Monthly Archives: October 2006

Condi: Master of Cognitive Egocentrism

Excerpts from an interview with Condaleeza Rice reveal the workings of cognitive egocentrism in painful detail. Follow the generous senitments that guide her projections, remember this is one of the most hard-headed members of Bush’s administration, and wonder at the power of wishful thinking. (Others may have other interpretations at what drives such unfounded and aggressive naïveté.)

Condi comes clean on her Middle East views

By Cal Thomas

There’s been much speculation in recent days about Secretary of State Rice’s beliefs on the future of “peace” in Israel and the areas won in defensive wars. JWR contributing columnist columnist Cal Thomas interviewed Miss Rice on October 25. What follows is an exclusive excerpt of the interview that will appear next week in his syndicated column.

We think the Secretary of State comes off as utopian and rather naive. She needs to go.

QUESTION: You’re all over the conservative Jewish blogs for remarks you made recently on the Palestinian state, your commitment to it, living side by side with Israel, and that’s been the policy of the Administration since day one.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: I’d like to know what evidence you have — I read, and I know you do and a lot more than I do, the sermons, the editorials in the Middle East, the right of return idea, which a lot of people think is just basically overwhelming for a Jewish population with millions and millions of Arabs in the so-called Diaspora. What evidence do you have that teaching their schoolchildren at the ages of four and five to be martyrs, to show up in their little uniforms with plastic guns and their headbands, textbooks one grenade plus two grenades equals, you know, three grenades — what evidence do you have out there that if they had an independent state that they would lay down their arms and not complete the mission of killing the Jews and throwing them out?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you can look at any opinion poll in the Palestinian territories and 70 percent of the people will say they’re perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace. And when it comes right down to it, yeah, there are plenty of extremists in the Palestinian territories who are not going to be easily dealt with. They have to be dealt with — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories — they’re terrorists and they have to be dealt with as terrorists.

But the great majority of Palestinian people — this is — I’ve been with these people. The great majority of people, they just want a better life. This is an educated population. I mean, they have a kind of culture of education and a culture of civil society. I just don’t believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that’s what people are going to do.

QUESTION: Do you think this or do you know this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think I know it.

QUESTION: You think you know it?

SECRETARY RICE: I think I know it.

QUESTION: Is it because — do you think you know it because you want to believe it or do you think you know it because of conversations with tens, scores, hundreds —

SECRETARY RICE: Well, lots of conversations with Palestinians. But also it’s — look, if human beings don’t want a better future, don’t want their children to grow up in peace and have opportunities, then none of this is going to work anyway. But I really believe that the people of the Middle East — not the extremists — want the same things that everyone else wants. I haven’t seen a society yet where it wasn’t true. Let me put it that way. I haven’t seen a society yet where ordinary people, given an opportunity, wouldn’t opt for a better life and for peace.

QUESTION: But then you have this incredible religious component which says, you know, your guarantee for heaven is if you blow somebody up.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, except for those leaders who don’t seem to be so anxious to lead the surge and go to paradise.

QUESTION: Oh, of course they don’t. No, they have plenty of recruits.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, they do have plenty of recruits. But the ideology, that kind of ideology of hatred and hopelessness does not have a chance against an ideology of hope and a better future. We just have to realize that because of the way that the politics of the Middle East has developed for the last 60 years, that ideology of hope and a better future has not been there.

I don’t believe that most people in the Middle East really want to blow themselves up and believe in this ideology any more than most Russians actually wanted to believe in international communism. There are always extremists who are going to do that. There are always ideologues who are going to believe and they are always going to recruit from a pool of disaffected people. So you both have to lessen the pool of disaffected people, give them alternatives, and people choose other paths. I just don’t see a society yet where that hasn’t been the case.

At some point in the interview, Thomas needed to ask the key question that we must pose to all such astonishingly egocentric observers: “What if you’re wrong? What if we’re dealing with that rare phenomenon (by your reckoning), a culture that’s in the grip of a genocidal death cult, one in which mothers urge their children to become suicide martyrs?” And when they refuse to consider this possibility, we need to point out gently that every bit of policy they develop based on their fantasies (ultimately products of the Politically Correct Paradigm), will not only fail but backfire. Gently but firmly.

Rice must resign? Why, because her replacement will understand better? No, Rice needs to wake up and smell the sulphuric hatreds emanating from the allegedly robust “civil society.” She needs to spend some time visiting Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI. And so do most other Americans, right, left, center, and been-down-so-long-it’s-beginning-to-look-like-up.

Chemical Bus Attack in Amsterdam?

A Russian friend of mine told me her father would sit her down with Pravda, read an article, and then say, “okay tell me what you really think happened.”

Can someone tell me what’s going on with this news item from the Netherlands Info Services (NIS) news service:

Media Silence On Attack On Amsterdam Bus (Hat tip: NP)

THE HAGUE, 24/10/06 – A bus with passengers in Amsterdam was attacked by a home-made chemical explosive on Friday evening. The incident received only limited media attention. Police do not believe terrorism is involved.

At around 10:00 p.m. Friday evening in the Duivendrecht district, a group of youths threw a plastic bottle with chemicals into a stationary bus carrying 20 passengers. The bottle exploded and a panic broke out. Two passengers suffered burns on their legs, local broadcaster RTV Noord-Holland reported based on police information.

RTV Noord-Holland said it is unknown what liquid the bottle contained. Unconfirmed sources however say it was a liquid for unstopping drains. If this substance is mixed with aluminium and shaken up in a bottle, it explodes a few seconds later. As well as burns, the explosion can cause blindness and knock people unconscious.

The two passengers, women aged 36 and 27, had their burns treated in hospital. The police confirmed that the driver was also hospitalised, for breathing problems. A spokesman said the assumption is not terrorism but “mischievous behaviour.” The perpetrators disappeared without trace.

