Many people have written me about the rushes from Talal abu Rahmeh. It was viewing them for the first time that inspired the term “Pallywood.” For those who have not yet read this essay at the Second Draft, I post here a revised version.
ON SEEING THE FRANCE2 FROM SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
I had the rare privilege to visit Charles Enderlin at France2 studios in Jerusalem in October 2003, and view about 20 minutes of tape from Talal abu Rachmeh’s work of the same days as the Reuter’s cameraman’s rushes made available here. Although I had already become acquainted with this tendency to stage scenes of fighting and ambulance evacuation from viewing these Reuter’s rushes at the studio of Nahum Shahaf, the first person to argue that Al Durah was staged, I was in for quite a surprise. Talal’s work was considerably more obvious in its filming of fakes, many of them quite badly staged for the cameras. In fact, if the Reuter’s cameraman who filmed the footage you see at The Second Draft was, to some extent a photographer of Pallywood, standing back often and filming both the scene and the set, Talal was a Pallywood photographer, filming up close only the key “sight bytes” (as in the Molotov Cocktail scene).
At one point, some youth are evacuating a “wounded” comrade, when one of them sees another ambulance with more cameramen. He puts the wounded boy in a headlock and yanks him over to the other ambulance, dragging the other “evacuators” with him. At another point, a boy faked a leg injury, but instead of drawing big kids who could pick him up and rush him past the cameramen to an ambulance, he only attracted little kids. He shooed them away, looked around, and, seeing that no one was coming to evacuate him, straightened up and walked away without a limp. The experience of watching Talal’s work was literally surreal, Alice in Wonderland. I was astonished. It gave me information vertigo. What was going on?
An Israeli cameraman working for France2 who was watching the film with me and Enderlin at the time, snickered at one point. When I asked him why, he said, “because it looks so fake.”
“That’s my impression as well,” I remarked.
To which Enderlin responded, “Oh, they do that all the time. It’s their cultural style. They exaggerate.”
At that point, I should have asked, “then how can you justify using fake footage in your news broadcasts?” But being focused entirely on al Durah, I asked: “Well if they stage all this, why can’t they have also staged al Durah?”
“They’re not good enough,” he shot back.
When I walked out of the office, I was in shock. They do this all the time!?!
“It’s their cultural style”? Enderlin’s condescending “orientalism” really disguised an information catastrophe. The joke was on us all – the responsible media, the trusting public, the “scoop”-hungry journalists who rummaged through these cheap scenes, looking for something they could use in the evening’s broadcast. That’s when the term Pallywood first occurred to me.
Other journalists who saw Abu Rachmeh’s rushes in Paris at France2 in the Fall of 2004 had the same impression and got the same answer from France2 executives. In a radio interview, Daniel Leconte recalls:
… the staging which obviously they were obliged to acknowledge as we sat around the table with the representatives of France 2, that is was staged – which is pretty outrageous (quand même extravagant) – and when we said to them, “You can see it’s staged,” one of them said, smiling, “Yes, but you know well that it’s always like that.” [To which Leconte responded:] “You may know that, but your viewers still don’t know.”
At least Leconte and Jeambar still adhere to principles of modern journalism, even if, sadly, they have chosen to speak no further on the subject. (Nidra Poller will be writing shortly about the way in which French journalism suffocates dissenting perspectives, which is what these trials are all about.)
PATV “journalists” have no scruples about doctoring film with shots from other days — in this case a shot of an Israeli firing rubber bullets in a riot caused by the al Durah footage into the al Durah footage so it looks like he killed Muhammad on purpose — in order to “tell a higher truth.”
“These are forms of artistic expression, but all of this serves to convey the truth and explain a specific event. We never forget our higher journalistic principles to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.”
(One needs to see the footage, which comes from an interview in Esther Schapira’s movie, to appreciate the self-satisfaction of the PATV official speaking. He has no idea that this violates the basic principles of modern journalism. He’s proud of what he’s done.)
Charles Enderlin responded to the scandal caused by these revelations with a defense that suggests he has “gone native.” He used Talal’s footage to run his story “because it corresponded with the situation on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Leconte commented to one journalist: “I find this, from a journalistic point of view, hallucinating,” said Leconte, himself a former journalist. “That a journalist like him (Enderlin) can be driven to say such things is very revealing of the state of the press in France today,” he added. And that Leconte and Jeanbar have, despite their initial courageously defiant remarks like this, fallen silent on this issue, is equally revealing.
Newsmen in the American MSM whom I approached with this material were not quite as outrageous as Enderlin, but then they were not quite so courageous as Leconte and Jeambar, either. As one journalist at ABC put it, “I’m convinced by your argument about Pallywood, but I don’t know how much appetite there is for this kind of thing here.” At the time I didn’t realize fully how intimidated our MSM are.
Or as another put it, making allusions to the omnipresent commitment to “even-handedness” – “if we did something on this, we could not do it on this alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well we’d have to do something on what the Israelis do to manipulate images.”
“And if you don’t have anything remotely resembling this degree of dishonesty?”
“Then we won’t do anything.”
And they didn’t.
It is partly out of the refusal of the MSM to police itself (even rival networks!), and partly out of the brazen refusal of France2 and Charles Enderlin to release their incriminating tapes, that inspired me to launch the Second Draft.
[Note the following section was written last year and may need updating. Please check again soon.]
To urge France2 to release the tapes of Talal’s work on September 30, 2000 and the following day, October 1.
Arlette Chabot is the News Director of France 2 Television who was present when Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte and Luc Rosenzweig saw the rushes. She knows how bad the situation is, and needs to know it won’t go away. As of now, Enderlin and Abu Rahmeh continue to work together for France2 and inform the French public on the situation in the Middle East.
Send email to:email@example.com
Patrick De Carolis is a newly-appointed President of French Television. He should know that his predecessors have presided over massive journalist incompetence.
Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominique Baudis is President of Conseil Superieure de l’Audiovisuel (roughly translated as the French Broadcast Authority) which concluded that journalists should not broadcast stories that cannot be conclusively proven and should correct reports promptly and with the same prominence as the original story.
Submit comment by going to the following website:
If you wish to write in French, cut and paste the following:
Madame, (ou Monsieur)
Je vous écris pour vous demander de bien vouloir rendre publics les rushes qui ont été tournés par Talal Abou Rahma le 30 septembre et le 1er octobre 2000. Ceux qui ont vu ces images affirment que ces rushes contiennent de nombreuses mises en scène, que votre correspondant, Charles Enderlin a présenté comme des informations réelles. Compte tenu du fort impact de ces images et des doutes sérieux concernant son travail, le public devrait avoir le droit d’accéder à l’information brute, tourné par Abu Rahma, qui lui a permis de tirer ses conclusions dramatiques.
Je vous remercie de bien vouloir tenir compte de ma demande et de m’informer personnellement de la suite que vous comptez donner à ma requête.
Bien à vous.
[I write you to ask that you make public the raw footage that Talal Abu Rahma filmed on the 30th of September and the 1st of October, 2000. Those who have seen this footage assert that it contains numerous staged scenes which your correspondent, Charles Endeerlin presented to the public as real news. Given the powerful impact of such images and the serious doubts concerning the work of these two men, the public should have the right to see the primary sources which permitted him to draw his dramatic conclusions.
I thank you in advance for taking into account my request and informing me personally of the ways in which you intend to pursue this matter.