There is considerable speculation about Charles Enderlin in the Al Durah affair: When did he know what. Given his commitments to impressionistic journalism — he believed Talal’s account because it corresponded to the situation in Gaza (which he got from Talal) — and his fast and loose relationship to anything resembling real honesty, it’s hard to pick one’s way through his murky testimony.
A particular incident revealed to me by a colleague in France illustrates his modus operandi. According to France2, on September 30, 2002, Talal abu Rahmah sent a fax to their offices rescinding the sworn testimony he had made claiming that the Israelis shot the boy “in cold blood.” This was only revealed to the critics of France2 as a “Oh, by the way…” remark in response to their preparations for a major public protest in October 2002.
Incensed by this shell game — one minute Talal’s testimony is key in supporting Enderlin’s broadcast’s claim that the boy was the “target of fire coming from the Israeli position,” and the next, poof, it’s gone — critics at MENA hammered away at this outrage. Enderlin clearly took a great deal of heat for this, and in an interview with the popular magazine Télérama (a combo of TV Guide and Reader’s Digest), he made the following remark:
[Talal Abou Rahma] a donné des dizaines d’interviews, à beaucoup de médias, y compris des chaînes israéliennes, et la seule dont parle la Ména, c’est celle donnée à une ONG non reconnue par l’ONU, qui lui fait tenir des propos qu’il n’a pas tenus”.
Talal has given dozens of interviews to many media, including Israeli stations, and the only one that MENA speaks about is that given to an NGO that is not recognized by the UN and that has him making claims [i.e., “in cold blood”] that he never made.
The interviewer notes that Enderlin became irritated at this point in the interview. And so he should have. Not only is this a difficult subject in which his dishonesty and bad faith are on full display, but he’s lying to the reporter: the Palestinian Center for Human Rights a UN-recognized institution, and Talal made a statement to them under oath three days after the event. This testimony made it around the world, and many of Talal’s other interviews are merely repetitions of what he said here. So Enderlin’s claim to his interviewer is nothing short of completely dishonest and misleading.
Notes my informant:
Remarques: en proférant sciemment ce mensonge sur la nature du PCHR de Gaza, qu’il connait très bien, Enderlin n’était nullement sous la pression de questionneurs hostiles, mais face à Nicolas Delesalle, un journaliste de Télérama qui a toujours défendu ses thèses et condamné ceux qui attaquaient France 2. Informé de cette déclaration, Raji Sourani, directeur du PCHR envoie un courrier comminatoire à Enderlin, exigeant qu’il fasse procéder à des rectifications dans le Télérama sur deux points: le témoignage de Talal abou Rahma du 3 octobre 2000 est parfaitement spontané et authentique, prononcé sous serment devant un avocat (en l’occurence Raji Sourani lui-même). Deuxièmement, le PCHR est bel est bien reconnu par l’ONU et siège au sein de la FIDH (Fédération internationale des organisations de défense des droits de l’homme), accréditée auprès du comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU à Genève.
In offering knowingly this lie on the nature of the PCHR in Gaza, which he knows very well, Enderlin was under no pressure from hostile questionners, but dealing with Nicolas Delesalle, a journalist from Télérama who had always defended his claims and condemned those who attacked France2. Informed of this claim, Raji Sourani, the director of the PCHR send a threatening letter to Enderlin, demanding that he arrange to rectify this issue in Telerama on two points: First that the testimony of Talal of October 3, 2000 was completely spontaneous and authentic, pronounced under oath with a lawyer present (in fact, Sourani himself), and secondly that the PCHR is fully accredited before the UN, and exists as part of the FIDH (International Federation of Human Rights Organizations), accredited by the Committee on Human Rights of the UN at Geneva.
In response, Enderlin sent Sourani the following fax:
December 14, 2004
To the attention of Mr. Sourani
Fax N° 08 28 44 299
Mobile : 059 412 919
From Charles Enderlin
Bureau chief France 2 Jerusalem
I deeply apologize for having said that your Organization was not recognized by the United Nations. Of course, it is !!!
I made this mistake in a moment of anger being harrassed by several extremists websites who used the testimony Talal gave you to claim that the video of Mohamed Al Dura was staged, which is not course not true !
I have asked the newspaper to publish my apology.
Again, will all my apologies
1) As far as I know, Télérama never published a correction.
2) The websites were not using the claims of Abu Rahmah to prove staging, but Talal’s dishonesty, Enderlin’s credulity and France2’s bad faith in not making Talal’s change of position known publicly. Granted all that supports the likelihood of staging, but that’s not the specific argument about this document made at the PCHR.
3) Enderlin’s “mistake” was not made in a moment of anger, but of irritation: the accusations of Talal’s dishonesty — attested to on videotape — which directly affected his own credibility had “gotten under his skin.” It is evidence of precisely the opposite of what he claims in another interview with Télérama: that he has a “elephant’s hide.”
4)It was not a mistake, but a deliberate and dishonest effort to ridicule MENA’s concerns and dismiss the importance of a key document in the affair, one that dramatically undermined Enderlin’s claims in the initial broadcast.
5) The clear modus operandi here is: when in trouble, lie in public, then cover yourself in private by mollifying anyone you might have offended.
None of this speaks well for Endlerin. Indeed, it suggests that he’s spent too much time dealing with honor-shame cultures (French and Palestinian) and doesn’t even know what integrity is. And to judge from Clément Weill-Raynal’s comments and those of Brett Kline, this problem goes far beyond the confines of Charles Enderlin’s thin skin.