A spokeswoman for Kruidvat drugstore in Duivendrecht confirmed on local TV station AT5 that many youngsters have recently been buying the product for unstopping drains. The store has removed the product from its shelves.

Algemeen Dagblad newspaper reported the incident on its website. Otherwise, it was not reported by leading media.

And I thought this kind of thing — both the attacks, and the news silence — were characteristically French. Apparently they’re European.

Between Art and News: Duped by a Scoop

This is the Part II of Ellen Horowitz’s piece on Charles Enderlin’s difficulties in understanding the elementary boundaries between news (based on reality), and art (based on imagination).

“A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous.” Alfred Adler

When interviewed by Le Figaro over his role in the Al Dura affair, French Television’s Charles Enderlin was asked the million dollar question. Why did he narrate the story with the claim that Mohammed and Jamal Al-Dura were the “targets of fire coming from the Israeli position”? Enderlin, Jerusalem Bureau Chief for France 2, was nowhere near the scene that day, and the video clip of the episode couldn’t substantiate that claim.

Elderin’s response with regards to his handling and presentation of the footage was, “for me, it corresponded to the situation on the West Bank and Gaza.”

Enderlin’s “for me” should raise alarm bells. This writer and artist is concerned that the bureau chief, charged with dispatching the news for a major television station (and in this case, the world), felt free to present the public with images that corresponded to what he thought the circumstances were, regardless of whether they were true.

Unsure as to what situation Enderlin was referring to, and to why he assessed things as he did, I combed through the news archives in order to gauge the actual atmosphere in Gaza and the West Bank in the weeks and days leading up to, and on the day of the Al Dura happening.

The weeks before: Everything’s coming up roses

Save for the occasional volley of rubber bullets in response to increasingly aggressive demonstrations, and a serious exchange of live fire with Palestinian security forces in May 2000, things had been relatively quiet for the Palestinians. No incidents of little boys, or even big boys with mustaches, being shot dead by the Israeli Defense Forces. There was, however, a six year old Palestinian girl who died in July after being shot in the head during a wedding, when Palestinian celebrants fired into the air.

Save for some lingering poverty and looming corruption, CNN painted an exceedingly rosy (sic) picture in their mid-July 2000 report:

“Where once the residents endured a curfew, now they enjoy a thriving nightlife.

Parents no longer agonize when their children play outdoors. The children of Gaza can pursue the simple pleasures most children take for granted because they no longer run the risk of being wounded or killed in the violent clashes that were the hallmark of the intifada [of 1987].

The city of Gaza itself is in bloom — literally. Hundreds of trees have been planted along newly paved roads…”

Alas, maintaining the Garden of Eden proved too much of a challenge for the Palestinians. Concerts in an EU-funded park were not their cup of tea. On the contrary, the absence of Israelis and the absence of conflict seem to have irritated rather than soothed. Although one is hard-pressed to find any reports of live fire incidents emanating from the Israeli side in the weeks and days prior to the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada, the Palestinians — at least the leadership — seemed to be itching for action.

The days before:

Between mid August the end of September 2000, it was the Israelis who were taking a beating in the West Bank and Gaza. Shootings, bombings, ambushes, weapons theft, and an unusually heavy hail of fire and stones, sniper and automatic weapons fire – compliments of the Palestinian Authority – ruled the day. And all with little retaliation. The guidelines: “Save the peace, do not provoke.”

And Gaza’s frustrated and flower-saturated public was encouraged to join in the fray and vent. Indeed, Palestinian Media Watch detected a sharp shift towards demonizing and warmongering in the PA-run Palestinian media in the summer of 2000, just as CNN thought the grass was finally growing greener over the septic tank.

Several archived reports indicate that the Israelis were conscious of and concerned by the alarming increase in violence – at Gaza’s Netzarim junction in particular – and had filed complaints with the Palestinian Authority. The most notable among the various incidents would be the September 27th double bombings at Netzarim Junction which killed Israeli soldier David Biri and wounded another soldier, as well as a Jewish resident of the area. There was a general feeling that another Intifada – a far more dangerous one – could be in the offing. Two days later, on September 29th, Israeli Border Policeman Yosef Tabeja would be shot to death at point-blank range by his Palestinian counterpart while on a joint patrol near the West Bank village of Kalkilya.

There were no Palestinian deaths reported in Gaza and the West Bank just prior to Al Dura Day on September 30, 2000.

The Day:

Then Enderlin must have factored in the Jerusalem riots of September 29th, which ensued following Friday’s Muslim prayers. Indeed there was live fire which resulted in four Palestinian deaths and scores of injured. It should be noted that these riots were attributed to the previous days visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, in which 30 Israeli policemen and 4 Palestinians were injured in serious scuffles not involving live fire.

The situation in Jerusalem in combination with Cameraman Talal Abu Rahma’s reports of wild firing in Gaza , and other reports of rioting on the West Bank, may have given Charles Enderlin the latitude that he needed in order to know what the situation was like at Netzarim Junction.

But if that’s the case, then why did he not factor in the reckless and wide-spread sniper and machine gun fire coming from the Palestinian areas with their numerous and erratic terrorist and militia groups? Under what appeared to be chaotic circumstances, how could he be sure of anything?

And once Enderlin received the footage, why didn’t he bother to closely examine his camerman’s rushes? Had he done so, he would have found that in and among the stones, molotov cocktails, bravado, comical evacuations to ever-ready ambulances, and the trademark show of Palestinian automatic weapons fire, he could have seen casual pedestrian traffic and Palestinians standing around nonchalantly laughing, smoking, and talking on cell phones directly in front of the Israeli position. September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction was not the explosion of violence he imagined. It was Pallywood as usual.

In fact, the reported death toll on that infamous day in Gaza, which shook the world, stands at a very questionable three (the only confirmed one, a Palestinian policeman who had been firing on the Israelis) – with weapons fire coming from both the Palestinians and Israelis, and an undetermined number of real and faked injuries.

