Monthly Archives: March 2008

When is a Christian who cites a Jew criticizing another Jew guilty of Anti-Semitism? In French Court

John Rosenthal, one of the best journalists covering the strange world of French politics and Jihad, has an article at PJMedia on the Kafka-in-Wonderland world of the infamous Chamber 17 of the French court system, dedicated to cases of defamation. In this case, to which I have only alluded, a French Christian is found guilty of “anti-Semitism” for posting an article by an Israeli Jew, Stephane Juffa, criticizing, among others, Charles Enderlin, that “veritable pyromaniac of war.” The logic of the accusation brought by Enderlin is nothing short of staggering, and the guilty verdict of the judge, Nicholas Bonnal (who has, at other times, shown sober judgment), mind-boggling. I quote some key passages below.

Are the Al-Dura Critics Anti-Semites

Is a [Christian who quotes a] Jew who accuses another Jew of “cowardice” and “self-hatred” in the face of anti-Semitism thereby himself guilty of anti-Semitism?

In the strange, through-the-looking-glass world of French justice apparently he is.

The setting is yet again the Al-Dura affair and, more specifically, the legal campaign conducted by Middle East correspondent Charles Enderlin and his employer, French public television network France2, against critics who have challenged the authenticity of Enderlin’s, in the meanwhile, infamous September 2000 report depicting the Palestinian boy Mohammad Al-Dura allegedly being shot dead by Israeli forces.

Nicolas Ciarapica is an evangelical Christian and the owner of the website Blogdei. On January 8, he was summoned to appear before the 17th Chamber of the Parisian county court (Tribunal de Grande Instance): the same jurisdiction, specializing in “press-related” offenses, that has also heard the other Enderlin “defamation” cases. Unlike the defendants in the other cases, however, Ciarapica was not accused merely of having “defamed” Charles Enderlin, but rather of having “defamed” him, more exactly, inasmuch as a Jew: hence, the specific charge of what in France is known as “racial defamation.” In other words, Ciarapica stood accused of having promulgated anti-Semitic “hate speech” directed at Enderlin.

The object of the suit was an article titled “French Jews Are Completely Fed Up,” which appeared on Blogdei in February 2006. As Ciarapica explained to the court:

    I try to [post articles] that are of interest for the evangelical Protestant community. Like a lot of other members of my faith, we pay attention to Israel…. Every time one starts accusing the Jews, it is a sign that there is something wrong in society. The average French person watches the television and it is always the same. He never sees a report concerning the Jews that allows him to have empathy for them. I am shocked by this. We try to engage in “re-information”: to present a different tonality. We looked for different sources of information. We found the Mena. (Source: Guysen News; link in French)

News Flash: Liveleak takes down Fitna due to threats

Story at Atlas Shrugs and Little Green Footballs.

The movie is still available for viewing at YouTube:

Marash quits English al Jazeera over the (British) anti-Americanism

The Herald Tribune has an article on David Marash’s departure from English Al-Jazeera. His reason for leaving is most interesting.

Note that when he took the job, he assured everyone that Al Jazeera was a fine and reputable news organization:

Calling Al Jazeera “a thoroughly respectable news organization,” Marash, who will co-anchor the news from the network’s Washington studio, said the new show aimed to “win the high end. We want to give the most sophisticated, most nuanced and most global view of the day’s events.”

Alas…

Anchor quits Al-Jazeera, cites anti-American tone

NEW YORK: Former “Nightline” reporter Dave Marash has quit Al-Jazeera English, saying Thursday his exit was due in part to an anti-American bias at a network that is little seen in this country.

Marash said he felt that attitude more from British administrators than Arabs at the Qatar-based network.

Marash was the highest-profile American TV personality hired when the English language affiliate to Al-Jazeera was started two years ago in an attempt to compete with CNN and the BBC. He said there was a “reflexive adversarial editorial stance” against Americans at Al-Jazeera English.

“Given the global feelings about the Bush administration, it’s not surprising,” Marash said.

But he found it “became so stereotypical, so reflexive” that he got angry.

The English working for an Arab news outlet, more anti-American that the Arabs? I am shocked. This is another fine illustrations of the kind of politics of resentment that have produced an “American Derangement Syndrome” that, along with its mate, Israel Derangement Syndrome, drive so much self-destructive European coverage.

Imagine… these British journalists who feed Arab hatred of the USA… they probably think the Arabs respect and like them for this. More likely, like the Algerians who cheered when France vetoed American efforts to fight Iraq, they think, “these people are weak; they side with their enemies and attack their friends.” And they’d be right to think that.

Geert Wider’s Fitna is now available for viewing

Geert Wilder’s film on Islam — Fitna (Dissension, Civil War) — which has been rejected from theaters and repeatedly blocked from websites for offending Muslims and engaging in hate speech, is now available.

Watch it, and ask yourself: Is documenting hate speech, hate speech?

Further reflections:

View this movie with the “eyes” of a jihadi Muslim who doesn’t know who made it, and believes in the destiny of Islam to conquer the world by any means. You see quotes from the Qur’an about engaging in Jihad; you hear preachers calling for jihad; you see victims of Jihadi attacks. Take out the Muhammad Cartoon, the Western music, and final coda, and I think he’d go, “Yessss!”

This could well be a recruiting device for Jihadis (e.g., considerably more elegant and to the point that Osama bin Laden’s long rambling recruiting video.

Note that the Muslims most engaged in the violence the Europeans so fear this movie will provoke, are precisely those who would find the contents unexceptional. So why are they threatening to riot?

Interestingly, the response has been remarkably muted so far. But note this comment from an al Qaeda member:

A militant believed linked to al-Qaida’s deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahri told The Associated Press in the northwestern city of Peshawar last week militants would mount revenge attacks against foreigners because of Wilders’ film.

“Foreigners will be attacked. The situation will change, change, change,” said Qari Mohammed Yusuf, whose also said his two brothers died fighting alongside al-Zawahri. “The reaction was in (the Pakistani tribal region of) Waziristan before, but tomorrow it will be in Kabul and even in Holland and in Denmark.

Revenge for what? Quoting his buddies?

The G-Word and Palestinian “National” Ambitions

MERCAZ HARAV AND THE G-WORD
By • Richard Landes, Boston University
Published in: Exclusive to Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Faculty Forum March 16, 2008

Just after the murderous attack on the Seminary students in Jerusalem, SPME issued a statement to which it attached the names of the board members. The key passage runs as follows:

The deliberate attack on this venerable institution of Jewish learning, a sacred seminary, cannot be interpreted as anything but an overt act of premeditated, genocidal anti-Semitism not dissimilar from the acts of pogroms in Eastern Europe and Nazi SS raids on Jewish communities in Western Europe. Jews were killed simply because they were Jewish.

In no way can this be interpreted as an act of political liberation or of Palestinian self-determination and if the Palestinians insist that it is, then it must be interpreted as nothing less than an act of war against Jews and not just Israel.

