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Al-Dura Verdict: What Prognosis for Civil Society in France?

A decision was expected today. Will the court exonerate Philippe Karsenty?

by
Richard Landes

Bio

April 4, 2013 - 7:38 am

At 3:00 p.m. on September 30, 2000, everything turned upside down at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip. France2 cameraman Talal abu Rahma — after a day of filming spontaneously staged scenes of Palestinian injury and ambulance evacuation — deliberately participated in staging footage of a boy being murdered by Israeli troops while his defenseless father tried vainly to protect him.

Curiously, despite the claim that the boy’s ordeal continued for an hour, Talal only managed to film a (very unfocused) minute — itself chopped up into six “takes” of about ten seconds each.

Several hours later, France2 Middle East correspondent Charles Enderlin went live with five of the “takes,” presenting them as a live capture of the Israelis “targeting” the two and killing the son in a hail of bullets.

The footage, packaged as an accusation of deliberately killing the boy “in cold blood” and “in his father’s lap,” circumnavigated the globe instantaneously, deeply touching those who saw it and raising outraged voices everywhere against supposed Israeli cruelty. For both Islamist jihadis and the “radical left,” the Israelis became the new Nazis: ruthless, genocidal villains. Even normally sober political analysts like French news anchor Catherine Nay somehow judged: “This image replaces, erases that of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.”

Within months, Hamas began a campaign of suicide terror attacks on civilian Israelis “to avenge the boy’s blood”; Osama bin Laden made a recruiting video starring al-Dura; and by the end of the year, the UN Durban Conference against Racism, with al-Dura borne in effigy, orchestrated a massive assault on Israel. Al-Dura was the icon, the patron saint of hatred in the 21st century.

Concurrently, a school of lethal journalism took over among Middle East correspondents. In a sense, this image proved all those earlier accusations of Israeli baby-killing. From  al-Dura onwards, the journalistic default mode accepted Palestinian claims as true, dismissed Israeli denials, and when events proved they had been wrong, fell silent. Rather than offer even a feeble “mistakes were made,” journalists continued to serve as a major pipeline for Palestinian war propaganda.

From the Oslo Intifada onwards, “lethal narratives” about Israel entered the Western public sphere as news, as real events that accurately conveyed the conflict. Starting with Jenin in 2002, every Israeli maneuver to stop Palestinian attacks has produced media coverage that systematically pumped Palestinian accusations — most of which proved subsequently false or wildly exaggerated — into the Western public sphere.

This journalistic behavior, much as it may claim to want to help, does the Palestinians no favors.

It militarizes their society and cuts the ground beneath any constructive contact with Israelis. Once the image of al-Dura hit, the lights went out from all the “confidence-building” dialogues set in motion by Camp David. When the campaign of suicide bombers who blew themselves up among Israeli women and children broke out three months later, 80% of Palestinians said they supported it.

The other poorly served party: the journalistic malfeasance does untold damage to the democratic societies among which these journalists ply their lethal trade.

It apparently occurred to few that Israel’s enemies also considered both Americans and Europeans, Christians and post-Christians, as enemies.

As a result, this lethal European journalism — far more strident than the American kind — poisoned the public sphere, provoking violent anti-Semitism among its Muslim populations (See Taguieff’s Rising from the Muck) and justifications among the rest: “Look what you do to their cousins in Palestine, what can you expect?”

European crowds cheered on suicide terror, without a clue that they were also to be targets.

Last year, a French-born Muslim – one radicalized by jihadis using lethal narratives — murdered two five-year-old students and a father at a Jewish school in Toulouse, claiming he was avenging how “the Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine.”

But Muhammad Merah never saw an Israeli deliberately kill a Palestinian child.

He had only seen videos claiming to document the outrage. The false accusation against Israel had justified his real, abominable crime of child-murder.

The press in France sought to emphasize the individual pathology of Merah. This, too, was false reporting. Vocal members of Merah’s own community hailed him as a hero of the “resistance.”

