The petition that I’ve posted for signing concerns the “rushes” — the raw, unedited, footage — that Talal abu Rahmah took the day he claimed Israelis shot Muhammad al Durah “in cold blood.” Few people have seen them. I’ll be posting testimony from people who have seen them here over the next couple of days, to give people an idea of what they contain and how France2 officials respond to outside viewers pointing out the less than professional aspects of the work. I begin with a radio interview with a French radio station with two (non-Jewish, non-Zionist) French journalists who saw the rushes with Luc Rosenzweig and members of the top brass at the studios of France2 in Paris.
Unlike earlier viewers, who walked away saying that the rushes contained nothing significant, these men saw evidence of extensive fakes. I’ll take a small bit of credit for that, since I prepped Luc Rosenzweig on what to look for before he and the other two journalists went in. And I want to give the major part of the credit to Nahum Shahaf, who prepped me on the Reuters rushes, before I went in and saw the footage.
Below is an English translation of the radio interview with Jeambar and LeConte. I will subsequently post my own impressions as well as the article by Stefane Juffa on the same event that this interview details.
Verbatim interview RCJ 1er février 2005
Shlomo Malka (SM): With us is Denis Jeambar, head of L’Express, and Daniel Leconte, producer and television director, welcome.
Daniel Leconte (DL) and Denis Jeambar (DJ): Hello.
SM: It’s an image that is more than four years old. It went around the world and has had an important role in spreading the passions of the Intifada at the time. We had, in his time, Olivier Mazerolle with whom we debated on this for a long time. Today the affair has bounced back with an investigation done initially for your support and that did not result in a publication [by Luc Rosenzweig for L’Express]. You explain the genesis and the development of this affair in an article that was published in the Figaro last week under the title “Trap in the war of images” and this sub-title “Who killed the young Palestinian of Netzarim the 30th of September 2000?” You went from the principle that you could conduct an honest investigation outside of the realm of passions. What have you arrived at Denis Jeambar?
Denis Jeambar : First we tried doing the work of a basic journalist, that is to say look at the material that exists because we saw a couple minutes in the televised news programs, but we did not see the totality of the sequence that is to say 27 or 28 minutes that were filmed by the cameraman. So the first task of the investigation, after having gathered information that posed a certain number of questions, gathered the totality of declarations of the different actors of this story and notably Charles Enderlin and his cameraman, was to try to see the reality of the initial material in regards to what was shown. And therefore we had access to the rushes we watched them and we asked a certain number of questions because we were extremely troubled by what we saw at that moment during the projection of the rushes in the office of Arlette Chabot, director of France 2, who, it has to be said, played perfectly the role. And that provoked a certain number of reactions. This meeting particularly was leaked. We were doing a basic journalistic work that is, to go to the end of the investigation before publication. One does not publish the stages of an investigation.
An investigation you take it from point A and you try to lead it until its end there was no reason for us to explain ourselves and communicate during the investigation unless we had found things that were indubitable and definitive in the middle of the investigation but we wanted to go until the end of the investigation and in then in the middle of the investigation the La Mena agency brought out a certain amount of information concerning these meetings and that perturbed our work a lot. Nevertheless France 2 after the questions we asked had the verifications made with its correspondent and we were ready to draw conclusions. All that was explained in the press without us neither Daniel Leconte nor I expressing ourselves. And there was a debate about the implications and we preferred to take the time that things fall back down and calm themselves to become audible again and give our conclusions at the moment when we stopped investigating.
SM: Daniel Leconte
DL: Yes, I think that Denis summarized the point of view very well. Just to explain why effectively we did not wish, although we were solicited at the moment, to answer the questions of journalists: as Denis said we wanted to continue until the end of our investigation. It wasn’t finished, and we had the feeling in any case that it was impossible to make ourselves heard, to make our truths heard, on this affair, that there was the usual face-off of the past three years from positions that weren’t ours. Therefore, we wanted to wait and express ourselves at the moment when we would be heard which seems to be the case today.
DJ: We wanted to be prisoners of nobody.
SM: So you explain in your article in Le Figaro, reusing the thesis of the MENA according to which the shooting in Netzarim corresponded to a staging and that the child was not dead. But you’ve both revealed that a certain number of things are troubling, particularly when Charles Enderlin says in his commentary that Jamal and his son are the target of shooting coming from Israeli positions. That is false and everyone agrees on this today.
