Nidra Poller has the best account of the courtroom antics at PJ Media. I append comments and reflections. In comparison with so many accounts in the MSM, this one shows how important it is to be familiar with the issues before writing about matters.
Al Dura Affair: France 2 Cooks the Raw Footage
By Nidra Poller
Paris, November 15, 2007
Palais de Justice, Paris, November 14th, France 2 and Charles Enderlin versus Philippe Karsenty—the appeal.
In response to an order issued by the Appellate Court for handover of the unedited raw footage shot by France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma on the 30th of September and 1st of October 2000, the state-owned TV network produced an 18-minute CD, a certificate of conformity, and its Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin. This is the first time monsieur Enderlin has stood before the court since a series of lawsuits for defamation was initiated in September 2006. Enderlin said, in interviews and on his France 2 blog, that he was pleased to have the opportunity to display the raw footage and bring an end to years of unfair, unfounded accusations. French media have shunned the issue, but an array of international journalists and concerned citizens came to see the evidence and judge for themselves. The hearing was scheduled for 1:30 PM.
By noon, dozens of people—journalists and people connected to the al Dura affair—were gathered in the small waiting area outside the courtroom. An hour later, an impatient crowd of 50 or 60 people pressed the early birds against the closed courtroom door. Gendarmes and several individuals in civilian clothes tried to clear a path for lawyers and clients to enter through a side door. Shouting, begging, and threatening to cancel the hearing, they forced their way through the compact mass, carrying folding chairs. Judge Trébucq herself, not yet draped in her official robes, was lugging chairs like a humble servant of the law.
The crush endured. It seemed endless, it was unbearable and absolutely senseless.
There’s a theory that some traffic jams are caused by purely psychological phenomena. Someone brakes sharply during heavy traffic, and a whole knot of stop and go traffic is created by people reacting to him and each other. The knot can remain for hours after the initial braking, as long as the press of traffic remains the same. Here, in a half-empty hallway, everyone was pressed against the door, the object of everyone’s desire. The ones who did not press, like John Rosenthal in the back, did not get in.
From time to time a gendarme emerged and scolded the unruly crowd whose voices disturbed the court where miscellaneous business was being handled. Philippe Karsenty’s father who was standing next to me said “Enderlin is here.” We thought he was joking. Luc Rosenzwieg, whose presence in the courtroom was essential, almost passed out. Daily Mail journalist Melanie Phillips (author of the famous Londonstan), who comes from the land of the disciplined queue, could not believe the Palais de Justice would show such disdain for citizens. Over-eager citizens who have been following the al Dura affair through the Net shoved their way in front of journalists assigned to cover the story and bring the news to millions. Richard Landes and Tom Gross, who need no introduction, did their best to shield us from the worst assaults. A tall slim pale young man with a keffieh around his neck waited, expressionless. Someone whispered: “He’s from the Associated Press.”
It is somewhat alargming to realize to what extent French journalists have no inhibitions about advertising their political commitments. Wearing a keffieh as a scarf is a sharp announcement of ones political sympathies. Imagine a journalist being taken seriously as a candidate to work for a major international news agency who wears an Israeli flag button on his lapel.
Once more a path was cut through the raving crowd. Charles Enderlin arrived with a suite of lawyers and a gaggle of followers.
An enraged Serge Kovacs (France 3) full of sound and fury harangued the crowd from the rear, then got into a shouting match, in Hebrew, with Stéphane Juffa (Metula News Agency). According to our translators, Kovacs was doing a j’accuse on us. Enderlin is his Dreyfuss. We were the lynch mob. He was out of control. We sent a few gendarmes over to expel him.
As I watched and listened from a distance, I saw this red-faced shouter who, people informed me, works for France3. He seemed to illustrate still more dramatically than the AP keffieh guy just how openly partisan the passions of French journalists. Enderlin innocent! A new Dreyfuss. The scandal of attacking him in court! Shame on you.
I spoke with Serge today: a fascinating man, filled with passion, child of Holocaust survivors from Hungary, tremendously worried about the wave of anti-Semitism that is destroying European culture. So why is he protecting Enderlin? Because Enderlin helped him through some difficult moments… out of loyalty, out of professional solidarity. Did he know that Enderlin is the plaintiff and Karsenty the defendant? “No.” Did he realize how much Enderlin contributed to the very Judeophobie he was worried about? “They didn’t need al Durah to hate.” Did he realize that Enderlin behaved badly as a journalist? “Possible, he’s not called ‘Scoop’ for nothing.” Did he want to see the evidence? “No.”