Almost immediately board members received email objecting to this language as exaggerated and inappropriate. What follows are some of the objections that writers have made to us, and a response of sorts that both acknowledges their rebuke and raises a more fundamental question that this controversy reveals in stark colors.

I received the following from a colleague whose work I greatly respect and whose pronouncements on the Middle East conflict I had previously criticized.

I see that you and Efraim Karsh are among the signatories of the below call for a condemnation of the attack on the Mercaz Harav. Fine. But why this rhetoric? Why bring out the big guns (genocide, the SS, warcrimes) on the occasion of the mad actions of what seems to have been an isolated gunman who went “postal”? Did you protest in the same way when Baruch Goldstein shot worshippers at the mosque in Hebron? What is the point of this exaggerated rhetoric?

Wrote another colleague to a board member:

My general support for your efforts notwithstanding, I must object to this memo. Despicable. Deplorable. Criminal. Yes. But “genocidal?” No. Not by any reasonable definition of genocide. Hyperbole does not make the case stronger, just louder.

Wrote still another in the same vein:

I was saddened by the attack, by the loss of life, the injury, and the myriad of its implications. But your summary of the meaning of the event is badly discrediting your hasbara.

It would be easy to list many essential differences between the attack on Yeshivat Mercaz Harav and the pogroms in East Europe and Nazi SS raids. For one, as far as I know the Nazis and the kozacks did not undertake much risk, and certainly did not go on suicide missions. The Yeshiva, like the madrasas on the other side, is not just about scholarship but also indoctrination, to a perspective which does not leave much room for compromise. If this is the only choice, I certainly wish that the Yeshiva boys win over the madrasas, but hysterical self pity by the strong should not be our style.

Finally, an extensive rebuke from Alan Weisbard:

Words have meaning.

It is important that words associated with extremes of human conduct be used judiciously so that they retain their distinctive meanings, and so that proper uses of those words (and the experiences properly described by them) are not diminished through gratuitous overuse and dilution of meaning.

One such word is “genocide.” A second such word, one less extreme but nonetheless powerful and distinctive, particularly in Jewish historical context, is “pogrom.”

My own view is that the invocation of these terms to describe the clearly wanton and evil murder of religious students and scholars at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav by a single individual (perhaps – it is not known at this point – supported by one or another terrorist gang) is inexact and unhelpful. So are invocations of these terms (and of the term “holocaust”) employed by enemies of the State of Israel to describe deaths (including those of civilian women and children, so-called “collateral damage”) caused by targeted Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants/terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank.

I am making no claims regarding moral equivalence here, except to say that none of these acts, in my view, constitutes activity meaningfully or usefully described as genocidal. Certainly, if one applies such labels to the murders at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, one must do so equally for the slaughter at the Cave of Machpelah by a deranged co-religionist, whose name I decline to mention, at Purim time some years back.

Further, given the current and foreseeable composition and proclivities of most international institutions in a position to apply such terminology with legal force, I do not think it serves the interests of Israel, or of the worldwide Jewish community, to encourage the indiscriminate use of these incendiary terms in the context of today’s Middle East-at least short of the use (or threat) of weapons of mass destruction.

The attack on the Yeshiva merits moral condemnation in strong terms. I also join your expression of sympathy and condolences to its victims, their families and communities. But the rhetorical escalation of language serves little good purpose here, andI would urge you to reconsider how best to express your justifiable outrage at this heinous act.

In sum, SPME’s statement struck many thoughtful people who are by no means hostile to the State of Israel as loose talk that both discredits the organization and debases the language in ways that do not serve to benefit either a responsible and free society or the Jews.

I must confess that I too, upon first reading the statement found it excessive in its rhetoric, unnecessarily insistent that the reader share the writer’s indignation at this wanton slaughter, but that they also assent to a “reading” of the conflict that drew sides in black and white. But as I read the objections, in particular the comparison with Baruch Goldstein – whose name Alan Weisbard is justifiably loath even to mention – I became increasingly convinced that the statement, rather than immoderate in its rhetoric, had only missed a critical step of reasoning that many of us on the board of SPME have already made, even if reluctantly and with much regret.

The missing piece here lies in the culture that produced this deed. Anyone who doubts that Palestinian culture, both “secular” (i.e., Fatah, Palestinian Authority) and religious (Hamas, Jihad Islami) has terrifying genocidal tendencies must visit the site of Palestinian Media Watch. There one finds documented in every aspect of public culture, from sermons on TV and educational programs to crosswords, sports, and children’s programs, a culture steeped in genocidal hatreds.

Read the rest.

My Interview with Ruthie Blum in the Jerusalem Post

There’s an interview with me in the Jerusalem Post.

Richard Landes calls up a film clip onto the screen of his laptop to give an example of “Pallywood” – a term he invented as a take-off on “Bollywood.” The difference between the two, however, couldn’t be greater. Whereas the latter is the name now used for the Indian movie industry, the former refers to what Landes asserts are pernicious productions staged by the Palestinians, in front of (and often with cooperation from) Western camera crews, for the purpose of promoting anti-Israel propaganda by disguising it as news.

It’s a pretty harsh claim, and one that has earned the associate professor at Boston University – and co-founder and director of the Center for Millennial Studies – the reputation in certain circles as a right-wing conspiracy theorist. This perception of the French-born American, who divides his time between the United States and Israel, completely contradicts how he describes himself.

“I consider myself on the Left,” says Landes, during an hour-long interview earlier this month in Jerusalem. “I’ve always been a liberal. I’ve always been in favor of progressive projects.”

But, according to Landes, in the current global climate, a dangerous meeting of forces is taking place that must be fought: the blood-libels of pre-modernism and the post-modernist constructs of reality that allow for them. “It’s like a wedding of pre-modern sadists to post-modern masochists,” insists Landes. “It’s a match made in hell.”

Discussing breakthroughs in mass communications – comparing the advent of the printing press to that of cyberspace – Landes believes that there is an opportunity to combat misinformation on a large scale through the Internet. Indeed, Landes himself maintains two Web sites, Second Draft and Augean Stables.

Scientific discourse, he is convinced, is no longer exclusive to the universities. On the contrary, he says, “Academia is stuck.” It is the blogosphere, he concludes, where the real war of ideas can be won.

I don’t think I said “scientific” discourse. I think I talked about intellectual discourse. If there’s something “scientific” about it, it’s probably because it makes an attempt to ground in empirical reality. And as for the internet, it’s the place that the ideas and discourse that will enable the West to defend itself, and in the long run, reformulate the fabric of civil society will take place.

The full article is available here.

The Prophetic Stream, Conspiracy Theory and Paranoia: What’s Wrong with African-American Preaching

There’s a brouhaha about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. which deserves close consideration. I have written a good deal about self-criticism, and its origins in the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible. Recently I have been hearing a consistent invocation of this “prophetic tradition” among those explaining (if not justifying and admiring) Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr.’s preaching style.