DJ: Everyone agrees on this, but they refute us by saying that the Israeli army has never commented on this. But the Israeli army basically never comments about anything; that’s a communications choice it has made. Regardless, before giving that detail we must also say that during about 24 minutes of rushes we see only staging; that is to say, young Palestinians using the television as a means of communication—it’s the weapon of the weak. I would say today that the images also show simulated injuries: we see them fall, but when they have the impression that nothing is happening, they get back up.
SM: That is a totally new element you have discovered.
DJ: That we have discovered, and the scene of the child and the father are completely taken out of context. From the media’s point of view—let’s say from a journalistic perspective—it was interesting to put all of this in perspective, to tell this story. It’s a side of the decor that is never shown. Me, I don’t bear judgment on the behavior of Palestinians, as I said it’s the weapon of the weak, but the truth is there only one man we see wounded in the thigh. There we see clearly that there is blood, but for the rest you see boys who watch the camera, who pretend to fall, who fall, and when nothing happens they leave running.
I don’t know which thigh injury they have in mind. If it is the one that immediately precedes the main event, then the salient feature of that incident is that there is no blood, something treated both in the MENA film (unavailable for viewing), and in Pallywood.
The remark about the “weapons of the weak,” strikes me as weak: Talal claims to be a professional journalist, not a combattant on the side of the Palestinians. The dirty “secret” of most Palestinian reporting is that, where Israel is concerned at least, they use the media as a weapon of war, hence their “news” industry Pallywood.
But more broadly, the point is worth considering. Given that Palestinian journalists remain in a pre-modern state of propaganda, which they openly admit, the real burden is on our Western media to refuse “laundering” these staged sequences as “news.”
SM: And that simulate injuries.
DJ: They simulate injuries completely. Ambulances come and go, where people who have strictly no wounds are being evacuated. It’s also an important element in the movie, which troubled us extraordinarily in the first screening. The second troubling element is the [al Durah] scene itself: we asked for verification because the father wears a t-shirt on which we see no trace of blood. This was another troubling aspect: film was shot from behind the father to show exactly the impact of the wounds in relation to the wounds we noticed a couple of hours afterwards when he was filmed in the hospital. Then there is the last point: that Charles Enderlin says ‘I cut the agony scene, it was unbearable.’
SM: He says it to Télérama, and that’s false.
DJ: He declared it immediately and he restated it to Télérama and that…listen to me…unless they hid it from us. But anyway we did not see it because we only saw what was shown on television and immediately after: we see an ambulance and we don’t see any agony scene.
What Jeambar and Leconte may not realize is that the scene Enderlin did cut was the final scene of the boy behind the barrel — after Enderlin in his broadcast has already declared the boy dead — in which he raises up his elbow and looks out.
SM: Daniel Leconte?
DL: The same. Denis perfectly summarized the situation. I would add about the staging, that obviously the representatives of France2, as we sat around the table with them, were as obliged as we were to admit that is was staged – which is pretty outrageous. 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.” [We replied:] “You may know that, but your viewer doesn’t know it’s always like that.”
SM: So there was an answer. I would like, by the way, your sentiment concerning it because there was an answer from Charles Enderlin to your own paper in Le Figaro of the next day or the day after that. One of his major arguments was to say that the image corresponded to the reality of the situation.
DL: I would like to say two things relating to this. The first is on the answer that Enderlin gives: I would like to point out to you that he does not answer any of the points we have raised. Basically, he admits we are right, and does not cast doubt on what we have said, which is very important. Anyway it would be very difficult to cast doubt on us because everything was found out, and everything can be verified. But that being said, he does not contest these points, which puts us in the clear on what we’ve said. The second point [concerning] when he says the image corresponds to the reality of the moment: it’s what you say, or of the moment. If you permit me, I am not to be in agreement with this expression. I find it, by the way, quite…
SM: No, not from the moment he says that the image corresponds to the reality of the whole picture—it may not be true concerning the particular event, but it is probable because it corresponds to the reality of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.
DL: Ok, well, listen, I do not need of course to convince you that this sort of argument is an argument of great weakness. As journalists we do not worry about knowing the general [picture] but only where we are and what we are describing.
SM: And from where he was not, by the way.
DL: And from where he was not. On top of it all, he was not [there].
SM: Since he was his cameraman…
DL: And I would like to add, if I can allow myself to do so, that it basically corresponds to what the French opinion globally wants to hear at that particular moment. It seems to me that this is something that is more worrying. I have the feeling that there is a whole frame of reading of what happens in the Middle East and that in the end the facts are called up to keep this frame up, and I think you can agree with me it’s not the role of a journalist to do that. The role of a journalist is to try and relate a situation at a particular moment. And I am not saying that to charge Charles Enderlin, who is a friend whom I have known and worked with for a long time. Nobody is sheltered from mistakes and me first of all, but the minimum [requirement] is that when we make mistakes like that one, that are as serious with as many consequences, is to try and recognize them. That’s my point of view.
