Al-Dura Exclusive: Esther Schapira’s Open Letter to Charles Enderlin

This could be ignored and seen as a private problem that your wife and friends have to cope with if you had chosen to report about the competition for the prettiest rabbit or the slowest cyclist at the Tour de France. But unfortunately, you are a correspondent in the Middle East, in a political hotspot, in Israel. Meanwhile, I learned that you are even a respected and famous figure in French journalism and people believe what you say. Based upon your reporting, they judge. When it comes to Israel many people have a prefabricated opinion anyhow, they know that Israel is guilty and the Palestinians are innocent victims, and they are looking for images to fill the stereotype in their head.

On the 30th of September 2000, you delivered the final proof: the filmed death of a child in his father’s lap, being shot dead by Israeli soldiers in front of a camera. Yet you knew of course that the child was still moving when you said the famous words: “l’enfant est mort.”

After more then ten years and after two documentaries I have completed during that time, after so much research, all I know for sure is that there is no proof that Mohammed Al-Dura is dead. We simply don’t know what happened to him after your cameraman Talal Abu Rahme filmed him. Let’s hope that he is still alive. That would be the best, of course, first and foremost for him. He might have survived, he might be 23 years old now, he might be a member of the Facebook generation and he might even have taken part in the Arab Spring in Egypt. Who knows? We do know, however, that the story is very different from the way you told it. We know that this false story killed people because it became a major tool of propaganda and was used as a justification for murder, as in the slaughter of Daniel Pearl.

And I know you are a liar. If you lie on purpose, or if you tell a lie because you are a bad journalist and don’t know the truth, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same. You tell lies and I want your audience to know this as well, and I am going to prove this.

This is why after all this time I have changed my mind, and why, after our new encounter, when once again you called me a “militant journalist,” I decided to write this open letter to you. No worry, I am not going to tell once more why your story on Mohammed Al-Dura is wrong. This was what I did in my documentaries, and for good reason, you and your company didn’t sue me as “Charles big mouth” had threatened he would after the second film had aired. No, quite simply, I’ll talk about the passage in your book where you write about me. I could take nearly every sentence and show how wrong you are, what a cheap mixture of insinuations, generalizations, and false statements it is, but it is not worth the effort. Instead I’ll take a few examples that speak for the rest.

You write twice that I never went to Gaza. This is wrong. I went three times to the Gaza Strip and to Gaza City. The first time was in 1998, when we did several films for ARTE because of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. I came without a TV crew for a report about a Palestinian worker living in Gaza and working in Israel. We also did a report about a Bedouin Village in Gaza. And I did a 30-minute interview with Suha Arafat, the wife of Yasser Arafat, in their private home in Gaza.

I also went with Joschka Fischer -- back then the foreign minister of Germany -- to the West Bank and to Gaza when he visited the area while I accompanied him with a film crew for a film portrait. Last but not least, I went to the settlement Netzarim, to the Netzarim military base and to the Israeli outpost at Netzarim for the film you know best: Three Bullets and a Dead Child -- who killed Mohammed al Durah?

You write that neither this, nor our second film The Child, the Death and the Truth -- The Mystery of the Palestinian Boy Mohammed al Durah, has been sold to any other country. This is false. The first film has been sold to nine countries: Belgium, France, the Dominican Republic, Luxembourg, Australia, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Andorra. The second film has been sold to five countries: Switzerland, Taiwan, Israel, Croatia, and Poland.