Reverend Joseph Lowery explained on CNN that Wright’s sermons were only “divisive” in the sense that they distinguished between people who were in this prophtetic tradition and those who weren’t “in the community of faith” defined by that tradition.

Well, they certainly separate us from the people who are not from the community of faith and who do not subscribe to prophetic preaching. There are hundreds and hundreds of preachers in black churches across this country who may not use identical language, but they have a common theology with Jeremiah Wright. They’re in the prophetic stream.

The prophets of old, the Jeremiahs, the Amos, and they spoke angrily and sometimes with cruel phrases and words, to the rulers and kings of their day. That’s who they were talking to on behalf of the poor and oppressed of their day.

The black church has been a place where black people take their sorrow, their travail and their longing for hope and for deliverance. They expect the preacher and thank the preacher and say, “Amen, hallelujah,” to the preacher, who takes their burden to the Lord. And then they join in a movement to help bring new order and a new day into being. That’s prophetic preaching, and it’s traditionally the black church.

Similar remarks from Randall Bailey:

I often wonder if those who criticize these homiletical strategies of calling the nation to judgment do not read the 8th to 7th C. BCE prophets, such as Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. They delivered judgment speeches against the nations of Israel and Judah and their rulers because of the ways in which they oppressed the poor, perverted justice, and ignored the moral and ethical imperatives of the religion.

As someone who has read the prophetic texts, and thought a good deal about them in the context of the tradition of self-criticism, I think these characterizations of the “prophetic stream” represent a profound misunderstanding. The prophets are ferocious in their criticism of their own people; they have relatively little to say about the real oppressive forces in the world of their day in the 8-7th centuries BCE. When the people of Israel get smashed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the prophets don’t go into a rant about how evil these vicious imperialists are; they invoke them as God’s agents in punishing Israel for their sins. When, under more normative conditions, when they chastize rulers and aristocracy for their treatment of the poor, they do so again with vigorous, even violent rhetoric, but they do so in the hopes of changing their people. The prophets, however rough they may be, love the people they chastize, and rebuke them for the sake of their transformation.

Historically, this “prophetic turn” represents something exceptional among ancient peoples, and one of the reasons that the Jews have survived these defeats, while the other nations, once conquered, decimated, sent into exile, tended to disappear. For these rebukes of the prophets aimed at reminding the elites that they had obligations to the poor; that the people of Israel constituted the unit, and that rulers ruled “for the people.” As a result, Jewish communities in the ancient and medieval world had an exceptionally high degree of internal cohesion that permitted them to survive under the most adverse conditions. Among elites in various civilizations — rulers, aristocrats, wealthy — Israelite and Jewish elites have the most highly developed sense of obligation to their commoners. Most nations, once conquered, saw their elites abandon them and join the lower echelons of the imperial administration that now held power. As Abraham Heschel pointed out, the prophets were among the few who denounced “the idolatry of power” with such fervor.

But the core reason for their success comes from the profound attachment that the prophets felt for their people. There is no trace of hatred in their clean anger, no desire to see failure and punishment, no joy in the downfall of the sinners. Indeed, their commitment to the very people they rebuked, in some cases, so savagely, meant that, often enough, those rebuked took them seriously. The very fact that these prophetic denunciations became canonized as sacred scripture — that we hear the shepherd Amos’ version of the tale, not that of the royal priest Amatzia — tells us that not only the prophets, but the leaders of the people shared these values and accepted the prophetic rebukes.

All this is very far from what is here invoked as “Black Liberation Theology” or the “prophetic stream” of African-American churches. There, although Reverend Wright repeatedly speaks about “we,” he really means the white ruling class who, in his mind, deliberately conspire to destroy, even wipe out the blacks, the innocent victims of that malevolence.

Some commentators have complained that Wright’s sermons have been cherry-picked — snippets out of context — for their shock value, and that a longer exposure to his thought gives a significantly different impression. Here is a larger segment of the post-9-11 sermon that Wright gave, so one can get a sense of the context.

The people who posted this did so under the title “FOX Lies!! Barack Obama Pastor Wright”. They apparently think that this longer piece makes the snippet that played — as far as I know it was ABC, not FOX who broke this story — negates the meaning of the snippet. It certainly does show Reverend Wright calling 9-11 “unspeakable” and showing empathy at the tragedy of people — “black people” — throwing themselves out of the burning building. And this may or may not mitigate the appalling expressions of triumphalism — even glee — that Reverend Wright expresses to the delight of the audience, as he hits his “chickens coming home to roost” theme, although it hardly makes a “lie” of the snippet.

Let’s examine some of this larger sermon.

Home of Jewish Agency Emissary in RI Attacked: Hate Crime or Terrorism?

Receiving almost no coverage in media outside of Rhode Island, the attack on the apartment of Israeli emissary to Brown University Yossi Knafo is still far from being solved. The crude attack could be a hate crime, or an action organized by a terrorist organization against an accessible Israeli representative. It seems highly unlikely that it was simple arson, unconnected to Knafo’s position and origin.

The following article is from Brown University’s student newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald.

In an attack early Saturday morning, improvised explosives were hurled at the off-campus apartment of Yossi Knafo, an emissary from the Jewish Agency for Israel employed by Brown/RISD Hillel. Knafo was home at the time but unharmed by the attack.

Islamic Jihad Accuses PRC of Pallywood

Following the deadly March 6th attack on an Israeli patrol jeep on the border with Gaza that left two dead, a spat erupted between Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees over who was responsible for the attack. Interestingly, Islamic Jihad accused the PRC of producing a Pallywood video to support their claims.

The following commentary is from Honest Reporting.

New England Anti-American and Anti-Israel Group Complains About Jewish Power

The New England Committee to Defend Palestine , an organization that firmly opposes Israel’s right to exist and supports Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians (their first principle is- “Palestine is Arab land. We support the struggle of the Palestinian Arab people to liberate themselves from military occupation and colonial settlement in all of historic
Palestine. We affirm the right of Palestinians to reclaim their land and resources, to maintain their culture, and to free their land from occupation by soldiers and settlers by any means necessary.”), were left in an angry huff last this week when the Jewish Labor Committee convinced the director of Encuentro 5 not to allow a hate group to use their facilities. The following letter, filled with anti-Semitic stereotypes of pernicious Jewish control and tired anti-imperialist ranting, is their whiney response.

