You will recall Philippe Karsenty, the man who was sued by the France 2 television network’s highly-regarded Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin for libel after he called Enderlin’s report accusing Israel of murdering 12-year old Muhammad al-Dura in 2000 “a hoax”.
You will probably also recall that the al-Dura ‘death’ — at this time it seems most likely that he was not killed at all, and if he was hit it was by Palestinian bullets — was a rallying cry for the intifada and for Israel-haters everywhere; indeed, the Palestinian mob that tore apart two Israeli reservists in Ramallah two weeks later shouted “al-Dura”.
The film of al-Dura cowering behind his father as ‘Israeli’ bullets supposedly struck around them was broadcast and rebroadcast around the world. France 2 even supplied it to its competitors CNN and Reuters.
Here is a video commentary by Richard Landes that includes the original film plus other footage from that day. You can see the power of the film, but the evidence is overwhelming that al-Dura was not killed by Israeli bullets. Karsenty has called this “the first blood libel of the 21st century”.
After Enderlin won his suit at a trial in which the only evidence taken seriously by the judge was a character reference for Enderlin from then-President Jacques Chirac, Karsenty appealed and the verdict was overthrown.
Now Karsenty has published a damning account of the lack of cooperation — he uses the word ‘sabotage’ — provided him by the Israeli government in his legal struggle with France 2. He writes,
During all those years, I got the cold shoulder from Israeli officials. With the exception of a few mavericks like Danny Seaman (director of the Government Press Office), Raanan Gissin (Spokesman, Prime Minister’s Office), Shlomi Amshalom, former deputy spokesperson for the IDF, or former ambassador Zvi Mazel, the vast majority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel treated me and others who pursued this case, as embarrassments – conspiracy nuts who they wished would just disappear…
In 2002, when it was still possible to do something immediate, Nissim Zvili was the Israeli ambassador to Paris. He listened courteously but explained to me that he was a friend of Charles Enderlin, the French journalist who narrated the al Dura hoax.
In 2006, Zvili was replaced by Daniel Shek, who refused to shake my hand, and later commented on a Jewish radio that I was defending “conspiracy theories.” When I asked his colleague in charge of communication at the embassy in Paris, Daniel Halevy Goitschel, why he never returned my phone calls, he responded: “the phone doesn’t work at the embassy”. We are not even dealing with a lack of support here. On the contrary, I was being sabotaged.
When I won the case in May 2008, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “Karsenty is a private individual and no one in the Israeli government asked him to take on his battle against France 2. Karsenty had no right to demand that Israel come to his aid. All calls on the Israeli government to come and ‘save’ him are out of place. He was summoned to court because of a complaint of the French television channel. I don’t see where there is room for the Israeli government to get involved.”
Last December, I went over the evidence with Aviv Shir-On, who now claims to have helped me, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). After two hours he repeated the old MFA refrain, “I’m not convinced”. Let’s say, for the sake of generosity, that Shir-On is just one more timid defender of Israel, so afraid of what “others” might say, that even the judgment of an independent (and hardly well-disposed) French court in favor of his own country, does not give him the courage to speak. So even though I won the case, and the new evidence from France 2 sharpens our argument, I could not count on Israeli officials to help move into a counter-attack. Enderlin, humiliated by the court decision, was allowed to bluff his way back to prominence, and recently, in the Gaza war, lead the journalists’ attack on the Israeli government…
On January 2009, I met Tsipi Livni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and asked her about the al Dura story and the lack of reaction of the Israeli officials. Why didn’t the State of Israel demand that France 2 admit their blood libel following the court decision? I was stunned by her answer: “Well, it happens that we kill kids sometimes. So, it’s not good for Israel to raise the subject again”. — Philippe Karsenty: Israel Losing the Media War: Wonder Why?
Now I am going to say something which I’ve said before, which has always annoyed people, but which I think is true:
Many important people in Israel have internalized the propaganda of Israel’s enemies. They are prepared to believe that IDF soldiers would continue to fire on a target like al-Dura and his father, who are obviously not firing back and not even armed, for 40 minutes. This is not the same as saying that ‘accidents happen’, it is agreeing that the IDF is either criminally negligent or deliberately murderous, which is what the Arab and European press constantly say.
It seems to me that some Israelis and Jews have a moral inferiority complex. Even though they would not admit this, deep down they are not sure that Israel has a right to exist. Although they understand intellectually that Israel is in a life and death struggle with the Arab world and Iran, emotionally there is a feeling that we are wrong.
I’ve often criticized people who seem prepared to believe anything bad about Israel, even if it doesn’t make sense, like the accusations that the IDF deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza. Apparently many Israelis, even those that believe themselves to be Zionists, share this propensity.
Doubts were raised about the al-Dura affair from the very beginning. Yet Israel’s official approach was to accept responsibility, to believe Palestinian and European media without a serious investigation. And even after an IDF investigation showed that it was highly unlikely that the bullets could have been fired by Israeli soldiers, Karsenty’s efforts to bring out the rest of the evidence — to force France 2 to release the outtakes — were opposed. Officials still treated him as a “conspiracy nut” and accepted the Palestinian/European version of events.
How else can you explain this?