SM: Denis Jeambar
DJ: Naturally, I share completely the point of view of Daniel Leconte and what he has just observed. Personally, I hate judging my colleagues because it is true one can always, in the pressure of the moment, make mistakes and in a certain way one must avoid them to the maximum. But the sentence he wrote in Le Figaro is still contrary to the nature of this job. We are not here to try and imagine images that will give the reflection of a situation; we are here to give facts and not to reinterpret them. The truth isn’t what we want—the truth is in reality. And therefore I think it’s a sentence that’s preoccupying from a journalistic point of view. From an another side it is true that none of us, as Daniel was saying, are sheltered from mistakes, but in this case still the images’ impact was considerable: they went around the world, they dumbfounded the world and in a situation that’s this delicate, we are not allowed not to admit when we are mistaken.
SM: So Daniel Jeambar, Daniel Leconte I know how respected you both are. You have a very high conception of your job. I know how respected you are in your profession and there is rigor in what you do that everybody recognizes. But with the elements you have at your disposal why didn’t you publish the investigation in your two papers, the Express and Arte?
DJ: In regard to me, what you have to know is that I didn’t approach this investigation as the director of L’Express. I did it like a simple journalist: I took hold of the subject to exploit it. As Daniel was saying earlier when we were implicated publicly we hadn’t finished our work and in such a hubbub I do think, as he says, that we would have remained unheard. On the other hand, we were implicated, you should still know, both in Télérama and in an article in the newspaper Le Monde. We tried to obtain the right to publish a response, from Le Monde, which was denied to us, at least which was denied to me particularly. Starting from that moment, we decided to publish elsewhere.
SM: That means you’re going to do it.
DJ: Why not? Nothing at least is stopping us from doing it, and there was a public debate so there was necessity to end it. I think it was difficult at least from my point of view to close things inside my newspaper; I would have used it as means of closing personal accounts, so to speak. In this case this is not what it is about, it is about explanations to clear things up and a search for truth. I found it relatively out of place to use L’Express for this affair. From the moment we had the possibility to express ourselves elsewhere I did it as a journalist and not as a director of L’Express because I was implicated as a journalist and not as a director of L’Express. I found it legitimate to pass by another media.
SM: Daniel Leconte
DL: So I had basically the same view when Luc Rosenzweig came to solicit me on this affair. My first task was to hear him and to try to understand the elements in this affair while telling myself that that there are possibilities to make a movie behind it, and, if needed we’ll do it. It would interest me to do it. So that’s how, regarding me, I entered this affair. From that moment on, we’ve been blocked in our enterprise. Starting from that moment on, I gave myself the time to think. It is not excluded at all that there’ll be a movie behind it. It’ll depend in a large part, you know, on the collaboration that France 2 will be ready offer, for what concerns in any case the images and the audiovisual their participation is the determining factor. I’ll add that Denis and I had the same steps: when we were both solicited in this affair our objective was not to “close accounts” with Enderlin; we did not have any dispute with him.
DJ: I don’t know him, unlike Daniel.
DL: And I know him, and I sympathize with him. He always welcomed me in Jerusalem, and I must say that he was a useful and close friend at work so I don’t have anything to personally reproach him with, but the reason I went into this affair our goal, at least Denis’s and mine afterwards, was to tell ourselves it was France 2’s job to do this work [releasing the tape]. If we can, by the elements we have at our disposition today, convince Arlette Chabot that there’s something that’s not quite right in this affair, it would be better that it be France 2.
SM: Arlette Chabot expressed herself on this topic. And on top of it she was not on the job at the time of these events.
DL: No, but wait, I’m first to recognize, like Denis, the extremely important and efficacious role that Arlette played.
DJ: And transparent.
DL: And transparent. But at the same time it seems to me that Charles could exit this affair and it would be better for everybody, starting with him and for France 2 that France 2 would do this job. If it isn’t done, we would do it, but I think that it would be better on this missed opportunity for France 2 to show an example of professionalism in returning to the affair, and say well on this we made a mistake. This is how it is done elsewhere like it was done on CBS recently. Then the CBS staff felt instrumentalized by journalists at some point even if the affair is not similar. I think it would help France 2’s honor to do this job.