March 16, 2008

Jewish Labor Committee Attempts to Shut Down Boston Conference on Zionism

Zionists walked into a well-known center for left activists in Boston this
week and managed, with a single complaint, to take away an already
agreed-upon meeting space for an April conference on Palestine organized by
the New England Committee to Defend Palestine. Around March 9, the local
branch of a national group called the Jewish Labor Committee told the
director of Encuentro 5 and the landlord of the building that houses
Encuentro that the New England Committee to Defend Palestine is a “hate
group” and demanded that it not be allowed to hold the conference in
Encuentro’s meeting space. On March 14, the director of Encuentro informed
the conference organizers that he would have to accede to pressure from the
Jewish Labor Committee and UNITE-HERE (the Union of Needle trades,
Industrial and Textile Employees and Hotel Employees and Restaurant
Employees Union). UNITE-HERE is connected to a trust that owns the
multi-story brick industrial building in Boston’s Chinatown. Encuentro’s
space is on the 5th floor of this building and is held without a lease,
making it vulnerable to landlord threats.

A Second Article in European Press on Israelis Medically Treating Palestinians

Tom Gross, of Mideast Media Analysis, reported on the rare positive coverage Israel received this week in Der Spiegel and The Times. Both articles focused on the Israel treatment of sick Palestinians in advanced Israel hospitals. It should be noted that Israel also treats sick Jordanians, Iraqis, and other Arabs in its hospitals at no charge to its patients.

The Times reported on a Palestinian baby accepted through Erez crossing, where soldiers and guards expose themselves to Hamas sniper fire to open the gates for the Palestinian patients.

SAVING BABY MOHAMMED

Hamas-Israel: a tiny ray of hope
By David Byers, at the Erez crossing
The Times (of London)
March 11, 2008

It is one of the world’s most volatile borders, separating the Middle East’s most bitter of enemies. Erez – the only pedestrian crossing into Israel for 1.4 million Palestinians crammed into the Gaza Strip – has been largely sealed off since Hamas’ takeover last summer, leaving its residents in an increasingly desperate plight. But the rescue of one, dying, Palestinian baby at the concrete fortress last week threw a ray of light on a little-known humanitarian agreement between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, at a time when they are locked in a state of conflict.

Article on Israeli Medical Treatment of Palestinians in Der Speigel

Tom Gross, of Mideast Media Analysis, maintains a sharp and critical eye on the coverage of Israel in European media. yet, this week, Gross found a sliver of good news-

Both the leading German news magazine, Der Spiegel, and The Times of London, have regularly carried extremely hostile and often untrue stories about Israelis. It therefore comes as a surprise that each have now run a report about separate incidents in which Israeli medics treated sick Palestinian babies even as they were being fired upon by Palestinian terrorists.

One of the underreported side stories of the conflict is despite the daily Palestinian effort to kill Israeli civilians, Israel maintains its principles and continues to accept Palestinian civilians for free treatment at Israeli hospitals. Even as soldiers manning the Gaza border crossings such as Erez continue to come under sniper fire, they expend great effort to facilitate the entrance of sick Palestinians into Israel.

Der Spiegel
reported on a Palestinian woman who was brought to Israel to give birth, and experienced the effects of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

BORN IN ISRAEL

Palestinian twins under rocket fire from Gaza
By Christoph Schult in Ashkelon
Der Spiegel (Germany)
March 11, 2008

When a Palestinian woman gave birth to twins in an Israeli hospital she experienced what it is like to be the target of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Jubilation Over Slaughter of Israeli Youth

Last week’s terror attack at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem was a revolting act that should disgust any decent person. But the reaction of the Palestinians to the murders shows us once again how vastly different their society is from the West. Even if the terrorist’s relatives actually mourn his death and his decision to become a killer, the fact that they feel obligated to publicly proclaim his praise indicates that the expectations and values of Palestinian society must never be considered through the same prism by which we view our own.

 

The following Boston Globe article is by Jeff Jacoby.

 

The slaughter of eight young yeshiva students and the wounding of nine others by an Arab terrorist in Jerusalem last week was a cold-blooded act of evil. It is difficult to make sense of the depraved fanaticism of someone like Ala Abu Dhaim, who calmly entered the school’s busy library, took three guns from a box, and sprayed the room with hundreds of bullets, emptying clip after clip until finally being shot dead by an off-duty military officer and a part-time student who heard the gunfire and came running.

 

Even more perverse and revolting that Abu Dhaim’s massacre, howevere, was the behavior that followed it.

In Gaza, the news that unarmed Jewish students, most of them kids, had been gunned down while at study set off paroxysms of joy. Thousands of jubilant Palestinians whooped it up in Gaza’s streets, firing guns in the air to celebrate and distributing candy to passersby. Many residents went to mosques to offer prayers of thanksgiving before joining the festivities. Television cameras recorded the revelry; you can see it for yourself on YouTube.

 

Hamas, the terror organization that controls Gaza, issued a statement applauding the bloodshed. “We bless the [Jerusalem] operation,” it said. “It will not be the last.”

France2 Accused: The Appeals Case Takes Another Turn

Where’s Israel? Asks French Appeals Court Judge

[For a more detailed presentation with illustrations of the (faulty) reasoning at work in France2's trial presentation, see Véronique Chemla's exceptionally well-prepared account].

The familiar crowds gathered outside the appeals court to hear the latest round in the Karsenty-Enderlin slugfest in the Palais de Justice in Paris. Middle East Correspondent of long-standing, Charles Enderlin, and his employers, France2 have taken Philippe Karsenty, maverick director of Media-Ratings to France’s notorious Defamation Court for “striking at their honor and estimation.” Karsenty published a little-noticed article at his website in 2004 calling on both Enderlin and Arlette Chabot (director of the News Services at France2) to resign for having run staged footage of Muhammad al Durah on the news. This picture – ruen again and again on Muslim and European TV – arguably stands at the origin (if not the cause) of both the Second Intifada, for which it became the icon, and a larger wave of hatred of Jews around the world that some call The New Anti-Semitism or La nouvelle Judéophobie.

In a surprising decision that contradicted the advice of the Procureur de la République (a supposedly neutral legal expert who advises the court), the lower court found Karsenty guilty of defamation on October 16, 2006. Karsenty immediately appealed, and in Judge Laurence Trébucq’s Appeals court the case has taken surprising turns. On September 17, 2007, she ordered France2 to show their Palestinian cameraman’s “rushes” – his raw footage from the day. This crucial evidence which France2 had refused to release to either the public or to the Israelis, lay at the heart of Karsenty’s defense since, although he had not seen them himself, others, including three independent French journalists reported that they were filled with staged scenes.

The November showing drew eager crowds, including journalists from England, Germany, the United States, Israel and even Dubai. Although both Enderlin and Karsenty debated the meaning of the tapes, the court reserved formal presentation of arguments for Wednesday, February 27. That day, a hot, contentious, seven-hour long hearing pitted an extremely prepared Philippe Karsenty and his lawyers against an nonchalant Charles Enderlin and his sarcastic lawyers went on until almost 10 PM.

First up was a discussion of the report carried out by the French court’s ballistics expert, Jean-Claude Schlinger, which found no evidence of a) bullets from the Israeli position, b) 45 minutes of constant shooting, and c) the impact of Israeli military ammunition on the bodies of the two al-Durahs. His conclusion: “It is very possible, therefore, that it is a case [in which the incident was] staged.”

