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A-Dura / France-2 (développements récents)

Who really shot Al-Dura? The newest evidence


New, Monday, April 27, 2009

A young boy is lying on a gurney, apparently in a hospital. He is unconscious. He appears to be bleeding profusely from a wound or wounds to his midsection. Is this Mohammed Al-Dura?

The Palestinian boy known by that name was reportedly killed by Israeli gunfire at the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip on Sept. 30, 2000. At least that is what the French public television station France 2 claimed at the time.

Dramatic images of the event filmed by France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma would turn the boy into an international icon of Palestinian suffering and Israeli brutality. Soon, however, questions began to be raised about the accuracy of the report. The location of the alleged shooting seemed to rule out the fatal gunfire originating from the Israeli military post at Netzarim. Some critics suggested a still more radical hypothesis: that Mohammed Al-Dura had not been shot at all, that the entire scene had been staged by Palestinian militants for propaganda purposes.

Following years of controversy, video evidence presented in a new German documentary suggests that Mohammed Al-Dura may in fact have been killed after all. One might have thought that the discovery of the footage by filmmakers Esther Schapira and Georg Hafner would come as good news for France 2. The beleaguered French broadcaster has attempted to turn the tables on its critics: implausibly demanding that they provide evidence that Mohammed Al-Dura is still alive, when the real issue was obviously that France 2 had no evidence that he had been killed. Here, finally, was some evidence. But, in fact, far from vindicating France 2, the investigations of Schapira and Hafner render the so-called “Al-Dura affair” even more mysterious and troubling than it has already been.

When French media critic Philippe Karsenty walked out of a Paris courthouse flashing a thumbs-up sign in May of last year, it could have seemed that the Al-Dura affair was over. Karsenty is one of the critics who have challenged the authenticity of the France 2 report. In October 2006, a lower court had found Karsenty guilty of defaming France 2 and France 2’s star Middle East correspondent Charles Enderlin. (For an analysis of that judgment and further background, see here.) Enderlin provided the narration that accompanied the famous images. “Here Jamal and his son Mohammed are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position,” he said, “Mohammed is twelve years old. His father tries to protect him. He signals. But there is a new burst of fire. Mohammed is dead and his father is badly wounded.”

Last May, however, an appeals court overturned the lower court’s judgment, finding that Karsenty had legitimate grounds for doubting the authenticity of the report. The key evidence presented at the second trial consisted of raw footage or “rushes” shot by Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction on the day of the incident. Not only did the rushes contain numerous scenes of Palestinian youngsters apparently feigning being wounded. As it turned out, virtually the only additional footage of the Al-Dura episode shows the boy lifting his hand from his eyes, surveying the scene in front of him, and then turning slowly onto his stomach – all of this after the point at which he had been pronounced dead by Enderlin in the original France 2 report. (It should be noted that this footage was already included with footage furnished by France 2 to other broadcasters at the time of the incident. It was not, however, included in France 2’s own report.) All told, France 2 provided less than a minute of footage of Mohammed Al-Dura to the court. The footage consists of a series of five short discontinuous shots. In the final ten-second shot in the sequence, the “boy-martyr” is clearly alive.

With the rendering public of the France 2 rushes after years of stonewalling on the part of the broadcaster, it seemed that those ten seconds were the last images that existed of the boy. Now, however, there appear to be several seconds more. The footage is included in Schapira’s and Hafner’s documentary “The Child, Death and the Truth” [Das Kind, der Tod und die Wahrheit], which was first broadcast on Germany’s ARD public television on March 4. (The footage can be viewed here, between 5:11 and 5:22 of the clip.) The boy in the additional footage is receiving CPR. He resembles the boy in the France 2 footage and is also dressed similarly.

The additional images are especially troubling, because Schapira’s and Hafner’s documentary in fact confirms and reinforces many of the elements that have been adduced by critics over the years for concluding that the original France 2 report was bogus. For example, on the very day of the episode at Netzarim, Mohammed Al-Dura was supposedly buried. The funeral procession was filmed and one can see the face of the boy whose body is being carried to the grave. Photos also exist of the corpse of what appears to be the same boy with a large wound extending from his stomach to his chest. The pictures were taken at Shifa hospital in Gaza. Schapira and Hafner, however, interview a specialist in biometrics who confirms that the facial features of the boy in question do not match those of the boy in the France 2 footage.