“Charles is above all proud. If you want him to admit error, you’re asking him to put a bullet to his head and pull the trigger. Forget it. He would sooner die that admit error, and Arlette Chabot will defend him, not because he’s right, but because he’s her employee and her organization’s reputation is at stake. If France2 loses this case every journalist will have to fear having his work questioned.”
Isn’t that the essence of journalism in a free (i.e., a publicly critical) society? Shades of Dreyfuss alright: If we admit error, we lose face, lose authority, lose power.
2:15 PM-The court instructed the gendarmes to let us enter one by one, one journalist, one citizen. The ordeal was over for those of us who made it through the door. It was about to begin for Jamal and Mohamed al Dura, “target of gunfire from the Israeli positions,” dixit Charles Enderlin on that fateful day.
Judge Trébucq introduces the session. “I know there are many journalists here,” she says… and reminds us that it is strictly forbidden to use recording devices. Yes, but the reminder has a special flavor, something like a wink, here in France where the media are conspicuously ignoring the al Dura affair. Reading an excerpt from the cameraman’s testimony under oath—”I filmed 27 minutes of the incident that lasted 45 minutes—” the judge asks why there are only 18 minutes on the CD. The seasoned France 2 journalist gives a garbled excuse, a long diversion about how they never conserve raw footage, but this subject was exceptional, so he kept the cassette in a safe. He tells how Talal Abu Rahma was allowed by the IDF to go to the Annual Congress of Press Mediators in April 2001 to receive an award. This was clearly his strategic option, and he used it throughout the screening. Verbose and evasive, he constantly diverted attention away from the image, away from the specific detail under scrutiny, away from events that occurred that day at Netzarim Junction.
So how did the 27 minutes boil down to 18? Enderlin denies that anyone ever said there were 27 minutes… and then says there was some irrelevant material that he chopped off the day after the incident.
The incoherence of the argument was only matched by the oily self-confidence with which he said it. I expected the judge to peer over her glasses at Charles and say, “Are you kidding? Who told you you could make such judgments. I want the entire tape.” But no.
The judge presses the point, asking Rosenzweig and Landes to estimate the duration of the footage they viewed. They both attest to more than 20 minutes… Rosenzweig remembers someone mentioning 27. Karsenty’s lawyer concludes for the record: something is missing.
The raw footage was not so raw. And it was barely al Dura. If we take the cameraman’s word for it, given under oath a few days after the incident, not something but everything is missing. This is supposed to be the raw footage of the al Dura death scene. What we get is raw footage of Palestinian youths throwing stones, firebombs, and burning tires at the Israeli outpost. And provoking no reaction, except for one teargas bomb. Real provocations alternate with those familiar fake battle scenes with instantaneous ambulance evacuations.
Everything is missing. This is the big news for the public, what should have been in the Jerusalem Post and any other MSM reporter’s account. Talal said he had 27 minutes of the 45-minute long shooting ordeal; Enderlin said he cut painful scenes of the boy’s agony; Talal told Esther Schapira he had sent Charles initially six minutes of the shooting. And there are none. We see minute after minute of Pallywood (which Charles’ imagination populates with rubber bullets coming from undetectable rifles, inflicting such terrible wounds that constant ambulances are necessary). But nothing more on al Durah.
A 45 minute ordeal of Israelis targeting a defenseless boy and his father — the core of Talal’s oft repeated claims that made this footage so terrifying — boils down to 60 seconds. The first and foremost revelation of this showing of the rushes is that the 27 minutes that Talal swore to under oath he took, do not exist. He caught virtually nothing of the alleged ordeal. We are left with six takes of ca. 10 seconds each, each notably discontinuous with the previousl
The 21 minutes that I saw three times in Enderlin’s office, scene after scene of Pallywood, is entirely different material. And out of the combined 21 minutes of previous rushes and the 27 minutes of shooting, we were shown 18.
Judge Trébucq had asked Charles Enderlin to move back from center stage to a more modest position but he continued to assume the lead role, talking without interruption. Telling war stories. Making cultural interpretations. He sent his trusted cameraman to Netzarim Junction that day because seven Palestinians had been killed on the Temple Mount the day before. He expected protests.