For most of the afternoon Karsenty dominated the discussion. His Power-point presentation repeatedly embarrassed France2. At one point even the News Director, Arlette Chabot, came to the stand to defend her organization. Judge Trébucq’s impatience with both Enderlin’s evasive answers and Chabot’s straw men, put the advantage firmly on Karsenty’s side. Then, in the late innings France2’s team struck back. Their star lawyer, Maitre Szpiner (Chirac’s lawyer, also considered the best in France), unleashed a volley of sarcasm and scurrilous innuendo that brought derisive smiles even to the face of the two adjunct judges. (French civil courts have three judges and no jury.) Following him, the avocat général – the Appeals Court version of the Procureur – recommended that the judges affirm the initial conviction against Karsenty.

While such an opinion would normally weigh heavily on a court which most often confirms the original decision – and had initially discouraged me greatly when the avocat général and Szpiner spoke in succession – this case is anomalous in every sense of the word, and therefore, unpredictable. Judge Trébucq has shown an exceptional level of interest in the case, and details of her behavior including a few slips, suggest that she has her own independent position in all this. A decision is scheduled for May 21, almost three months hence.

Before the court opened the now-familiar crowd of al-Durah aficionados had gathered and pressed around the door of the tiny courtroom. As the time approached, the court officers found it impossible for the judges or court officials to pass by. As repeated appeals and commands to back up produced no results, the officers began to sound like school teachers threatening their students, making them still effective. “Les français n’aiment pas les règles,” someone mumbled approvingly. Only some young officers, arms locked, physically pushing the crowd back succeeded in opening up some space.

They let in a few people. I assume I’ll get in. A journalist pushed up behind me. “I’m press!” he insisted. “So am I,” say I who had just received my PJMedia card via overnight express the day before. “Show me your card,” says he. When I show it to him he snorts, “that’s not a press card,” and tries to push through. Neither of us got through and the guards tell us the case has begun. I stand there thinking, “I just flew transatlantic to attend this trial and I may miss it… this is impossible.”

Eventually the case was moved to another, more ample chamber where, more than an hour late, we began the proceedings at 3pm. There’s room for everyone, vindicating those who waited with dignity and calming those of us who quietly panicked.

First up, questions about the admissibility of certain evidence, most notably the work carried out by a French ballistics expert, which found no evidence of a) bullets from the Israeli position, b) 45 minutes of constant shooting, and c) evidence of the impact of Israeli military ammunition on the bodies of the two al Durahs. After a long recess, the court decided to admit the evidence but not take testimony from its author.

At last Philippe Karsenty delivered his PPP. Karsenty’s strategy aimed at showing how unreliable the cameraman Talal abu Rahmeh was, and how inappropriate the confidence that Charles Enderlin placed in him. Showing him shooting Pallywood (Molotov Cocktail Kid), detailing his misrepresentations and lies, and using heretofore unseen segments of interviews Esther Schapira conducted with both Talal and Enderlin, Karsenty Enderlin expressing “100 percent confidence” in his cameraman as a first rate professional journalist. At several points the judge, visibly impressed by what she saw, questioned Enderlin directly. After Karsenty had shown the indisputable Pallywood scene of the “hole in the wall,” he then showed a clip of how Enderlin and France2 had used the final sequence of the man firing into the empty room as real news footage in a broadcast the following day.

“One gets a little bit this impression that something is not quite as it should be,” commented Judge Trebucq with exquisite understatement. Then, turning to Enderlin: “Would you care to comment on that?” His answer was classic Enderlin and one of the main themes of the afternoon: “They are all professionals, their work is used by organizations throughout the world. And I can assure you,” he said in response to the evidence of the footage that the Palestinians shoot in the air for effect, “that they don’t just fire off their guns for nothing.”

He pursued his line of argument. Talal is a completely reliable journalist “from whom we have never had any problem.” I can assure you that if the Israelis had even a hint of suspicion that Talal was staging material – especially this – they would have withdrawn his press card and confined him to Gaza at the very least.” (In a subsequent conversation with the head of the Government Press Office, I learned that indeed Talal had his press credentials withdrawn specifically because of his behavior in the al Durah affair.) “If Talal were a member of a terrorist organization or working with them,” Enderlin continued, “you can be sure that the Shin Bet would have a file on him, but his record is white as snow.”

Indeed one of the major arguments the France2 team used repeatedly that day focused on the Israeli silence. I can guarantee you, Enderlin intoned, that the Israelis took away the journalist accreditation of all the Palestinian stringers once the Intifada happened… I can assure you that the Israelis would not deprive themselves of any occasion to defend their position. [Note that GPO Director Danny Seaman did remove all the press credentials of the Palestinian stringers, specifically because they had no journalistic training and they violated journalistic ethics with abandon. But he received enormous hostility for this act from within the Israeli government (see discussion in Stephanie Gutman's The Other War).]

The weight of the Israeli silence in the French courtroom became so heavy that even the judge, in genuine puzzlement, asked Karsenty, “Why don’t the Israelis argue their case? Why haven’t they said anything?”

Karsenty, who has been disappointed by the passivity of the Israelis in the face of this problem, responded as well as he could. “At the beginning, they were trying to negotiate with the Palestinians, and it doesn’t help to accuse your desired partners of having faked the death of a cherished martyr.” “Not possible,” responded Enderlin, “I wrote a book on the matter, and the Israelis didn’t negotiate with the Palestinians until December.” Intervened Judge Trebucq with unexpected penetration, “You don’t have to be formally negotiating in order to have your behavior influenced by the effort to negotiate.”

Karsenty pursued his difficult explanation for the Israelis behavior: “They didn’t realize how bad it was.” “Ridiculous,” shot back Enderlin, “it was obvious to everyone how big an impact this story had.”

(Precisely. Note that Enderin had previously responded to my comments on how devastating his story’s impact, by insisting that his modest broadcast had not actually had that big an effect. Here, for the sake of a minor point, he admits a devastating point. Cf. the joke (cited by Freud in Wit and its Relationship to the Unconscious) about the marriage broker who tells his assistant to emphasize everything he says, and when he admits that the prospective bride whose praises he has sung so glowingly might have a small defect, a “little hump,” the assistant booms, “what a hump!”)

In fact, Israelis repeatedly express astonishment at why Jews from the diaspora care about setting this record straight when they just wish it would go away. When they realize how powerful the impact not only on Israel, but on Jews around the world, they express surprise. As Karsenty later explained to the judges, “The day after al Durah, one of my employees came into the office and challenged me, ‘Look at what your army has done, murdering an innocent child!’” In Brussels, a rabbi was attacked the next day on the way to New Year’s services, never having seen the footage.

