Energetic tired determined intelligent harried impatient boyish argumentative charming brusque — those are a few adjectives that come to mind as one attempts to describe Philippe Karsenty, the tireless talking thorn who has embedded himself in the side of France’s government-owned television channel, France 2, and even more firmly between the ribs of its revered Franco-Israeli Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, the reporter responsible for having perpetrated what is now often referred to as the “Al-Dura hoax.”
It all began almost ten years ago — on September 30, 2000, when France 2 ran a 50-second tape of what appeared to be the death by Israeli fire in Gaza of Mohammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, while he cowered in the arms of his father – a contemporary pietá for the Arab world. Enderlin, who had not been present at the scene, and whose editors had edited the tape from the roughly six minutes of footage sent to them by the channel’s Palestinian camera man (who had himself cut it down from 27 minutes of tape), plainly stated in his voiceover that the boy had been intentionally shot by Israeli soldiers and that he had died.
Initially accepted as fact, the report is now widely disbelieved, and no one can take greater credit for exposing and publicizing France 2’s fabrication than Karsenty.
“Do you know what is the bottom line of all this?” he told me recently. “It is the first blood libel of our 21st century, and it’s the beginning of the Israel-bashing of our 21st century, the beginning of the international jihad which started before 9/11. It [happened] a year before 9/11, and it [was] used by bin Laden to incite 9/11. So it’s really the starting point of the international jihad against the Western world.”
Karsenty was speaking in a booth of “Le Train Bleu,” a grandly ornate 19th century restaurant above the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, from where he would shortly leave for Lausanne, Switzerland, to deliver a lecture. At 44 years of age, the former stockbroker, now an elected official in the Neuilly-sur-Seine district of Paris, has the tanned, gleaming epidermis of the lens-ready public figure. His eyes are a limpid brown, his lips well-shaped, and he is quick to flash a politician’s smile when faced with a camera.
The French art of diplomacy is not his strong point. He calls France’s most famously dashing politician a text-book anti-Semite, paints “self-hating” or ”cowardly” Jews with a broad and critical brush, and throws around politically incorrect opinions as casually as he drops a 100 Euro note to pay for his lunch. There is more than a touch of American impatience about him, but he doesn’t like what’s on view across the Atlantic.
“We are seeing America declining, declining, declining, and we are seeing Europeans so happy to see America following their path. The French so-called intellectuals are so happy with Obama putting America on its knees. For people who are fighting for the free world, it’s a disaster. Ask the Koreans what they think about Obama. I’m sure they don’t like him at all. Ask the Japanese. … It’s November or never, my friend.”
Even as the French news media does whatever it can to ignore him, Karsenty makes news. On June 10 he won a lawsuit in the court of Nanterre against the French pay station Canal + (a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal), which he had sued for defaming his character in the television documentary, Rumeurs, Intox: Les Nouvelles Guerres de l’Info. The film aired shortly before a verdict on April 24, 2008, in which Karsenty successfully appealed against a previous court judgment, in 2006, in which he had been judged guilty of defaming Enderlin’s character. But by 2008 he had marshaled enough evidence to establish that France 2’s report was journalistically shaky at best and his previous conviction was reversed.