Prior to Enderlin’s report, the martyring trend was not yet in vogue. But Enderlin’s understanding and rendering of the situation, as he saw it, would cause Shahid status to become the post Al-Dura fad and rage. The media would now embrace the boy icon and line up for a chance at their very own macabre photo op — whether real or staged. Within a week Arafat upped the martyrs’ ante by offering families $2,000 per child killed and $300 per child wounded.

And in making his “call,” Enderlin made a critical mistake. He rendered reality, to untold millions of viewers, bereft of the facts and evidence. Had he used correct judgment and waited for a proper investigation of the Al Dura affair (and had Israel had an effective apparatus in place to respond to the press), the Intifada 2 may have dissipated into yet another short-lived flare-up – and it could have saved all of us — Israelis, Palestinians, the global community — a lot of grief. But it seems Charles Enderlin got duped by his fierce desire for a very big scoop, and his readiness to believe anything he got from his Palestinian sources.

He got what he wished for. The story became self-fulfilling. All Hell broke loose once these explosive and false images hit the air.

Next: Drawing the Line on Al Durah

La France… Vit-elle? Reflections on the Latest Judgment

A friend asked me to write something about my (obviously premature) enthusiasm for “Republican France” after the trial, in view of last week’s judgment. I have now read the judgment, which is, from the point of view of an historian who tries to reconstruct past events, a monument of the kind of facetious reasoning that I’ve already complained about both among French medievalists and among French/European media.

To say that the decision was disappointing is obviously putting it mildly. But it was not unexpected. Numerous people wrote me to say, watch out. As one American blogger who lives in France wrote:

    I followed closely your reports on the first part of the trial. I’m still pessimistic. The reason I’m pessimistic is because they’re only asking for the symbolic euro. France2 wants the case just so they can say the courts ruled in their favor, not in order for sanction actually to be applied. I’m afraid the French courts are so politicized that they will give them what they want.

Others noted that the absence of any effort on the part of France2 — no witnesses, no questions for hostile witnesses, no presence of either Enderlin or Chabot — could indicate not a lack of preparation (alone), but a secure knowledge that they need do nothing since they knew they’d win. Several people who claimed to know, informed me and Karsenty independently, that the fix was on before the trial. When I suggested that to an Israeli lawyer I know after the first trial but before the decision, she responded indignantly, “No. The French judiciary is really independent.” I wanted to believe that.

The current joke runs, “Why did Mme Amblard not make the slightest effort during the trial?”
Answer, “Are you kidding? She could have slept through it all.”

Unfortunately, the reasoning of the decision suggests just that. It is at best incredibly one-sided, more likely, intellectually dishonest. I will post the decision in translation with some invited opinions at a later point. In the meantime, I will reiterate my response to the early newspaper quotations from the document: It is nothing short of breathtaking to accuse Karsenty of a “lack of seriousness” as an “information professional” for depending “only on one source,” when he, a marginal figure trying to critique the MSM, has attacked the work of an “information professional” of enormous prestige and influence, who was revealed in that very courtroom as incompetent, dishonest, and staggeringly negligent, and who based his broadcast on only one source, Talal, a Pallywood cameraman of the first order.

I note parenthetically that when I read the decision I couldn’t help notice that in all those 19 pages, with the names of the players cited in CAPS, including people who were not witnesses, my name did not appear. “So what am I, and what is Second Draft, chopped liver?” thought I.

But the key to the above reasoning, including chastizing Karsenty for only one source when he used multiple, including me and my viewing of the rushes, appears here. The clearest evidence of Enderlin’s incompetence as a journalist — not, mind you, as a story-teller; he’s a first class professional story-teller — came from his response to my remark, “But they’re all fakes.”

In casually saying “Oh, they do that all the time,” he admitted not only that he knows his cameraman and the rest of the crowd — and the rest of the Palestinian cameramen — do this kind of stuff, but that he, Charles Enderlin uses that stuff all the time. His newsbroadcasts draw regularly on Pallywood. He takes their product, funneled by his trusty cameraman, and makes it into news for the French public. And he’s handsomely rewarded in prestige and honor by the European elite.

Not only do “they do it all the time,” Enderlin does it all the time. Indeed, Bob Simon (featured in Pallywood), Gerald Holmes (who was stationed in Israel for ABC from 1999-2002 and “never saw any Pallywood”), and the rest of the harried, pack-mentality, access-oriented Western correspondents use this stuff all the time.

Charles Enderlin’s remark had left me, an earnest believer in the “fourth estate’s” journalistic privileges and responsibilities in a civil society, astounded… it was outrageous, inconceivable. How could such obvious nonsense be so complacently accepted? And my report of it did not even make it into the judge’s minds.

Indeed at one point in the decision, as they defend Enderlin from Karsenty’s accusation that Enderlin misled people in giving the impression he was there, we come across the following gem:

Furthermore, the images in question had been taken by his own cameraman who worked for France2 for two decades and whose professionalism had never been put in question.

This line could have been written by Enderlin. After all he wasn’t in court that day. But by the judges, who heard about Talal’s work from an eyewitness? How could they say: “et dont le professionnalisme n’a jamais été mis en cause”? Unless they share Enderlin’s complacency.

Whether penned by the judge or by the legal team at France2, the decision contradicts itself here, since it at least acknowledges and discusses Leconte and Jeambar’s Parisian viewing of the rushes (which was similar to mine — from expressing astonishment to being told, “but you know, they always do that“). So either the sentence is an interpolation (language offered by the France2 team, drawn from Enderlin), or it’s the internalization of this “line” by the judges. In either case, it shows a minimal grasp of what the evidence before them implies, and an extraordinary capacity to ignore inconvenient evidence. The judges work like journalists, bad journalists.

In the larger social and national context, the court’s decision illustrates the basic principle of prime divider societies: inequality before the law. Karsenty has to meet a very high bar to have the right to criticize Enderlin; Enderlin has no bar. As an esteemed member of a nationally-owned public station, he is protected. His failings are continuously passed over, and in the end, by attacking Karsenty, the court then permits the media to spin the story: “Image Choc de l’Intifada is not staged, says the court.

