Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Al-Dura Case in Court

Long posting with lots of background:-


French TV sues over al-Dura killing

Almost six years after the September 30, 2000 Gaza Strip gun battle in which Muhammad al-Dura, 12, was killed, the Paris Lower Court of Justice on Thursday will hear a defamation case pressed by French state-run TV channel France 2 against individuals who claim the footage aired that day showing the death of the boy was a hoax.

Philippe Karsenty, 40, the leading defendant, claimed the video taken by Palestinian cameraman Talal Hassan Abu Rahma is a blatant forgery. Head of a Paris-based media analysis company named Media-Ratings, Karsenty sent a communique to most of the editorials of French and foreign media in November 2004 about what he termed the "deception," "farce," "imposture" and "fake death" of Dura. The terms of the communique were made public by Media-Ratings' Web site.

Following publication, France 2 and its Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin, who had voiced-over the controversial footage, sued for defamation.

Contrary to France 2's extremely discreet attitude, Karsenty publicized the upcoming court hearing widely, hoping the media would pick up again the whole polemic around Dura's death.

The footage showed an adult and a young boy crouching between two barrels filled with concrete in front of a wall. The two looked terrorized by the ongoing gunfight, the adult apparently trying to shelter the boy from the bullets. The next shot showed the boy lying apparently dead.

Enderlin was not on the scene but he voiced-over the footage according to the information given to him by Abu Rahma. He explained that the footage showed a father and his son caught in a gunfight and that the boy was killed by shots coming from the IDF position at the Netzarim junction. France 2 offered the video for free to all television stations.

Dura was instantly turned into an icon of the Palestinian people. Arab stations aired the footage again and again.

The following day, Enderlin quoted on France 2 an official IDF statement saying it regretted the loss of human life and denouncing the cynical use of women and children by the terrorists.

On October 2, 2000, Enderlin interviewed then deputy chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who said: "The child and his father were between our position and the place from which we were shot at. It is not impossible - this is a supposition, I don't know - that a soldier, due to his angle of vision, and because one was shooting in his direction, had seen someone hidden in this line of fire and may have fired in the same direction."

The IDF eventually acknowledged there was a "high probability" that its bullets had hit Dura.

Unhappy with these statements, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia initiated a reenactment of the scene at an IDF firing range, intending to prove the boy was hit by Palestinian fire.

Based on Samia's conclusions, Karsenty and his supporters have ever since relentlessly attacked both Enderlin and France 2. Enderlin is a long-time bete noire of numerous French Jews who cannot stand his allegedly anti-Israel reports. According to France 2 news editors, almost all of Enderlin's reports are harshly criticized by both pro-Israel and by pro-Palestinian viewers,

Karsenty's Web site developed a theory according to which the whole scene was a forgery, that Dura was not killed in front of the camera, and insinuating that the boy was in fact alive. Based on an analysis of the footage filmed by Abu Rahma prior to Dura's death, Karsenty claimed that he was filming fake shoot-outs and staged casualties.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Enderlin said, "I don't mind people elaborating any conspiracy theory about me and France 2 and writing about it. Another French guy even made a fortune by writing a book about 9/11 saying that it was a missile that hit the Pentagon. I can accept any polemic; what is unacceptable is to be publicly insulted and be called a liar. This is why we sued Karsenty, not for his eccentric theories."

The Paris court will have to state whether Karsenty's accusations against France 2 and Enderlin are acceptable. Karsenty will have to produce hard evidence supporting his opinion. If he fails to do so, he could be fined up to 12,000.


Paris prosecutor calls for dismissal of al-Dura libel case

The defamation case pressed by French state-run TV channel France 2 against individuals who claim the footage aired September 30, 2000 showing the death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was a hoax was brought to court on Friday.

Philippe Karsenty, 40, the leading defendant, failed to prove his claim that the video taken by France 2's Palestinian cameraman Talal Hassan Abu Rahma was a blatant forgery.

Karsenty was submitted to a very thorough cross-examination by the judge, who seemed to think that he did not bring conclusive evidence to support his assertion that France 2's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin who had done the voice-over for the controversial footage was a liar and a forger.

The public prosecutor thus surprised the court when he asked for the dismissal of the case against the defendant on account of his good faith.

He said France 2 should have called to the bar the medics and reporters who were present during and after the shootout.

The court's decision was deferred to the end of October. The judge is not compelled to follow the conclusions of the public prosecution.

At least five other France 2 defamation lawsuits against Karsenty are due to be brought to court in the coming months.


Comments of EH

It appears the Al Dura Trials are off to a surprisingly good start. Both Nidra Poller and Professor Richard Landes contacted me last night, and they are very pleased.

If the defamation charges are dismissed, then we're on our way to correcting an enormous injustice.

It could be an enormous blow to the international media's credibility. It could expose the depravity of the Palestinian Arab propaganda machine It could offer Israel an opportunity to rehabilitiate and rebuild her PR capabilities. It could be a coup for justice and accountability, as it would expose the grave consequences that this entire epsiode has had on the region and the world.

But we need the public to pressure the mainstream media into covering this - The bloggers are doing a great job.

Suggest you read

Nidra's account on the trial (excerpt below)

The court was divorcedŠ I should say the court was above the atmosphere that reigns in French society today, in the media, in politics. That¹s why I was so surprised. I felt like I was in the presence of a certain French decency that is hardly manifest anywhere else these days.

Richard's account on the trial (excerpt below)

Then came Madame la Procureur de la Republique [This court-appointed official represents ³la société civile,² and summarizes from the point of view of the public interest how to he or she reads the evidence presented and finally makes a recommendation]. A screen writer could not have written a better speech. All the best tropes of civil society honesty, accountability, fairness, transparency, context, the dangerous powers of an uncriticized quatrième état (fourth estate), the right of the public to know, and therefore the responsibility of France2 to show the tapes of their cameraman Talal abu Rahmeh the fact that what Phillipe had said was in fact defamation of Charles Enderlin¹s reputation as a journalist, but that the evidence more than supported such an accusation

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