That’s the core of the blood libel: a Jew deliberately murders an innocent child, and all Jews everywhere are held responsible. Five days later crowds of immigrant Muslims and European leftists would hold a huge banner aloft in Place de la République with a Star of David = Swastika = picture of the al Durahs behind the barrel, shouting “Death to Israel! Death to the Jews!”

pdlr medium

Few things illustrate better the problems faced by outsiders trying to understand the Middle East than this dialogue of the deaf about the Israeli silence. For any outsider it’s obvious that anyone unjustly accused would respond to those accusations with indignation, that if an army were accused of mercilessly murdering civilians based on a staged scene, that army would defend its honor. And for Europeans, fed on images of brutal and oppressive Israelis, the idea that they would not retaliate against both the Palestinians and the media if they believed they were wronged, seems unimaginable. It is Enderlin’s strongest weapon, and it clearly it impressed the judges. Who would imagine that Israeli official circles felt somewhat like Kafka’s Joseph K., accused of crimes according to rules of evidence they do not understand, presumed guilty, incapable of articulating an effective response, demoralized and paralyzed by the relentlessness of the attacks.

Karsenty’s presentation, which at times went into rather close detail, seems to have engaged Judge Trebucq. She asks for repeated clarification, precisions on the date of the film, and although on several occasions she told Philippe to skip over certain written elements of his presentation, she allowed all and lengthy video passages to play with his commentary. If she has shown a great deal of impatience with him in the past, here, even her impatience seems sympathetic. And Karsenty, as opposed to previous occasions, mostly followed her wishes and moved on without protest.

After Karsenty’s presentation, the court viewed a 10-minute video prepared by France2.

The France2 video, now available at Charles Enderlin’s blog, is actually incoherent. It’s a carefully prepared version of what Enderlin tried to do in court the previous November: a patter of explanation aimed at telling the viewer how to think about what they see as it flashes by. Overall there is no argument other than, “this is authentic footage and here’s more or less what it tells us.”

Slick, unconcerned with the details of date and time and provenance, all of which Karsenty carefully supplied, the video glossed over the problematic evidence with breezy lines rather than substance. Responding to the laughter that greeted Endlerlin’s explanation that the standers-by are yelling “The boy is dead, the boy is dead” before he’s even been hit, the movie repeats his assertion with confident authority: “which in spoken Arabic, means, ‘the boy is in danger of dying.’”

Sometimes France2 shows how little it understands the larger issues. Repeatedly, the narrator points out that there were other cameramen there that day. But such an observation works in favor of the thesis of staging. If so many cameramen were there, why was Talal the only one to get footage of this 45 minute ordeal.

Which relates to the question why Talal got so little footage of the 45 minute ordeal of “bullets like rain”? Enderlin had previously told me that Talal’s batteries ran out, implying he couldn’t film any more. Since the rushes have a sequence after the evacuation, this explanation needed clarification. Both Enderlin in court, and the narrator of the tape make the same claim that his batteries ran out, and by the time he changed them, the ambulance had already taken them away.”

On the face of it, the argument is absurd. How many seconds does it take a practiced cameraman to change batteries? How long does it take an ambulance to evacuate a dead child and a badly wounded father?)

But one details of France2′s 10 minute prepared tape reveals most clearly how little they “get it.” I had previously claimed that among the material France2 had cut from the tape it presented to court, was Talal’s version of the Molotov Cocktail Kid. In fact, Karsenty informs me, it came right at the beginning of the footage, and apparently France2′s lawyers had blocked my view at just that moment. I had assumed that they cut this because it was so obviously fake, like the other scene they did cut. But I was wrong.

On the contrary, France2 used footage from the Molotov Cocktail Kid twice (at 00:33-40 and 01:44-52), while the narrator claims that “seven were killed and several hundreds wounded.”

As far as I know, only one (Palestinian policeman who was shooting at Israel and killed by a sniper) was killed that day, and the NYT, which believed that both Muhammad and the ambulance driver were killed, reported three dead. I challenge France2 to produce the names of these dead people and any contemporary evidence (e.g., from Btselem) that seven were killed at Netzarim. As for the hundreds of wounded, that only makes sense if you believe the Pallywood scenes.

Here, fighting charges of being duped by Pallywood footage, they present Pallywood footage as real and repeat (inflate) Pallywood casualty rates. The emperor’s not not only dressed… his clothes are most impressive.

When the video presentations are over, the Judge allows Enderlin and Karsenty to make a personal statement of no more than 10 minutes. Enderlin repeats his main points – total confidence in Talal, if the Israelis knew it was a fake they’d have done something, and the father Jamal is ready to have the boy exhumed to prove it is his son and “once and for all put an end to this nonsense.” He then sits down without addressing a single concrete challenge posed by Karsenty.

(Digging up the boy and doing tests that show him to be Jamal’s son will prove only limited points: that, it is indeed Jamal’s son buried there, not when or where or by whom he was killed. Worse, if it’s Jamal’s son, this increases the odds that the Palestinians killed him after the footage was shot.)

Philippe, on the other hand, uses his full time to articulate his position. Questions follow, which is as close to a cross-examination as this court ever gets. In this period, Karsenty has to field some heavy questioning in which he finds himself drawn farther and farther into making claims that strike even the judges as implausible. Karsenty claims that the boy in the hospital with the gaping stomach wound and the guts hanging out is not the boy behind the barrel. Enderlin and his lawyers jump on him; even the judge seems disturbed: “Who is the real Muhammad al Durah: the one in the hospital or the one behind the barrel then?” “I don’t know,” replies Karsenty. “This is an investigation?” asks Szpiner rhetorically.

“How much of this footage is staged?” asks the Judge. “None of it,” answers Enderlin. “All of the scenes from Netzarim that day are staged,” claims Karsenty. Again, even the judge finds this hard to believe. “So AP is has also sold out (ils sont vendus aussi)?” she asks him sharply, showing a willingness to consider abu Rahmah a faker, but not all the cameramen. “No,” Philippe explains, “the AP cameraman is Palestinian; the agency, like Enderlin and France2, are dupes.”

As he explains the workings of Pallywood to the judge, one begins to understand the enormity of the claim (and the difficulty for someone who assumes a reasonably responsible media to imagine), that our news media would consistently clean up cheap Palestinian fakes and present them as news. And if not on purpose – i.e., they are either vendus or advocacy journalists – then just how incompetent can they be?

In the end, one got the sense that the very incredulity of the court in the face of Karsenty’s claims about Pallywood and its pervasiveness explained how Pallywood could persist even after the whistle blown. France2’s basic position was: “We are a reputable firm with a world-wide reputation; Charles Enderlin is a universally respected and admired journalist and author; every major news agency uses Palestinian cameramen; Karsenty is a nobody who has no business criticizing us.” It’s basically the Emperor’s New Clothes: “Are you going to believe the official word from the court, or this silly boy?”