This was actually quite shocking. The court should have viewed the scenes before having Enderlin frame them for us. It was like giving him the opportunity to set the stage. Like the MSM when the story first aired — “Attention viewers, the footage you are about to see is shocking. Please be advised.” — he tells us what we are to see.
As Charles Enderlin switched on his anchorman’s voice and stonewalled, his legal team—Maître Amblard, who has been handling the cases for the past year, reinforced by a tall dashing Maître Pierre Olivier Sur and the scowling Guillaume Weill-Raynal— stood squarely in front of Landes and Rosenzweig, blocking their view of the screen.
Again, I expected the judge to tell them to sit down. They did not. Which drove me and Luc to go on the floor even closer. It actually backfired. I was right behind Philippe and got to give him some points to make.
Enderlin comments: This is what we call typical Intifada scenes. A game that’s played between the Palestinian youths and the Israeli soldiers. The limits are clearly defined. That’s why the kids aren’t afraid, they move around casually, throw a firebomb, laugh and joke. The Israelis up to this point are firing metal bullets coated with rubber. They cause big bruises.
Ah, but we are seeing all these ambulances pulling up with hurling sirens. So Charles Enderlin explains that sometimes the bullets do penetrate, the wounds are more serious, and the Palestinians call an ambulance. Yes, the game can go on for hours, then somebody loses his nerve, shoots live ammunition, and people get killed.
Judge: What time of day is this?
Enderlin: The end of the morning. This kind of action was going on off and on all morning. I told Talal to wear a bullet proof vest, but he didn’t want to… As it turns out…
The time line clicks on, the minutes go by, and Charles Enderlin, flanked by someone presented as a specialist (in images? photojournalism? the Mideast conflict?) never stops talking. Still no images of Mohamed al Dura and his father caught in the crossfire. The action is interspersed with brief interviews. Enderlin translates from the Arabic. They are protesting because Sharon went into the Al Aqsa Mosque…or defiled the mosque, or destroyed it… They are angry. This is the expression of their anger.
I noted to Karsenty and he noted to the judge, that the interviews take place with the Israeli position behind them. If the ambulances were taking away wounded from Israeli fire, why are they in plain sight of the Israelis.
Enderlin responds: “They’re far away, out of range.”
Philippe: “About as far away as the Al Durahs in the subsequent shooting.”
We hear gunfire in the background. Karsenty interrupts to say there is no sign of bullets coming from the clearly visible Israeli position. Enderlin laughs in his face. Hah! If I could get a film that shows bullets coming from a firing position, it would be a scoop.
Abu Rahma interviews a Fatah leader who speaks English. He too explains that they are angry because Sharon went into the Al Aqsa Mosque. Abu Rahma asks him how long he thinks the protest will last. Undaunted by this curious question, the Fatah militant replies that it will last until the lesson is learned (does he mean until the message is heard by the Israelis or learned by the Palestinians?) and concludes: “they want to defend al Aqsa with their blood.”
The timeline reads 13 minutes 66 (?) seconds. Enderlin explains: Talal switched off his camera and wraps it up. He had done his day’s work. When he turns it on again, the real shooting has begun. Enderlin’s voice is dramatic. He comments, as the camera searches. Real gunfire, Talal is trying to see where it is coming from, is it the Israeli position? No, is it the Palestinian… From the “twin towers?” The fortress?
Karsenty reminds him he said you can’t see the bullets coming out. Enderlin says you can see the tip of the barrel of the gun at the window.
While we see the smoke of guns firing from the Palestinian position.
Suddenly everything is confused. The timeline skips from 14’20 to 17’00. We see the beginning of the al Dura news report as it was broadcast. The avocat général fiddles with the controls, the image winds back, forward. We’re back at the interview. The commentary is confused. Is Charles Enderlin saying the fire was coming from the Palestinian positions?
This moment was very strange. Enderlin started to make remarks to prepare for what was to come, indicating that we had seen the previous footage and we would now be seeing the footage of the al Durahs (the three minutes). At this point I realized that they had cut the scenes I saw (and probably more). I was in disbelief (I am so naive).
At this point the stop and go of the remote started to break down and we went back and forth jumping wildly. But between the previous rushes and the 3 minutes, the screen goes blank. Obvious editing.
