Sued by French TV: A Conversation with Philippe Karsenty
Why Pajamas Media Pays So Much Attention to Al Dura
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Philippe Karsenty when the French media gadfly was in Los Angeles.
More than any other English-language media outlet, Pajamas Media has been focusing on Karsenty's Paris libel trials concerning the Al Dura matter. French state-owned television France 2 has sued Karsenty for accusing (on his site Media-Ratings) the network of broadcasting doctored news footage, which falsely stated Israeli troops killed the twelve-year old Palestinian boy Mohammed al Dura.
Why are we paying so much attention to this legal battle in France, which is based on a disputed event in Gaza over seven years ago (2000)? Well, certainly not to gain clicks or attention on the Internet, I regret to say.
We are following this because part of the mission of Pajamas Media is to examine the errors and omissions of mainstream media and try to understand why they occurred and to correct them. This began with the Dan Rather affair, which gave this company its name.
The Al Dura affair is arguably more important than Rather. The American anchorman lost his job for promulgating false documents about Bush's National Guard service.
The France 2 news footage - shot by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma and then produced and narrated by the French-Israeli anchorman Charles Enderlin - blames the Israeli army for child murder. What could be worse than that?
This Al Dura video, and the subsequent photo excised from it of the supposedly dead boy, has been called the "Mother of All Fauxtography." And that could be so - at least for our time. (False photos, art and documents incriminating nations and ethnic groups are an ancient phenomenon.)
The phony photograph went round the world, inspiring Muslims everywhere to hatred of Israelis and Jews and helping to foment and justify the second Intifada. The photo appeared on postage stamps and on billboards throughout the Islamic world and Western Europe. Public squares and streets were named for the "martyred" boy. The murderers of Daniel Pearl claimed they were avenging young Mohammed's death at the very moment they slit the American journalist's throat.
When I was in Paris in 2004, I saw the fake photograph blown up on posters and displayed all over the Left Bank and at historic locations like the Luxembourg Gardens. No one thought to question it. The Israelis had killed the boy. It was as potent a piece of propaganda for our time as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was for an earlier epoch, perhaps more so, because it was virtually uncontested.
Pajamas Media will stay on this case until this calumny is corrected and France 2 publicly admits its errors. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Richard Landes and PJM's Paris editor Nidra Poller in this regard.
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