Although ready to entertain specific criticism about France2 and Enderlin, the judge seemed reluctant to believe that both this incident, and the larger shape of Middle East coverage could be so fundamentally manipulated. “Was King Abdullah (who visited Muhammad’s father, Jamal, in the hospital and donated blood) part of the conspiracy when he went to visit Jamal in the hospital in Jordan?” she asks incredulously. “Are you telling me the MSM would parade in front of us naked?” This very incredulity makes Pallywood possible: since it’s impossible, no denunciation of its existence can penetrate, and no correction made.

Then come the final arguments of the lawyers. France2’s go first. Maitre Amblard, true to past performances, shuffles papers as her thin, reedy voice stumbles over arguments as insubstantial as they are predictable. Nonetheless she reads extensively from the testimony of witnesses, including the ambulance driver who evacuated the al Durahs and recounts scooping up the poor boy’s guts. (Note, all this took place while, alas, Talal, the only one present of two dozen cameramen there that day, was changing his battery.)

It is only when we get to Maitre Szpiner that we get something with gusto and force. Szpiner has, throughout the afternoon, showed exceptional self-confidence, interrupting with his powerful low voice that carries throughout the room, making snide, sarcastic remarks that occasionally draw reproach from the judge but faze him not the slightest. “Forgive me, I’m not a good boy (sage),” he remarks with a mishchievous smile after one of the Judge’s rebukes.

When it’s finally his turn, he turns up the volume and booms out his summation. Karsenty, he claims, is a “bitter combination of [the Holocaust denier Robert] Faurisson and [the 9-11 conspiracist] Thierry Meyssan.” Members of the audience, stunned by such a comparison, hiss loudly. Undeterred, Szpiner continues his attack: the author of the graphological examination of the handwritten testimonials from Gaza discerns an “Oriental” handwriting – “how bizarre.” Still worse, Nahum Shahaf, the physicist, has taken mannequins — giant “Barbie dolls” — and put on black face… Why? Because, like many Israelis, he considers the Palestinian Arabs to be “des nègres.”

Some in the audience again hiss disapproval, prompting Szpiner to ask the judge to rebuke them. She does so, without taking the occasion to ask Szpiner to address substance and stop with innuendo. And, accordingly, he finishes his summary without once addressing matters of substance. He even mocks the ballistic report for concluding that there are “serious possibilities” that the scene was staged. His is a masterpiece of the triumph of sarcastic rhetoric over serious substance which draws at least as many laughs as it does boos, including smiles from the two adjunct judges.

During the break, I ask a woman smoking outside what she thinks. “Oh I thought his speech was marvelous, brilliant.” “And Karsenty’s presentation?” I ask. “Oh, it was a joke,” she replies. I guess we see what we want. (Note, this man has a reputation for being the “best lawyer in France.”)

We return to the court and Judge Trébucq then turns to Karsenty’s lawyers to present their case. “Wait,” intervenes the avocat général, “it’s my turn to present.” A soft-spoken elderly gentleman whom the judge must repeatedly ask to raise his voice, he quietly but firmly, sides with France2 and accuses Karsenty of failing to meet the criteria for dismissal. In many ways it is a rehash of the first court decision, which, he concludes, the appeals court should uphold. Has Karsenty done a serious investigation? No. Although his sources are multiple (the original decision argued that they were all one), since they all agree, it’s the equivalent of a single source. Did he use serious and prudent language in his criticism? No, works like superchérie, imposture, masquarade are “devalorizing and pejorative.” Has he shown good faith? No, he seems driven by animus against Enderlin.

It seems quite striking that in a courtroom where for the last seven hours we’ve witnessed extensive, serious, and informed argument on Karsenty’s side, and insubstantial and dismissive and excessive rhetoric from France2’s, that here the avocat général would come down against Karsenty for “lack of seriousness and prudence.” His legal reasoning is a pastiche of cliché and poorly reasoned assertions. Whatever his motives, the consequences of his judgment may be heavy. Courts rarely reverse direct advice from these figures (they did in Karsenty’s case), and in Appeals courts, where the natural tendency is to confirm the lower court’s decision, it would have seemed hard to imagine the judges reversing this decision. And this was what I thought initially and reported live by phone PJMedia.

But we have yet to hear from Philippe’s attorneys.

They, like Philippe, are well prepared. Maître Delphine Meillet reads a well-researched analysis of how powerful the grip of Palestinian politics on the media, both Palestinian and foreign. She quotes Talal telling an Arab audience, “I went into journalism to carry on my people’s struggle.” She tells the story of the Ramallah lynching and reads from the craven letter of Riccardo Cristiano to Yasar Arafat assuring him that Italy’s public station, RAI, which he heads, would never betray the journalistic rules that govern the media in the PA territories, of not showing the Palestinians in a bad light. She outlines the noxious impact this kind of press intimidation and cooperation has on the ability of the West to know what’s going on. “The victim here is the European public.”

(This issue of press intimidation offers a key answer to the false dichotomy of a press either “vendu” or incompetent in its handling of Pallywood. Cristiano’s open admission of self-censorship points the direction. Terrified of reporting negative things about this political culture, afraid to confront Palestinians by rejecting their fakes, western reporters face a dilemma which they solve by pretending that they are doing the “right thing” in leveling this uneven playing field. If, as Bob Simon says (in reference to the Muhammad al Durah affair), “in the Middle East, a picture is worth a thousand weapons” then journalists can tell themselves they are merely leveling the playing field in a situation where the Israelis have all the weapons. As a result, in all good conscience, they can overlook, even side with and channel Palestinian propaganda. It’s a fine solution: they avoid the anger of the volatile “insurgents,” they “do good” for the oppressed,” and they get good footage to run in the evening news.)

The lead attorney, Maître Patrick Maisonneuve, goes last. Much of the speech addresses the issues raised by the avocat général and Szpiner, on Karsenty’s good faith and extensive and serious work on the problem. He critiques Szpiner’s analogy. “It is grotesque to compare Karsenty’s accusation that a Palestinian cameraman and a handful of collaborators faked a piece of war propaganda with people who claim that the pervasively documented murder of over six million Jews is a propagandistic invention. Thank you, Master Szpiner, who accuse M. Karsenty of having lacked ‘nuance’ for this precious lesson in nuance.”

Indeed, one might take that riposte as emblematic of the trial. At one point, Szpiner criticized Karsenty for his lack of seriousness in referring to a news item that claimed that CNN had turned down Talal’s footage of al Durah because it seemed too problematic to run. “If he had made a simple phone call, he could have found out from the source,” Szpiner boomed. “That would have shown serious research.” (Of course, to try and find out from a huge organization like CNN who made that decision eight years ago is no easy matter.) And yet this same man spins a yarn about Shahaf applying blackface to his Barbie and Ken dolls in order to smear Israelis with racism, when a quick phone call would have revealed that these mannequins were standard Israeli army issue, used to represent anyone, blackface because they don’t show dirt. (After explaining this to me, Shahaf writes, “Who is this idiot lawyer?” Good question.)

