Israeli report on al-Dura case is vengeful and ‘surreal,’ says Haaretz — but ‘NYT’ treats it as gospel

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Al Dura family at his grave
From a al-Dura family, including Jamal (l), at Mohammed al-Dura’s grave

Famously, 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was killed in the second intifada, during a shootout in Gaza in September 2000; haunting footage of the boy’s cowering with his father, first broadcast on French public television, became a symbol of the brutality of the occupation. But this weekend the Israeli government produced a report asserting that the boy and his father may well have escaped the shootout unscathed.

The Guardian emphasizes the political stakes for Israel in making this assertion:

Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic affairs, who presented the report, described the affair as “a modern-day blood libel against the state of Israel … The France 2 report was utterly baseless.”

But the French reporter who first broadcast the footage on France2, says that Israel didn’t even interview the boy’s father, Jamal, and that witnesses to the killing are willing to undergo polygraph tests. Charles Enderlin:

Aucune autorité israélienne n’a contacté France 2, Jamal al Dura, Talal Abou Rahmeh le cameraman à des fins d’enquête ou d’autres protagonistes.

Barak Ravid in Haaretz says the report is “surreal” because it comes out 13 years after the event, then he goes on to describe it as vengeful and :

The report also appears to be a campaign of revenge launched by the State of Israel against a single French journalist, Charles Enderlin, who first reported Mohammed al-Dura’s death. Committee members tried to saddle Enderlin, an Israeli Jew who has been living here for over 30 years, with all of Israel’s problems and those of the Jewish people.

The committee went even further and hinted at Enderlin’s responsibility for the massacre of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse. “His report inspired many terrorists and contributed to the demonization of Israel and to the rise of anti-Semitism in Muslim and Western countries”, wrote committee members. “In some cases, the implications were deadly”.

The damage done by this report could be greater than any doubtful utility. Its publication, accompanied by an international public relations campaign only threatens to awaken sleeping dogs, for if the international press picks up on the report, it could lead to a renewed discussion on Palestinian children getting hurt during IDF operations.


Now let’s turn to the stenographic New York Times. Its account by Isabel Kershner treats the Israeli government report as absolutely credible–it hints that the shootout was staged and even says the boy in the footage “was identified as Muhammad al-Dura,” as if there’s even dispute over who he was:

[T]he facts behind the images have been disputed almost from the start, and on Sunday, the Israeli government asserted that there was no evidence for the original account of the event, which was that the boy was hit by Israeli bullets — and that it was even possible that neither the boy nor his father had been struck by any bullets at all….

The Israeli government review suggested, as other critics have, that the France 2 footage might have been staged. It noted anomalies like the apparent lack of blood in appropriate places at the scene, and said that raw footage from the seconds after the boy’s apparent death seem to show him raising his arm.

“Contrary to the report’s claim that the boy is killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive,” the review said.

It’s not until paragraph 8 that Kershner reports on disagreements with the Israeli report. She leaves till the last paragraph Enderlin’s assertion that the Israelis never interviewed Jamal al-Dura or other witnesses.

Here are a couple of English tweets from Enderlin raising questions about the Israeli government report:

The Israeli report: Jamal al dura was not injured.. Did the King of Jordan knew it when he visited him in hospital in Amman?

the Israeli report: jamal al dura was not injured so, the Jordanian surgeons who operated him 48h later are they liars?

A friend points out:

The New York Times has a reporter, Fares Akram, in Gaza City. Jamal al-Durah lives in Bureij refugee camp, 40 minutes from Gaza City. The Israeli report suggests Jamal was not even wounded in the shooting, much less his son injured or killed.

Couldn’t the NY Times have done the simple due diligence of interviewing him and asking if he says he was shot? Does anyone believe that after 13 years of this he would be hard to locate?

Ali Abunimah comments

NYT puts out any old conspiracy theory fed to it by Israel. Doesn’t speak to a single Palestinian of course

Unlike the Times, Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian gives  prominence to Enderlin’s rebuttal of the report, and explains why the case is so important for Israel:

the committee’s conclusions were rejected by France 2, the French public television channel that broadcast the report, its reporter Charles Enderlin, and the boy’s father, Jamal al-Dura. All said they were ready to co-operate with an independent international investigation into the incident, and Enderlin and Dura added they were willing to undergo polygraph tests….
According to the Israeli government press release that accompanied the report, “the narrative spawned by the France 2 report has served as an inspiration and justification for terrorism, antisemitism, and the delegitimisation of Israel”.
The committee, set up in 2012 by the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to examine the incident “in the light of the continued damage it has caused to Israel”, concluded that IDF gunfire was not responsible for the death of Muhammad and injuries to his father. Its 36-page report said France 2’s “central claims and accusations had no basis in the material which the station had in its possession at the time … There is no evidence that the IDF was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal or the boy…”
After receiving the report, Netanyahu said the incident had “slandered Israel’s reputation” and was a “manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel”.
Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic affairs, who presented the report, described the affair as “a modern-day blood libel against the state of Israel … The France 2 report was utterly baseless.”
My media-savvy friend continues:
It would seem that to believe Israel’s version, you have to believe that in a chaotic situation an organized Palestinian conspiracy somehow may have staged this shooting and/or its aftermath (with active complicity from France2), putting the father and son up to it. In the best case Israel has claimed that Palestinians actually shot them– not entirely impossible in a chaotic situation– but in the worst case in this new report Israel asserts they may not even have been shot and raises doubts that the boy was ever really killed! Where does Israel claim the boy went? One has to have to have such a distorted view of Palestinians as fundamentally manipulative liars, willing to do absolutely anything in order to go along with the Israeli report’s suggestions.”
It is interesting that Times reporter Isabel Kershner’s husband, Hirsh Goodman, working for Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, 3 years ago called on Israel to mount a “public diplomacy” offensive to get out its side of such stories: “in the context of post-Goldstone realities and the concerted campaign to besmirch Israel and de-legitimize the country, it is probably as important, if not more so, than the conventional battles Israel faces.”
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Yes. Mondoweiss is right.

well, i can’t improve upon my tweet about this report earlier this morning, so i’ve dug it up:

I wish Isabel Kershner could be humiliated professionally for this just as Israel is already being humiliated for this as just another example of it’s well-known and criminal institutionalized habit of lying. Like Bronner she has just fixed herself at her post – like sludge in a sewer pipe – and she might as well be an IDF reservist running an Israeli hasbara operation. Can’t wait to see Kershner’s ‘expose of Israel’ once this Israeli… Read more »

“After receiving the report, Netanyahu said the incident had “slandered Israel’s reputation” and was a “manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel”.”

Wrong again Mr. Netanyahu…. Israel is delegtimising itself.

The biggest problem with the NYT rep0rt is not just the details of this particular shooting–it’s that Kershner tacitly adopts the Israeli government viewpoint of the importance of it. Suppose for the sake of argument that this boy was killed by Palestinian bullets–we already know there were hundreds of Palestinian children killed by the Israelis during the Second Intifada. There’s no doubt about this. For the Israeli government, the significance of this particular case is… Read more »