Never mind that the court did not say that. Never mind that the MSM showed no interest in this story when we tried to talk about it, but then appear from nowhere, well informed, when they get the story that they want. Why do the MSM media only feel comfortable weighing in on this case when they can put another nail in the coffin of Israeli responsibility for the Intifada? No rethinking, no picture of the scene Enderlin cut, and then lied about, but images of the icon, money pictures of the boy before he’s been “hit.” First draft regurgitated. As many told me when I embarked on this venture, “you bring it up again, and people will just say, “you see, the Israelis did it. They kill children.”

But in so doing the media have merely blinded us at a time when we need our wits about us, and we need good information. By replaying the first draft, with no attention to the huge reconsideration that’s gone on since 2000, on both this case and on what dynamics played in the outbreak of the second intifada, by closing off any discussion of its relationship to global jihad, and even the current French intifada, the media have administered their valium.

Our ability to deal with the situation depends on our understanding of its dynamics.

And instead, the French courts and media have given us a classic case of aristocratic justice, the kind that Dreyfus elicited initially. As one of my French lawyer friends put it about a different case where a Jewish (lawyer) was being condemned as a scapegoat for the misdeeds of higher-ups, when he appealed on behalf of the truth and humanity, “La justice ne peut pas agir ainsi. Il faut savoir diriger un pays.” [Justice can't work that way. One has to know how to direct/govern a country.]

The tragedy here is that justice becomes the handmaiden of social order defined in terms of the “honor” of the elite. When faced with the classic dilemma of the Dreyfus affair, and here, the Muhammad al Durah affair — honor or honesty — those in favor of “social order” choose honor.

I understand that everywhere, judges take into account “a larger good” in decisions, that there are corrupt and corruptable judges, and that even a principle so noxious to civil society as “honor over honesty” might — even often — direct judicial decision-making. But I think in terms of batting averages. No one bats a thousand. But there’s a huge difference between a .333 hitter and a .250 hitter.

The real test of a democracy is not whether its courts are corrupt, but how it allows the news to reach the public and how it responds to that discovery. As an historian with limited evidence here, but a close understanding of the evidence I have, I’d say that the French justice system is in serious trouble. You can’t bat in the low .200s in these matters (or lower?) and last long in the big game of civil society. And in so serious a case as this… which has so much to say about so vigorous and underestimated a cultural challenge as global Islamism… the bottom can fall out.

Civil society is a magic trick. Like Wiley Coyote out over the cliff, still up because he hasn’t looked down — civil society survives because of attitudes — positive sum over resentment, honesty over honor, courage over placation. No one can be positive-sum all the time, no one can always choose honesty, generosity, courage all the time. But in the crisis, people need to level up.

***

We thought it was a real game, and instead we were agitating ourselves among sleepwalkers. We will continue to agitate with words of reason and reasoning in the hopes of awakening them while they can still win in the world of discourse.

After all, the definition of honor-shame culture is one in which you are allowed, expected, even required to shed the blood of another for the sake of your own (alpha-male) honor. And the definition of a civil society is one that systematically substitutes a discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement. When a civil society uses the very courts that were created to make that transition from violence to discourse, in order to unfairly protect the honor of dishonest people who pump poisons into its information stream, it corrupts the very life-blood of its republic.

Two more trials, two more chances.

Next one: this afternoon.

Pistache on the Conditions in Europe

In the comments to previous postings, Pistache, a woman who has done some translating for me, including voluntarily translating the two movies Pallywood and Al Durah into French, wrote some interesting reflections which I post here with my responses.

Richard, Igout and Eliyahu,

Thanks for your words… It’s just that I’m really disgusted right now. Not only about this case, but also about a lot of others things happening in Europe, almost everyday, and almost everyone I know “for real” – I mean, not people I met on blogs and fora such as this one, who obviously are interested and slightly worried about this – just… doesn’t seems to give a damn. Because they don’t know what’s going on in the world, or because they prefer not to know it. I suppose that is this apathy that really gets to me.

I had an interesting conversation with a young frenchman about Europe and its Islamist challenge. “No,” he replied, “Europe’s Judeo-Christian culture is too strong.” When I pointed out that not one demonstrating against the disgusting display of violence objecting to the pope’s comment on Islam’s propensity for violence, nor in defense of the Pope against threats on his life and demands that he convert to Islam, he granted I might have a point. “They wake up soon,” he offered weakly. Well if I understand you, Pistache, they have to rise from a deep slumber of apathy. In the 60s, the French “revolutionaries” complained about the pathetically empty nature of the lower and middle classes — “metro, boulot, dodo [subway, work, sleep].” In the 00s (aughts?), we might complain about “media entertainment, vacation, and medical coverage” as the fillers for empty lives.

And about “faire la révolution”, I wonder if it’s possible… too many sheep asleep, caring only about what’s on telly. Too many people fearing to grow balls. [I take this to be the equivalent in slang (translated) of Harvey Mansfield's complaint about manliness.] Too many people thinking that whatever’s going wrong is the fault of the USA (for those understanding french, I invite you to check this message board; it is part of one of the main Belgian newspaper’s web site, and the theme is “How to deal with North Korea now?”; seeing the answers, you would think it is actually “how to deal with the evil US and their mad president”. Just plain appalling).

I have already discussed this aspect of current European culture. If one wants to understand how Europe Slept, one must consider this dysfunctional connection between on the one hand an elite determined to inform the public in ways that systematically mislead it about what’s happening — both in the Middle East and in Europe — and, on the other hand, a public that is both intellectually and emotionally lazy. In the past, I’ve focused on the elite’s discourse, including the enormous weight of a “politics of resentment,” that motivates much of the anti-Americanism (and, ironically, the anti-Zionism as well), as well as the proto-Dhimmi behavior of Europe towards their alleged allies in their counter-balance to American hegemony.