In the case of al-Dura, the media’s behavior is particularly distressing. Rather than investigate or even examine the evidence as any responsible news media should, journalists closed ranks around their beleaguered colleague, complaining that this criticism constituted an attack on the freedom of the press.

Instead of correcting himself, Enderlin — with the help of state-owned France2 — sued for defamation of character against private French citizens who had the temerity to publish against him on the internet.

The longest-lasting case, one taken to appeals court twice (once by Karsenty, once by Enderlin), was supposed to be decided this week.

On January 16, 2013, the two faced off in court for the fifth time. Karsenty decorticated several key France2 news programs, showing with raw footage how often Enderlin used visibly staged material to report the news, and demonstrated the dozen major ways the video evidence flatly contradicted the narrative.

Enderlin did not defend himself, but rather … showed the court the very news reports just revealed as based on fakes by Karsenty.

It was a stunning display of contempt for the intelligence of all present, in which he basically repeated his response to a challenge from journalist Esther Schapira: “This is the way I do a story … what’s your problem with that?”

The judges in the French Court of Appeals have the opportunity to make an important contribution to the health of their society. If they take issue with Enderlin’s unprofessional and damaging journalism and with his effort to exploit the courts to bully critics, then they can show both judicial and intellectual integrity.

In that case, expect the French media to either say as little as possible, or complain about the chill wind threatening their freedom.

But since the courts are deeply politicized — both in the “old-boy networks” that sustained the anti-Dreyfus crowd in the face of the evidence a century ago, and in the political correctness that has paralyzed the ability of the French (and the West) to speak, even to think constructively about the challenges they face — then they may well side with Enderlin on a technicality.

If the judges go this path, expect the media to trumpet the court’s confirmation that Israel did, indeed, kill the boy.

It’s hard to imagine something more culturally self-destructive. But there you have it — an important tale from the still-young but deeply troubled 21st century.

Today the court, without explanation, announced that they were delaying the decision almost two more months, to May 22.

For those arguing that a politicized court would naturally side with state-owned and politically correct France2, this is unexpected, and — I think — good news, as a kangaroo court does not hesitate.

If the judges have hesitated, it’s because the evidence is so “badly” in Karsenty’s favor that the judges hesitate to defy it. Whether due to fear of contradiction, or due to some (significant but not decisive) remaining elements of intellectual integrity, this is good news for those who hope the court shows judicial sanity rather then political savvy.

But the fact that they remain uncommitted, rather than deciding for Karsenty’s obvious right to criticize a journalist (especially given the powerful evidence against Enderlin), means the weight of public honor (Enderlin’s, France2′s, the Palestinians’) still weighs heavily in their calculations.

———————————–

For further information:

Evidence and analysis of the original incident: Second Draft

Ongoing discussion of the controversy: The Augean Stables

Extensive analysis of the Karsenty Trials: Veronique Chemla (mostly French)

Archive of all relevant articles: Debriefing.org

Philippe Karsenty’s website (English)

Charles Enderlin’s blog (French)

New website under construction: The  al-Dura Project

Wikipedia article: Al Durrah Incident

Richard Landes is a Professor at Boston University in history. He has just come out with two books: Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He blogs at The Augean Stables.

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Top Rated Comments   
I'm glad that someone's keeping these trials in the public notice, even if it's in the micro-PJM sphere. Where's all the deeply concerned NPR discussion?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (15)
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it's actualy my favourite-job I've ever done. Earn 10 to 50$/hr working from home with Google! I've made $64,000 so far this year working online and I'm a full time student. I've made such great money. It's really user friendly and I'm just so happy that I found out about it. Here is what I do, Fox78.com
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What I find the most shocking is that Charles Enderlin is ostensibly Jewish.
What sort of sick twisted person is so willing to sell out his own people for a nothing more than a few francs. There should be a special place in hell reserved for miscreants like him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
NPR? Seriously?

Ha, NPR inadvertently contributed to my transformation to conservative beliefs, one of many factors but significant nonetheless.

As a good little indoctrinated liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, I listened to NPR very often. Slowly, slowly, something inside me became confused. There was no way that the Israelis could be so terrible as NPR portrayed, no way, either, that the Palestinians could be so very blameless, the naïf innocents. Hello, my brain said to my heart. Anyone home? Think about it. And I did.