SM: So what you say in any case in Le Figaro is that light must be shed on this affair; we must go to the end of this affair even if you don’t go as far as saying, or have the conviction that it is a case of manipulation.
DJ: So listen, that I would really guard myself from saying. After seeing what we’ve seen I will never say that conclusion. I say what I saw…
SM: There’s a paper of «Jeune Afrique» (« Young Africa ») this week called ‘The Horror of Manipulation?’ signed by Jacques Bertoin.
DJ: Listen to me, I think that we have investigated the most seriously on this affair. We’ve been to the point where we could say a certain number of things, more than that you will not make me say. But I tell you we can start again the investigation.
SM: You say today there are no certainties. There are doubts, there are too many doubts in this affair.
DJ: No, no, no.
DL: We were telling ourselves first of all it’s pretty simple. First of all Charles Enderlin wasn’t present at the moment of the occurrences; second of all at the moment where Charles says that the child is targeted by the Israeli bullets, that’s false.
SM: That’s false.
DL: It’s false. There are no means to say it and everything shows the opposite. Third of all, when he says he filmed the scene of agony of the child, that’s false. So that makes three things really sufficiently important for…
DJ: Images that went around the world.
DL: Images that went around the world with an explanation to them that stated that first of all this child was targeted, that second of all he was…well…these were images of the Israeli barbarism. So we are in a story that has nothing to do with that.
SM: Fourthly, which is really troubling, is that at the moment where Talal Abu Rahmah was supposedly filming the supposed agony of this child, right next to it there is staging.
DL and DJ: Before, before, before, a couple minutes before.
SM: Imaginary wounds.
DL: So here there is staging except for one [al-Durah]. So all of this came to light. Therefore if one day France 2 decides to show these rushes they will come to the same realization. By the way the people of France 2 who were around the table with us realized that without a problem. Now to say that all of this is staged in the death of the child in the wounds of the father…me I do not know anything. Maybe MENA…that MENA would say that if they have elements we do not have let them give them to us let them tell them. What we’ve seen has not at all brought us to say that and rather on the contrary.
DJ: We can even say the father was filmed again practically undressed and we can certify in any case wounds that correspond exactly to the wounds and anyway to the bandages he has the next day when he was filmed in the hospital in Gaza. That is clear and therefore naturally it incites to the greatest caution and me, I do not allow myself any conclusion on the manipulation concerning the child and the father
DL: And I will have you note that MENA on those questions does not have any more things they put in contradiction. It is true elements that were given by the Palestinians, by a certain number of people, and by Charles Enderlin himself [are contradictory], but anyway that does not suffice [to call the event staged]. It’s a process that is a little conspiratorial, that we could denounce when it is the case. There are a certain number of contradictions in the official version that is given by the White House on the September 11th affair with[out] it being said that a plane crashed into the Pentagon—we see to what that leads. Therefore we will not lend ourselves to this kind of analysis that does not enter in the way that we have of seeing the information and that is denounced everywhere else when it is done in this way. Therefore we will not, in this affair, lend ourselves to this game.
SM: I’ll mention also that Luc Rosenzweig will give his version of facts in the article of Le Figaro that will appear this week. [ed: I cannot find the link, but he wrote "Charles Enderlin, Liar in every Language," for MENA.] In the next days we are completely disposed to Arlette Chabot if she wishes to express herself on the subject even though as you, Daniel Leconte, have said, she would be out of question since she was not on the job. Do you estimate that France 2 gave all the explanations on this affair?
DJ: Arlette Chabot did everything she had to do there. In our place she was completely loyal and transparent. Now do we have the means to go farther we would have to re-investigate and I’m not so sure of it…
SM: What manifestly you are about both to do, Daniel Leconte
DL: We’ll see.
DJ: We’ll see.
SM: Thank you to both of you. I was interviewing Denis Jeambar director of L’Express and Daniel Leconte television producer.
Note that, despite their apparent intentions to pursue the case, both Jeambar and Leconte dropped it — according to rumors, out of heavy pressure. I tried to contact Jeambar without success to show him the Reuters rushes; I managed to talk my way past Leconte’s secretary and see him, but he made it clear he had no more to say. Neither of them testified at Philippe’s trial, leaving it to me and Luc Rosenzweig. And, of course, France2, under both Arlette Chabot and now Patrick de Carolis, has refused to show the tapes. One would have thought that, once Jeambar and Leconte saw that France2 not only refused to show the tapes, but pursued individuals in court for making criticisms that the tapes amply justify, they would have made it a point to speak at the trials — a move which would have given the case against France2 much more weight and publicity. Instead, they remained and remain silent.