But Pistache brings up another element that might be just as crucial — that of a public for whom the anti-American and anti-Zionist discourse of the elites has a profound appleal, on the one hand, and the lack of real interest or concern in “getting the story straight,” that has, till now, marked the “information professionals” of successful civil societies. The question here is, how that “apathetic” public will wake up to the danger its elites have fostered and disguised — from themselves as well as their publics? — that is the growing assertiveness of Islam in Europe, and the gargantuan appetite of this Islamic yearning, which the European (and American) elites have only empowered in their efforts to placate it.

How do we contribute to this awakening, so that it brings out the best and not the worst of the European population? That seems to me, the task of the next few years, and I personally can’t think of too many issues that reveal the full range of both the folly of the French media (and now their courts) in reporting as they do, than the al Durah case.

So… Sorry to digress so much, but at times like that, yes, I do think of leaving.

But I’ll keep fighting in my way, wherever I am. And for now I’ll just keep working on translating the “Second Draft” material…

Between Art and News: Ellen Horowitz on the “Higher Truth”

The following is an article that Ellen Horowitz wrote and illustrated with an original drawing. I post them here because we worked closely together on this piece, and the points she makes are essential in beginning to understand the problem with advocacy journalism.

hizbulaboard

Between Art and News: A Terrible Privilege

Part 1
October 11, 2006
Ellen W. Horowitz

“Today’s history is written the very moment it happens. It can be transmitted immediately through the press, radio, television… For this reason I like journalism. For this reason I fear journalism… Journalism is an extraordinary and terrible privilege…Not by chance, when I find myself going through an event or an important encounter, does it seize me like anguish, a fear of not having enough eyes and enough ears and enough brains to look and listen and understand…”
-from Interview with History by Oriana Fallaci [1929 -2006]

She passed away 3 weeks ago. But it seems that avowed atheist and renowned journalist Oriana Fallaci may have earned a piece of prime real estate in paradise which is normally reserved for the very righteous..

More artist than journalist, Fallaci was a non-partisan partisan. Self -aware, insightful, and brutally honest, Fallaci adhered to her own set of strict principles. Detached impartiality and equitable reporting were not among her rules of the game. She brazenly declared, ”…if I am a painter and I do your portrait, have I or haven’t I the right to paint you as I want?”

And yet, world leaders and personalities from across the globe and political spectrum clambered for an interview with her. In Fallaci’s world, good reporting had little to do with objectivity and a lot to do with finding the key to provoke, inspire and challenge a thoughtful readership. She did this through her own unique and complex formula of passionate creative expression, coupled with an intense sense of justice, and an profound awareness of history. I guess that approach seemed fair and comfortable enough for a glut of V.I.P.s to allow her to skewer them. They knew who and what they were dealing with. There were no hidden agendas.

oriana small

She opted out of popular trends and mainstream political correctness because she knew that fabrication or suppression of reality and authentic feelings – therapeutic rhetoric of moral equivalence pretending to be fair play – could be a formula for disaster and spelled the end of civil society.

While living in this world, Ms. Fallaci trembled at the responsibilities and consequences associated with her occupation. She was also fully cognizant of the blessing and the curse that comes with being gifted – and yet she was a virtuoso at meeting those challenges.

Hizbollywood back in 2000: Al Durah Libel Makes the Rounds

Here is a photo of a poster, taken on October 15, 2000, from Lebanon. For those whose awareness of Hizbullah dates to this summer, as well as those who have memories of their pioneering suicide bombing against the USA in the 1980s in Lebanon, here’s an idea of what they were doing in the meantime.

hizbulaboard

Here we have the key to the libel — the Israelis targeted the child, they did it on purpose — done in a billboard. PA TV had already taken this photo of the Israeli, firing rubber bullets at rioters protesting the “killing” of Muhammad al Durah, and inserted it into the sequence, to achieve “a higher truth.” Soon thereafter (October 15 is the date of the photo, we don’t know when the billboard went up), Hizbullah took the key to the libel and made it a poster. One more example of the role of al Durah as a blood libel.

Al Durah Update from Ellen Horowitz

Al Dura in the Press this week (compiled by Ellen Horowitz and Richard Landes, French press and blogs to follow)

MAINSTREAM:
Washington Post and Reuters
Jerusalem Post
The New Republic

The Scottsman

ARAB PRESS
Gulf Daily News

ISRAEL NEWS SERVICES:
Metula News Agency (article by Luc Rosenzweig, one of the witnesses at the trial.)
Arutz 7
Israel Insider
Israel Hasbara Committee

BLOGOSPHERE: Major blogs are covering this story:
Pajamas Media (Nidra Poller, most detailed, eyewitness)
Belmont Club
Little Green Footballs
Michelle Malkin
Atlas Shrugged
Roger Simon
Israpundit
Instapundit
Solomonia
Israel Matsav
Tel Chai Nation
Abracadabrah
Ace of Spades
Tailrank
Tailspin
The Muslim Question
EUReferendum
Alain Jean-Mairet
Peak Talk
Klein Verzet
Ocean Guy
The Select Society
FuckFrance
Sisu
Big Lizards
NoolahBeulah

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Al-Dura: The Verdict (Part Four)

Richard Landes

BACKGROUNDER:
CAMERA
Mohammed Al Dura, or Anatomy of a French Media Scandal
Original report: October 13, 2005
Updated: September 14, 2006

Kafka in Wonderland: L’Express weighs in

L’Express, a major French weekly had the decision up at it’s website within two hours, able to cite verbatim from a document that in principle cannot be released until signed by the court. The following fisking represents reflections on both l’Express and on the judges.

I remind readers that I do not have the judgment yet, so I cannot judge either the article or the Judges on the basis of any more than what’s written here. It may be that the language of this article has been cherry-picked to put Karsenty in a bad light. But harsh it is.