And having been thoroughly duped for years by the asses at NPR, NPR sickens me now.

Well, at least their relentless pro-Arab slant (back then at least, can't say anything about them now as I'd prefer to walk barefoot over hot coal than hear their dulcet, smug tones again) woke one person, me, up.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Whoops, meant to post that as a reply down below to the comment about NOR. Da.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Is this a good time to mention that I loathe the left-leaning, lizard, tiresome MSM?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a long time resident of Australia I fancy I have a better understanding of kangaroos than those of you in roo-free New England. Just last Sunday I encountered a big 6 footer on the way to a party and stopped and waited judiciously for him to make up his mind which way he was going to hop. All of which is to say that French culture and French judicial culture in particular can be quite opaque to us denizens of the Anglosphere. I can't help but wonder if what is really on trial here is 'the honor of the narrative' and that because the left has won the last election the courts may naturally support the corresponding narrative. I hope you are right but after all that French postmodern molestation of the notion of truth I think the French elite will have little problem privileging class solidarity over decency. To be serious for a moment, thank you Richard for all your persistence in fighting this contemporary Dreyfus case, and for keeping us up to date.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's "public honor" to lie? Some people never quite grasp what honor is.

Enderlin lied, his public honor died.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
you're working with Montaigne's notion of honor, as in: "Any person of honor chooses rather to lose his honor than to lose his conscience.” the fact is that in honor-cultures, lying to save face is entirely acceptable, since face is the highest value. Enderlin, in other words, has "gone native."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem is with the French Court, French laws and the French media that they found it honorable to ignore facts to protect a liar.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, the virulent anti-Semitism of the European Press, along with that of the Osama Mainstream Media over here in America, is both loathsome and frightening. "Never Again" the Holocaust memorials across Europe say. Just as any normal human being would say, who has studied history. And yet, some sixty years have passed and here they are again, Europeans, screaming for Jewish blood. What is WRONG with these people? What is the root of this hatred of the Jewish minority in Europe. It boggles the mind. Now, the Arab/Turk/Persian world I can understand. Their Holy Book is rich with hatred for the Jews (among others). The Muslim World would annihilate every Jew on Earth without batting an eye. Because their religious faith tells them so. But what about Europe? Europe has no religious faith. Not any more. They present themselves as being so much more caring that the rest of us, and yet they STILL have the Jewish people (what remains of them) in their gun sights. I just can't get my head around it. If the Jewish state of Israel were to disappear in a nuclear poof tomorrow, would Muslims, and Europeans, be any better off? Would the conflicts end? Would the Shia break bread with the Sunni? Would the Palestinians peek out from their card-board hovels onto a brave new world of economic opportunities? Would the greater Middle East, and beyond into Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesian, suddenly flower and prosper? Once the New-Jersey-sized nation of Israel is forever razed from the Earth?

Or .. maybe .. Jews .. and the Jewish state of Israel .. are not .. really .. the problem .. Huh?? Maybe the social failures in Europe and the Arab-Muslim world run rather more deep? Maybe THEY have no one but themselves to blame for the decay and the rot and the irrelevance that their cultures are sinking into.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
they do it by proxy. few europeans are screaming for jewish blood. they just hold the coats of the muslims who do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm glad that someone's keeping these trials in the public notice, even if it's in the micro-PJM sphere. Where's all the deeply concerned NPR discussion?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, thank you for covering this. Yours is a journalism with honor. Thanks for the links to the background on this story.

This incident is so evil.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Would you really be willing to bet on what side NPR would come down on?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
like the rest of the MSNM, they are part of the emperor's new clothes parade. the cost of telling the israeli side of the story would be too great. the NYT actually put a leash on Jodi Rudoren when she had the nerve to say, "you know, I'm here in Gaza and I'm struck by how little they seem to be upset by their casualties." political correctness will kill us when we apply it to people who a) have contempt for the values we try and uphold, and b) systematically use our commitment to their advantage.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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