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.
The 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 quietly.
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 Boston.
Dr. Landes invited us for Shabbat lunch.
“You should 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 grimaced.
“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 go away.”
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 anywhere.
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 hospital.
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 on.
“It’s Pallywood,” Dr. Landes said, coining the perfect term for it.
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.
Against the 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.
But 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 ethics.
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 “honor.”
According to Karsenty, while they’ve condemned him, they have still not provided him with the reasoning behind their verdict.
In an 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.
Karsenty, 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 motive.
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.