Finally—it’s not clear how—we get to the al Dura footage. And all we see is what you got in the original September 30, 2000 broadcast. It’s spliced. But we recognize the details. Karsenty interrupts every few seconds to point out the anomalies. No blood. The boy is holding a red kerchief to make it look like blood.
This was big. The best footage I have seen — at Shahaf’s — is not as sharp as this. The shape and movement of the scarf seemed much clearer, but since Philippe was jumping up and pointing it out to the judges, I couldn’t see as clearly as I’d like.
The soldiers were supposed to be firing at them for 45 minutes, the wall is intact, there are a few holes. Round holes, shot head on.
Charles Enderlin and Talal Abu Rahma have consistently claimed that the Israeli position was directly opposite the targeted man and boy. It is not true. Enderlin stands in front of the judge and says everything and the opposite about the positions. He does not reply to a single objection raised by Karsenty, raised by other analysts repeatedly over the past seven years: The father’s arm is intact, he claims he was hit nine times by high power bullets, his muscles smashed, his bones crushed. No blood on his white t-shirt. Voices in Arabic shout “the boy is dead! the boy is dead!” He is sitting next to his father, eyes wide open.
Charles Enderlin standing in a French court explains: Oh, that’s something cultural. In their culture, when they say “the boy is dead” they mean he is in danger of dying, that he is in a very dangerous situation, he might die. The judges smile.
And the courtroom laughed. It was one of Charles’ less briliant moments.
We reach the end of the scene as it figured in news reports, the point where Charles Enderlin said, “Mohamed is dead, his father is critically wounded.” We might ask what that means in his culture…because the scene continues for another three seconds in which we see the boy who is lying on his stomach with his hands over his eyes, turn, lift his elbow, shade his eyes, look at the camera, and slowly return to his prone position.
Philippe Karsenty interrupts every few seconds, leaps up, points to the screen, asks for a slow forward, backward, forward. The boy is moving. He is alive.
The expert steps in, points to the image, the position of the boy’s foot, and declares: “A living person couldn’t hold his body in that position.”
That was one of the more bizarre moments of all. He talked about how the body had gone limp and the boy was unquestionably dead (in scene 5) when a) his hand is on his eyes and his elbow is off the ground, and b) in the next scene he moves.
Back in the autumn of 2000 when the al Dura news report first hit the screens, Talal Abu Rahma and Charles Enderlin often told how they experienced, by exchange of cell phone calls, that terrible ordeal as it was happening. Talal phoned to say the man and the boy were pinned down by gunfire. Enderlin said be careful. Talal described how the man tried to protect the boy, called someone on his cell phone, tried to show the Israeli soldiers he was a helpless civilian, with a child. Abu Rahma filmed, phoned, filmed. He told Enderlin to look after his family if anything happened to him. He was ducking bullets, shielded by a panel truck, a few kids were gathered around him, seeking refuge. Bullets were flying. How many phone calls? Maybe a dozen, as they told it then. All the way up to the fatal outcome.
On November 14th, Charles Enderlin, standing before the judges, as the brief one-minute of raw footage focused on Mohamed al Dura and his father drew to an end, began that litany: and Talal was calling me as it was happening…
He would have gone on if someone hadn’t interrupted him. Most likely Philippe Karsenty, making another point about the signs of life in the allegedly murdered child. He might have gone on, and described the dramatic phone calls back and forth, without realizing that everyone in the courtroom saw that the raw footage focused on the al Dura incident lasted only one minute. Just one minute. How many times did the cameraman call the journalist as he filmed that dramatic one-minute incident?
And the totality of film recorded by the France 2 cameraman on that fateful day, over a period of at least 5 hours, was eighteen minutes?
Of course Talal’s answer would be, I called during the 45 minutes that punctuated my six takes of 10 seconds each (cell phone batteries doing better than camera batteries). I can imagine these phone calls. They were the way that Talal set “Scoop” up to see what Talal wanted him to see when he got the tapes — a tragedy of monumental proportions.
The session ended. The debate continued in the marble halls of the Palais de Justice. Interviews were filmed. Information and impressions exchanged. The behind the scenes story will be reported in the coming days.
The next hearing is scheduled for the 27th of February 2008.
My inside informer says that the judges will do a thorough re-examination of the entire case.
This is excellent news. If the judge is diligent, Enderlin’s goose is cooked. Few people merit such a fate more than this man who was either complicit or duped, and has spent the last seven years defending his lost honor no matter what the enormous collatoral damage.