The Al-Dura affair: The Shock-Image of the Intafada is not staged, says the court.

The image of a Palestinian child felled by bullets, diffused by the French station France2 in 2000, and become the symbol of the Palestinian Intifada, cannot be considered a montage or a staged scene, the correctional tribunal of Paris judged.

Against the advice of the floor [i.e., the Procureur] who recommended dropping the charges, the judges condemned Philippe Karsenty, the animator of the websit Media Ratings (www.M-R.fr) for “public defamation” of Charles Enderlin and France2.

Philippe Karsenty is also condemned to pay one symbolic Euro of damages to each of the plaintiffs, as well as 3000 Euros of court costs. He announced to the journalists that he intended to appeal the process and promised that he will present the “proofs” of his claims would be up at his website in the coming days.

I think Philippe means my movie, Al Durah: Naissance d’une icône, which I just spent the last two days recording in French. It will be available on YouTube shortly, and in high definition, available to download at The Seccond Draft in a couple of days.

I would not say that these are “proofs,” certainly not the smoking gun we’d like. It shows (I think) proof that Talal lies and a great deal of evidence that his testimony directly contradicts the footage he and others shot. When we remake the film, with additional material, I think we’ll strengthen certain scenes. But overall, I think that someone who does not want to see the evidence for staging is capable of looking at what we present and concluding that its perfectly plausible footage. And of course, with the court affirming the judgment of the Chamberlain, who will hear the boy shout the emperor is naked?

Broadcast on the 30 September, 2000 on France2, the images shot in Gaza made their way around the world and became the symbol of the violence imputed to Israeli troops in the repression of the Palestinian uprising. They show the death of Muhammed al Doura, 12 years old, cut down by a spray of automatic weapons in the arms of his father.

Wow. One would have thought that by now that particular misrepresentation of the press would have been dropped. At no point after he is allegedly “hit” does Jamal reach for his son. Indeed between take 5 and take 6, he has moved away from the child, turning towards the barrel and showing no concern for his stricken son lying out in the line of Israeli fire. And yet the media still reports him dying in his father’s arms. (Note, this does not mean the reporter has not seen the footage recently — although I doubt he has — because people are perfectly capable of looking at the footage and seeing what they expect / have been told to see.)

in an exchange of fire between Tsahal and Palestinian combatants. According to the journalist, the fire came from the Israeli position.

The thesis of a simulation of the episode and then a montage of images, desined to serve the Palestinian cause and defame, has become a recurrent in certain pro-Israeli media.

This is a particularly interesting remark. It is a truism in post-2000 French culture that anyone who presents evidence favorable to Israel is, by definition pro-Israel, and by implication, Jewish, and by extension, not reliable because partisan (communautariste as the French say. As both Jews and Gentiles told me in France, whenever I defend Israel, people say, “I didn’t know you were Jewish.” Thus, in a Catch-22, We will see this appear also in the courts judgment (below).

The trial in Paris was largely covered by American and Israeli medias.

Note that L’Express didn’t cover this trial in September, hasn’t whispered a word of the issues in previous issues, but know shows it’s fully aware of the press coverage. Karsenty said to me that if he loses it will be all over the papers; if he wins it will be a paragraph on page 18. Well we won’t know about the second half of the prediction, but the first half is pretty clear. Will L’Express show any more interest? Or is the affair réglée?

Now we come to the language of the court, which I find astounding, at least insofar as it is quoted here.

“Coming from a unique source, an Israeli press agency [i.e., MENA], which formulated this accusation late (almost two years after the broadcasting of the information), based essentially on extrapolations and amalgams, (the thesis) draws on peremptory affirmations,” said the Parisian judgment.

I’d have to see more of the court’s language to know what “extrapolations and amalgams” means, but it — and the peremporty language — surely would apply to the logic and action of Enderlin in putting together his broadcast and subsequent defense. The idea that Philippe’s material was based only on MENA’s work — which is itself extensive — is pretty amazing, since it’s also based on the even more extensive and more “mainstream” work of Esther Schapira, and work done and represented by Gerard Huber, Luc Rosenzweig, and me as witnesses. But it seems — again caution till we see the full text from the judges — to imply that if it’s an Israeli press agency, then it cannot be trusted. Perhaps that’s why the German documentary, which France2 blocked from being shown in France, gets ignored entirely.

The judges underlines “that no Israeli authority, neither the army which is nonetheless most affected, nor the justice have ever accorded the slightest credit to these affirmations.

This is again astounding since Giora Eiland, the chief of operations in the army at the time, who had accepted probable responsibility for the boy’s death on behalf of the Israeli army, wrote a statement to the court in which he said, among other things,

At the time that I made this statement, I had not seen the evidence made available to the Israeli army. I made it on the basis of the conclusions that Charles Enderlin, Middle East Correspondent for France2 TV, drew after his professional examination of the evidence before his broadcast…. Now that I have examined the evidence, I would be much more reluctant to accept the IDF’s responsibility… among all of these possible explanations, that given by Charles Enderlin in his broadcast, namely #1 — the boy and the father were the “target of fire coming from the Israeli position” — is the least likely of all the explanations… I formally withdraw my original statement.

This was entered in as evidence by Karsenty’s lawyer.

This language of the court echoes directly the claims of Enderlin that, if he had done wrong, wouldn’t the Israelis say something? This is facetious (if convincing) as an argument. There can be other reasons why the Israelis would say nothing, but it assumes that the Israelis would defend themselves if they could, and underlines the deeply troubled, even dysfunctional nature of Israeli “hasbarah” (explanation, the Hebrew word for PR). I have promised some reflections on this in the past, and will eventually address it.

The defendant, in taking up without distance nor critical analysis of his own sources, the thesis of a scene staged for propaganda purposes… did not meet the serious standards expected of an information professional,” said the tribunal.