Similarly, Mohammed Al-Dura’s father Jamal was supposedly struck by some twelve bullets during the Netzarim incident. In 2004, France 2 would film Jamal Al-Dura displaying his numerous scars. France 2 officials have cited the scars as “proof” of the authenticity of the Al-Dura episode. Schapira and Hafner, however, interview the Israeli surgeon Dr. Yehuda David, who confirms (as he has previously told Israeli media) that the scars displayed by Jamal Al-Dura are in fact the result of an earlier incident. Dr. David himself performed surgery on Jamal in 1994 in an effort to restore mobility to Jamal’s right arm. The arm injury and other injuries were the result of an attack with knives and axes that occurred in 1992. The attack was apparently perpetrated by Palestinian militants. As Schapira and Hafner note, it bears all the hallmarks of the sort of punishment that the militants regularly inflict upon suspected “collaborators.”

Schapira and Hafner likewise point to the scarce evidence of blood in the France 2 footage and the apparent presence of a red cloth in one of the boy’s hands, perhaps to simulate blood. They also show images filmed by France 2 the next day at the site of the supposed shooting incident. No blood is visible at the site.

Mohammed Al-Dura Wounded ?
Detail from the ARD documentary “Das Kind, der Tod und die Wahrheit”

But if the France 2 footage was indeed staged and the boy was not shot during the Netzarim incident, then what is the significance of the additional footage that apparently shows the boy wounded? Asked about the images by New Majority, Esther Schapira explained that the footage comes from Palestinian sources. The stomach area, from which the boy appears to be bleeding, has been artificially obscured in the images. According to Schapira, this was already the case when ARD obtained the footage. Schapira remarked that she finds this “strange,” since Palestinian media “usually are not so squeamish about showing people who are wounded or dead.”

Could Mohammed Al-Dura have been shot later? But if so, then by whom? The Israelis would clearly have not had any motive to hunt down a twelve-year-old boy. Could he have been shot by Palestinian militants? The ARD documentary includes an interview with the Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf. In the interview, Shahaf recalls that he first concluded that the France 2 footage must have been staged when it occurred to him that the fatal shots, if there were any, would have had to have originated from a Palestinian position. Since the position in question (commonly known as the “pita” position) was directly across from where the man and the boy were situated and the Israeli military post was in a different direction, this would imply that the Palestinians deliberately shot the boy. “But this is unbelievable,” Shahaf remarks. But if the additional footage of the boy is authentic and the original footage was staged, this suggests a scenario that is even more unbelievable.

Despite all the gaps and contradictions in the Abu Rahma/Enderlin/France 2 account of what transpired on that day, perhaps Mohammed Al-Dura was not only shot, but shot during the events filmed at Netzarim after all. Although he is clearly still alive in the last images of him from Netzarim, could he be wounded? There appears in fact to be a red stain on the front of his shirt. Is this real blood and not simulated blood, as the critics have suggested? But if the boy has been shot in the stomach, it is odd that he shows no obvious signs of distress and, above all, that he turns precisely onto his stomach.

Adding to the mystery, Schapira and Hafner speculate that the dead boy in the funeral procession is another son of Jamal Al-Dura: Rami Al-Dura. Could the unfortunate man have lost two sons on the same day? And to remarkably similar injuries to boot?

France 2 and Charles Enderlin have reacted to the ARD documentary with their characteristic bluster. France 2 has sent a letter of protest to ARD and Charles Enderlin has published a statement on his blog in which he denounces Schapira as a “militant journalist” and the film as “full of insinuations, manipulations, false affirmations, and lies.” Astonishingly, he even takes Schapira to task on account of the additional footage that appears to show Mohammed Al-Dura wounded. “Why is the image obscured?” he asks – as if he himself wanted to challenge its authenticity!

But those familiar with the case would be surprised by just how delicately Schapira and Hafner treat their France 2 colleagues in the film. At one point, the narration even states that “no one (sic) doubts the integrity” of Charles Enderlin. The remark concerns a man who for years insisted that he had cut a scene of Mohammad Al-Dura’s “death throes” from the France 2 report out of considerations of decency. The rushes provided to the court contain no such scene. The only scene that we know that France 2 did in fact cut was precisely the one showing that the boy was still alive.

Asked by Schapira in the film about his now infamously premature declaration that “the boy is dead,” Enderlin responds defiantly: “This is the way I do a story. ‘The boy is dead.’ That’s a statement. What is your problem with that?”

© New


Mis en ligne le 3 mai 2009, par
M. Macina, sur le site