Alas, in France, style often trumps content: as Szpiner performs with gusto, the adjunct judges smile. As one observer at the trial put their attitude, “Finalement, il est génial cet avocat. [This guy’s awesome!]” And I confess, that in a moment of dejection I gave a gloomy report to Roger Simon. But further discussions with others, better acquainted with the workings of French justice suggest I may have jumped the gun.

Signs indicate, for example, that Judge Trébucq is considerably more sophisticated than her co-judges, and she is aware of these glaring disparities. Despite her sharp questioning of Karsenty, she rebuked both Enderlin and Chabot outright for “distorting” Karsenty’s argument, for not answering the challenges of the evidence. At a couple of points she even made procedural slips one might consider Freudian: turning to Enderlin when she should have turned to Karsenty, she addressed him as the accused, and when she should have turned to the avocat général for his opinion, she skipped him and went straight to Karsenty’s lawyers for their statement. A number of the lawyers present felt that Karsenty’s presentation had stunned the court and made a deep impression on Judge Trébucq, who has accorded this case exceptional care and attention and engaged in unusual procedures (e.g., viewing the rushes). This case is nothing, if not exceptional.

She has given her court a long period decide, and, hopefully, a long period to study the evidence. It would take little time but close attention to look at Talal’s shot of the barrel after the evacuation in the rushes (18:09), to realize that testimony of the ambulance driver that he had to scoop up al Durah’s guts from the pavement was a fabrication. Like other eyewitnesses whose testimony France2 provided to the court, who saw helicopter gunships shooting Palestinians from the sky, this is part of the lethal narrative of Pallywood: a gruesome detail that intensifies our sense of pathos and horror. But if indeed the boy’s guts had spilled out (a detail Le Monde dutifully included in its brief report), there would have been a river of blood on the sidewalk. And yet, France2’s own rushes, taken immediately after the ambulance evacuation, show the father and son have left the scene and there is no sign of blood either on the wall or on the ground.

barrel
Photograph taken the day after the “shooting.” Not only is the blood red, rather than brown for having been exposed to oxygen for 24 hours, but it’s only where the father sat. The place Muhammad, guts spilled out, lay dying for 20 minutes is around where the men are standing, with no sign of blood.

Does Judge Trébucq have the intellectual and emotional fortitude not to fall victim of this pornography of suffering that Pallywood’s greatest icon has managed to spread around the world?

There is no way of knowing how the decision will come down. If Karsenty loses, it will be the victory of form over content, of an easy rhetoric of contempt over a serious and substantive analysis of deeply troubling behavior, of institutional prestige over individual right to criticism. After all, the court does not need to decide if the scene was staged, but if at the time he wrote the article, Karsenty had sufficient evidence to legitimately express that opinion. That, to this American, is something of a no brainer. But in the overheated atmosphere of Europe in the early 21st century, rife with a rhetoric of demonization and dismissal, in a country where a Philosemitic Protestant can be found guilty of anti-Semitism for publishing at his website an article by one Jew (Stephane Juffa) that criticizes another Jew (Charles Enderlin), it’s hard to imagine how anyone could focus clearly on the relevant issues. To paraphrase Groucho Marx’s famous query, “Are you going to believe France2 or your own lying eyes?”

And in all this confusion, where are the Israelis? Why can’t they find a voice that at once defends their honor, and helps outsiders understand the dynamics of terror that dominate this young and troubled century, terror’s systematic exploitation of a Western media too weak to resist their violent blandishments and too proud to admit error. Said one observer, “Even Charles’ friends admit that not only does it look like he made a huge mistake, but he’s much too proud to admit it.”

A public institution’s wounded pride or a people’s reputation? One heard precisely such calculus about a century ago in Paris.

But in the end, as with Dreyfus, the truth will out. As Maisonneuve, Karsenty’s lawyer put it: “After examining the evidence there is no alternative but to conclude that it was staged.” Occam’s razor here makes any alternative a Rube Goldberg machine – impossibly elaborate and exceedingly unlikely. So whatever French justice decides, as Sherlock Holmes would say, “the game is afoot.”

And for that we can thank Enderlin’s hubris in accusing Karsenty for “attacking his honor and estimation,” and Karsenty’s tenacity in fighting the array of institutional networks militating against letting the French and world public know just how bad and dangerous media mistakes and their denial can be.

Danny Seaman Responds to Allegations of France2′s Lawyers

In the trial hearing of February 27 (full account soon to appear), Charles Enderlin claimed that if the Israelis had the slightest suspicion that Talal had cheated in his report on al Durah, they would have taken away his credentials, but that even though they took all the Palestinian stringers’ credential away in the second year of the intifada, they did not do that to Talal — proof that the Israelis considered Talal innocent.

Veronique Chemla, reporter from Guysen International News, who has covered the trials from the beginning, consulted the Director of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman, who responded as follows:

In the very least France 2 is guilty of poor journalism. Charles Enderlin failed to meet the professional journalist’s minimum standard of verification, before accusing Israel of killing the boy a-Dura. There is enough independent evidence proving the A-Dura event was staged for the cameras.

The State of Israel has tremendous respect for the media. Many media organizations from the Arab world, not to mention Iran, work freely in Israel. Allowing them to work freely in Israel does not imply that we in anyway agree with there positions. Like every democracy, Israel provides absolute freedom to the press and does not remove press credentials from journalists very easily. This is especially true for journalists working for a respected organization like France 2. Enderlin is fully aware of this and hides behind it in an attempt to distract attention away from his obvious professional failure.

The fact that Charles Enderlin still has press credentials from the State of Israel attests to the strength, character and tolerance of Israel’s democracy, not the quality or integrity of Charles Enderlin’s report on that day. The question is not why he still has press credentials from the State of Israel but rather, why is he still employed by France 2?

Once again, Charlie makes it up as he goes.

Chemla’s French account of the trial with a discussion of this issue can be found here.

French Ballistics Expert Concludes IDF Could Not Have Shot Al-Dura

Jean-Claude Schlinger, French ballistics expert who has been featured in French courts for two decades, presented his findings to the court that the IDF could not have killed Muhammad Al-Dura. He further found that there was no evidence that Muhammad was actually killed. For a more detailed French account of Schlinger’s report, see Veronique Chemla’s account for Guysen News.

Haaretz reports:

A report presented to a French court last week by an independent ballistics expert maintains that the death of Mohammed al-Dura, a Palestinian child seen being shot in the Gaza Strip during the first day of the intifada in September 2000, could not have been the result of Israeli gunfire, corroborating claims that the shocking footage was doctored.

The ballistics expert, Jean-Claude Schlinger, presented his conclusions after reviewing the footage, which shows Dura and his father cowering by a wall after being caught in the crossfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israel Defense Forces soldiers at the Netzarim junction.