This has to be the most astounding language in this article. Karsenty offered both critical analysis of his own, and other sources to support his case. In comparison with Enderlin’s work (and judicial defense), Karsenty’s article — and defense — was a model of scholarly scruples. The idea that Karsenty could be dismissed for not meeting the serious standards expected of an information professional, is stunning. Remember these are judges who heard me testify that when presented with the evident resort to constant faking of “action sequences” by the Palestinian “street” in collusion with his cameraman Talal abu Rahmeh, Enderlin, who professes complete faith in Talal, responded, “Oh they do that all the time.” Nor did either the judges or the plaintiff’s lawyer contest my statement. If such an exchange does not qualify as calling into Charles Enderlin’s “seriousness” as an “information professional,” then we are dealing with Kafka in Wonderland.

At the audience in September, the Procureur had asked for dropping the charges, in judging that Karsenty had done a serious work “in good faith.”

Philippe Karsenty asserts notably that the 27 minjutes of “rushes” of the reportage permit one to prove that the young Palestinian is not dead and feels that the “unlikelihoods, the contradictions, the lies of the reportage can be easily demonstrated.”

I would be extremely surprised if Philippe said that the boy “is not dead.” The most any of us can assert is that, in the last scene, the scene Enderlin cut from his broadcast, the boy is still definitely alive, despite having already been declared dead by Enderlin.

take 6

This is a tragic day for French republican values and the resilience of European culture. Philippe’s personal travails aside, no one but those who long ago wrote France off as a third-world country with first world pretensions, the jihadis with designs on Europe, and their third-worldist allies, can be pleased at such a failure of judicial reasoning.

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Judgment against Philippe Karsenty: What Can Explain Such a Reversal?

I have heard from Paris that Philippe Karsenty was found liable for insulting Charles Enderlin and France2 to the sum of 3000 Euros to Enderlin and 5 symbolic Euros to France2. I do not have the judgment and only a vague account of the reasoning, which criticizes Philippe for not having done more research.

The implications of this reversal of Madame le Procureur’s clear recommendations, for what appears to be — we’ll have a translation and analysis of the judgment ASAP — a critique of Philippe that somehow absolves Enderlin of all of his journalistic failings, failings that came out abundantly in court, are deeply troubling.

If these trials are a test of the resilience of Republican culture in France in the face of a challenge to its very core values, then today’s decision is a great loss for the France most people who do love her, love.

More as soon as possible.

Camera Obscura: How French TV fudged the death of Mohammed Al Durah

I finally get to blog on my own article. Here is the fully linked version with photos. (Apparently the folks at TNR don’t like too much hypertext wrecking the aesthetics of the electronic “page.”) I have added a couple of lines which are not in the TNR original. Since I agree almost entirely with the text, I won’t fisk or comment on it. I will put in the comments sections some of the disputes it has given rise to among those to whom I have sent it.

How French TV fudged the death of Mohammed Al Durah.
Camera Obscura

By Richard Landes

On September 30, 2000, images a father and his son, Mohammed Al Durah–cowering behind a barrel at Netzarim Junction, in the Gaza Strip–circulated globally, along with a claim that they had been the targeted victims of Israeli fire. If Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount two days earlier had sparked riots, these images triggered all-out war. The ensuing horror and outrage swept away any questions about its reliability. Indignant observers dismissed any Israeli attempt to deny responsibility as “blaming the victim.”

But, by 2002, two documentaries–one German, one French–raised troubling questions: the raw footage from that day reveals pervasive staging; no evidence, certainly not Talal’s footage, offers evidence of Israeli fire directed at the barrel, much less of Israelis targeting the pair; given the angles, the Israelis could scarcely have hit the pair at all, much less 12 times (indeed the only two bullets that hit the wall above them came from the Palestinian side, inexplicably 90 degrees off target); there was no sign of blood on the ground where the father and son reportedly bled for 20 minutes; there was no footage of an ambulance evacuation or arrival at the hospital; there was no autopsy; and none of the dozen cameraman present filmed anything that could substantiate the claim that the father and son had been hit, much less, that the Israelis had targeted them.

These documentaries had limited exposure, in part thanks to France2’s refusal to run the one by a sister station in Germany. But they did spark a demonstration in Paris outside the France2 offices by citizens outraged to discover that so horrendous an image may well have been a fake.

The demonstrations apparently ruffled feathers. An indignant and self-confident Charles Enderlin and France2 – using the same law invoked against Emile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair – has accused three critics of “striking at their honor and respectability.”

The statements might strike the American reader as mild: “come protest France2’s gigantic manipulation…” “Charles Enderlin has committed grave professional errors…” “grave presumptions of disinformation exist around this affair…” “France2’s continuous refusals [to open an investigation] constitute so many brutal and unacceptable obstructions in the search for and demonstration of the truth.” Karsenty’s article was the most vigorous, in that it called for Enderlin and France2’s boss, Arlette Chabot to resign after it became clear that Enderlin lied about the “death throes” scenes he allegedly cut.

Now, four years later, the lawsuits, having made their way through the courts, are at long last coming to trial, to Room 17 of the Palais de Justice in Paris. The three suits (one for each defendant) come in rapid succession: September 14, October 26, and November 30, with judgments four weeks following each hearing. And, in at least two of the trials, I, a medieval historian, have been asked to testify.

I have become involved for two reasons. First of all, I noted almost immediately, that Palestinians and anti-Zionists, insisting that Israel killed the boy on purpose, used Al Durah in a way familiar to medievalists – as a blood libel. This was the first blood libel of the twenty-first century, rendered global by hi-tech media from cable to internet. Indeed, within a week, crowds the world over shouted “We want Jewish blood!” (Jakarta) and “Death to Israel! Kill the Jews!” (Paris).

oct 7 republique
Rally in Place de la République, Paris, Oct. 7, 2000, where the demonstraters shouted “Death to Jews.”

