After more than seven years, the momentous day finally arrived when the truth about Mohammed al-Dura – the 12-year-old Palestinian supposedly murdered by Israelis, video of which enflamed countless Arab youth to seek martyrdom – would be revealed in court.
Did Israeli soldiers really shoot the defenseless boy cradled in his father’s arms, as long claimed by the French state-owned TV network France 2, which broadcast the controversial video footage worldwide after the Sept. 30, 2000, incident in Gaza?
Or, was the entire affair staged – part of an elaborate and cynical fraud campaign on the part of Palestinians, to enflame widespread hatred against Israelis and spur on the murderous “al-Aqsa intifada” that led to hundreds of deaths?
Controversy has raged over the question for seven years, with WND first reporting in December 2000 that the Israeli military could not possibly have shot the boy, and later documenting massive evidence the entire incident had been staged.
Finally, a French judge last month issued an order demanding that France 2 submit to the court the original 27 minutes of footage shot by its Gaza stringer, Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahman, by Oct. 31, to be shown during a public hearing Nov. 14.
Yesterday the big day arrived, the small courtroom jammed to overflowing with many who had waited years to see the full 27 minutes of raw footage France 2 had long claimed to possess in its vault – rather than just the 55 seconds of sensationally edited and narrated film broadcast internationally.
Surprise – there were only 18 minutes of tape.
What happened to the other 9 minutes? France 2’s Israel correspondent Charles Enderlin, whose voiceover to the edited video had declared the boy dead at the hands of Israelis, had in the past explained that parts of the video were too gruesome and heart-wrenching to release to public view. But there were no gruesome and graphic parts to the 18 minutes shown in court.
You see, explained France 2, the other 9 minutes of video were of other material not related to the al-Dura affair, and thus had been disposed of.
After the viewing, incredulous witnesses commented on what was evident even in the 18 minutes of video screened in court. Richard Landes, an American historian, author and associate history professor at Boston University, who had previously viewed over 20 minutes of the film in Endelin’s office, testified that two scenes, which clearly had been staged, had been cut from the “uncut” video shown in court.
Representing two Middle East media watchdog groups, HonestReporting.com and Take-a-Pen.org, a news correspondent was present at the French courthouse and filed a video report featuring several witnesses claiming the video reveals outright fraud.
As the Jerusalem Post reports today: “Toward the end [of the video]” – after the boy has been pronounced dead – “the tape appeared to show Dura briefly putting his hand to his forehead to check what was happening around him, and moving his leg.”
Jihad poster boy
The Sept. 30, 2000, incident in Gaza – in which al-Dura apparently died in his father’s arms during a firefight between Israeli military and Palestinian gunman – was captured on videotape and broadcast repeatedly worldwide. The image of the boy in his death throes was turned into posters lining the streets of Palestinian areas; Palestinian TV portrayed an actor pretending to be Mohammed, now in “Paradise,” exhorting other Muslim youth to jihad; an Egyptian street was named after the boy, and on and on.
Over time, however, study after study showed stunning evidence that a vast pattern of fabrication, fraud and deception characterized the events at Gaza’s Netzarim Junction that day.
WND Managing Editor David Kupelian, who wrote WND’s reports, even showcased the al-Dura affair as an example of media manipulation of reality in his book, “The Marketing of Evil.” He wrote:
Although the Israeli military initially assumed responsibility for the incident, it soon became apparent that the Israelis could not have shot the boy, due to a large barrier between the Israeli military outpost across the remote junction in Gaza and the position of the boy and his father.
In 2003 an independent journalistic investigation concluded that the al-Dura affair was actually a piece of Palestinian street theater, similar to the dramatic Palestinian funeral processions that were observed after the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp. During that public spectacle, a martyred “corpse” twice fell off the stretcher, only to hop back up and retake his place in the procession. (The Palestinians had claimed 3,000 deaths in Jenin ? the actual toll turned out to be 52.)
It turns out many Palestinians were playing to the camera on the day Mohammed al-Dura was “martyred.” Israeli commentator Amnon Lord’s account of the larger scene at Netzarim Junction when the boy was supposedly shot to death describes “incongruous battle scenes complete with wounded combatants and screeching ambulances played out in front of an audience of laughing onlookers, while makeshift movie directors do retakes of botched scenes.”
Palestinian journalist Sami El Soudi echoes Lord’s observation, revealing that “almost all Palestinian directors take part more or less voluntarily in these war commissions, under the official pretext that we should use all possible means, including trickery and fabulation, to fight against the tanks and airplanes the enemy has and we don’t. – Our official press reported 300 wounded and dead at Netzarim junction the day when Mohammed was supposedly killed. Most of the cameramen there were Palestinians. ? They willingly took part in the masquerade, filming fictional scenes, believing they were doing it out of patriotism. When a scene was well done the onlookers laughed and applauded.”
“It is incredible,” says French journalist G?rard Huber, “how many people were calmly filming the battle of Netzarim on September 30th, 2000. Not only professionals – some of them standing no more than 10 meters away from the al-Dura incident – but amateurs as well. The rushes are full of surprising incongruities: Children smile as ambulances go by. A ‘wounded’ Palestinian collapses and two seconds later an ambulance pulls up to take him to the hospital. It looks as if the driver had been cued in, knew in advance where the Palestinian was going to fall, or was waiting in the upper right hand corner just out of the photographic field ready to zoom in on signal.”
For years, Huber and other investigators, notably Philippe Karsenty, director of the media watchdog group Media-Ratings, tried to get France 2, the news organization that captured and distributed the damning video worldwide, to release the entire footage.
After Karsenty called France 2’s exclusive video of the incident “a hoax,” he was found guilty of slander in a French court – without France 2’s video evidence ever making an appearance in the case. It was during Karsenty’s appeal of that decision that the appeals judge made the decision that the video be released.
One of many indications the scene was staged is evident in already-available video footage – cut from the televised France 2 report of the “murder” – but obtained by and posted on the Second Draft website, which has mounted a major investigative effort on the al-Dura affair. In the clip, Mohammed, whom France 2 reporter Charles Enderlin has already pronounced dead, lifts up his arm and head and looks around, before resuming the “dead” position.
The French court’s decision won’t be reached until the case resume Feb. 27.
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