For Europeans in particular, the libelous image came as balm to a troubled soul: “This death erases, annuls that of the little boy in the Warsaw Ghetto,” intoned Europe1 editorialist Catherine Nay. The Israelis were the new Nazis.

And secondly, when I saw the raw footage in the summer of 2003 – especially when I saw the abundance of cameramen at the Junction, and even there while the al Durahs were behind the barrel, and when I saw the scene Enderlin cut from his news broadcast, the last frames where the boy (allegedly shot in the stomach, but holding his hand over his eyes) picks up his elbow and looks around – I realized that this was not a film of a boy dying, but a clumsily staged scene.

take 6
Take 6. Enderlin and Talal have already declared the boy dead. He lifts up his elbow, looks out, then lowers it slowly, his feet rising in counterweight. The father has now turned away from his son (in the previous scene he faced the camera), and does not reach out to the boy.

On October 31, 2003, at the studios of France2 in Jerusalem in the company of Charles Enderlin and his Israeli cameraman, I saw the raw footage of Talal, the only Palestinian cameraman who actually captured the Al Durahs on film – footage France2 still refuses to release for public examination.

I was floored. The tapes feature a long succession of obviously faked injuries; brutal, hasty evacuation scenes; people ducking for cover while others stand around. One fellow grabbed his leg in agony, then seeing that no one came to carry him away, walked away without a limp. Having already seen Talal caught by Esther Schapira in a most revealing lie, I should not have been surprised. But I was. It was stunning. It was more than Talal. It was everyone… a public secret to which we, news consumers, had no clue.

But the real shock came when I mentioned this to Charles Enderlin, the man who completely trusted this cameraman. “Oh, they do that all the time,” he said. “It’s a cultural style.” So why not fake al Durah? “They’re not good enough,” he said. A year later, the higher-ups at France2 made the same remark to three French journalists who also noted the pervasive staging: «mais oui, tu sais bien que c’est toujours comme ça» [But of course, you know well that it’s always like that].

I tried unsuccessfully to interest the mainstream press in this obvious and stunning fakery (“I don’t know how much appetite there is for this material here,” noted one person at a major studio). So I made Pallywood (Palestinian Hollywood)–a video-essay showing the dishonesty and the still-more-astounding Western complicity in using this footage to inform us about the Middle East– a follow-up on Al Durah: The Making of an Icon (and soon, Icon of Hatred). I established a website, The Second Draft, where I posted the movies along with my evidence so that, unlike France2, people could check my sources.

And now the accused have asked me to testify.

Why did they want me? As the plaintiff’s lawyer said trying to dismiss my first testimony, “what does a medievalist know about images?” Well I know about the power of images, of narratives, and of forgeries, and especially blood libels. And, since my first book, Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034, was about a set of forgeries that continued to fool historians for decades after a critic revealed them as fakes in the 1920s, I also know something about the difficulty of getting specialists to acknowledge they were duped.

But this image goes beyond blood libel and anti-Semitism, beyond Israel’s blackened image and the whitewashing of Palestinian violence. (“What choice do they have? Israel kills their kids!” was common reponse to suicide bombing during the first years of the intifada.) Al Durah became the icon not only of the Intifada, but of global jihad. Within months of the incident, bin Laden came out with a recruiting video that featured extensive Pallywood footage and highlighted Al Durah. Months later, Pakistani jihadis killed Daniel Pearl, interweaving Al Durah’s image into the execution.

So when the Europeans played their get-out-of-Holocaust-guilt-free card repeatedly on their televisions and in their magazines, they unwittingly waved the flag of global jihad before their Muslim immigrant populations. (Ironically, for Muslim radicals, Europeans – Westerners – are just as guilty, and Europe is just as much a target of their war cry as Israel.)

In 2000, anyone told of Muslim plans to Islamicize the West laughed with scorn. It was the least of Western worries. Today, some have already given up Europe for lost, others see it in the balance, even as others awaken with shock to the radical shift in the balance of forces. And every aspect of l’affaire Al Durah is emblematic of why: from the Palestinian forces that staged it… to the Western mainstream media and NGOs which presented it as news without asking hard questions, which believed any subsequent Palestinian claims of Israelis killing children, and resisted all efforts at correction… to the Muslim world that turned it into an icon of hatred and a call to genocidal holy war… to the “leftist” revolutionaries who jumped on the jihad bandwagon and via Durban, led the “peace” movement of Spring 2003 into the lair of Jihad… to a public distressingly eager for “dirt” on Israel and unaware of the forces empowered by diffusing such poisons into the global information stream.

These court trials, then–in which France2 seeks to bury any serious assessment of so critical and poisonous a tale–are also trials of France’s ability to defend her republican values against an Islamist onslaught that it seems ill-equipped to resist. It is Dreyfus redux: the path to modernity for the Army and Church lay in preferring honesty to honor; this time the challenge is to French Mainstream Media and French Muslims.

And, as France goes, so goes Europe. (Would France have it any other way?)

The plaintiff at the first trial, on September 14, was Philippe Karsenty of Media-Ratings, the boldest of France2’s critics. No one from France2 showed up. Their solitary lawyer had no witnesses, no questions for Karsenty’s witnesses, no comments about the evidence damning her clients. Her summation insisted on France2’s honor and reputation, offered a letter of praise from President Chirac, and cast aspersions on the defense’s witnesses.

Then the Procureur de la République (a court-appointed officer charged with assessing the case in the interests of civil society) gave her opinion. She rebuked France2 for not addressing the evidence, for not showing their raw footage, for not even showing up in court. She further admitted that, although Karsenty, had impugned Enderlin’s and France2’s reputations, he had offered enough evidence to make such assertions a legitimate part of public discourse. Judgment on Karsenty’s case, October 19. Next trial: October 26. So far, the best coverage – surprise! – comes from the blogosphere.

The critical immediate questions… When will France2 release Talal’s rushes? And how will the public react when it sees raw Pallywood from the man who brought us the first icon of hatred of the 21st century? Stay tuned.