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.

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.

49 Responses to France2 Accused: The Appeals Case Takes Another Turn

  1. fp says:

    Anybody who follows the media these days will find what Enderlin did the norm. Any relation between reality and what the media publishes is coincidental at best.

    I don’t think that journalists today even care to know and understand what happens. They have ready templates which they use to fit the reality through.


  2. Joanne says:

    A clear case of David vs. Goliath. I hope you’re right, RL, when you say the truth will eventually out.

  3. Joanne says:

    “…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)…”

    RL, what website is that? I couldn’t find it.

  4. Dimitry says:

    Dear, Richard
    Just as you pointed out here for many times, we, the Israelis, are sometimes our worst enemies. Just yesterday a former head of “be-tselem” and now head of “keshev” ran an opinion column about this case. His arguements were to pretty much dismiss all the evidence and the specialists as a bunch of “conspiracy theorists” that live in a twiglight zone.

  5. Barry Meislin says:

    Let’s see now. How long did it take for the truth to BE ABLE TO EMERGE in the Dreyfus case?

    Karsenty has arrayed himself against some mighty forces protecting mighty interests and mighty reputations.

    A la the Dreyfusards.

    As for the good judge’s inability to believe the venality of the media, one only has to bring up the feeding frenzy following the battle in Jenin, a frenzy fed and fanned by all those “reliable, dependable, professional” Palestinian journalists (with the able participation of the MSM worldwide).

    Or has the media’s response to Jenin already been forgotten in France?….

  6. AT says:

    Don’t expect justice in a human court … the truth will come out in time, but not necessarily in our generation.

  7. […] Hamas hindert palästinensische Journalisten an der Berichterstattung […]

  8. fp says:

    the vast majority of the public, not to mention te french elite, are completely unaware of how the media operates. they take most of what they read at face value EXCEPT if they are political and the topic is internal US politics (partisanship or US ideological issues like the economy, iraq, etc).

    in the long run we’re all dead.

  9. Solomonia says:

    France 2 Accused

    Richard Landes has posted an extensive description of the court happenings in France between Karsenty and the lawyers for France 2: France2 Accused: The Appeals Case Takes Another Turn. Well worth a read….

  10. igout says:

    Am I correct that France2 is quasi-government? So if it was found to be slipshod or even outright lying, then France would look laughable. So you see, Enderlin and his faithful sidekick have to be vindicated for raisons d’ etat. Karsenty is screwed.

    It’s interesting to compare how the Russians responded to the Litvenko affair with how Israel did to the Durah affair. Seemingly, in every on-line newspaper piece accusing Russia of having a hand in the murder, swarms of Russian commentators, in more or or less solid English, would attack, and keep attacking. For the most part they dealt in mockery and invective and irrelevant tu-quo’s, but better that than hang-dog Israel’s silence. Now if Russia can manage to have these anti-bodies of falsehood constantly on patrol, why can’t Israel muster a few on behalf of truth?

  11. Cynic says:

    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.

    Then they are accessories and should be treated and handled as part of the enemy offensive!

  12. Rich Rostrom says:

    I’m afraid I agree with #7 igout. Judge Trébucq will come under immense pressure to affirm the judgment against Karsenty.

    1) The Honor of France is at stake.

    2) Israel is silent – implicitly acknowledging guilt.

    3) To find for Karsenty, Trébucq must overturn the lower court’s ruling, and that is much harder than making a de novo ruling. In most legal systems, the trial court’s finding is presumed correct until proven wrong. Any flaw in Karsenty’s case could be sufficient grounds for rejecting the appeal, if that’s the desired outcome.

  13. fp says:


    i predicted that before it started

    1. true, but some honor. france has NO honor to preserve and Enderlin is proof

    2. israel has mishandled it, but that does NOT mean it is implicitly admitting guilt. taking any part in this joke of a trial would have made no difference, regardless of the judge’s asking “where is israel?”.

    3. the desired outcome can be achieved in any number of ways.

  14. Rich Rostrom says:

    fp – I once had a fantasy of being at a French dinner party during the Drefyus Affair. Some anti-Dreyfusard would no doubt pronounce that the honor of the French Army was at stake. I would laugh and say “The honor of the French army? What are we to speak of next? Elephant’s feathers? Or the virginity of the oldest and cheapest whore in the Place Pigalle?”

    When questioned, I would point out that the French army could have no trace of honor, having allowed a putrid Jew to defile its uniform. This would force the anti-Dreyfusards to defend the presence of Jews in the army as respectable soldiers (much to their own annoyance; what fun!). “Well, in that case, why send one to Devil’s Island on false charges? What honor remains after that?” Of course the anti-Dreyfusards would be incapable of perceiving the irony involved, but it would be fun to watch them sputter and babble.

    The point being is that such honorless wretches cannot see their own infamy; they imagine that preserving appearance somehow maintains the reality.

  15. Eliyahu says:

    Did anybody see the silly ill-informed article on the al-Durah case in the Jerusalem Report?? A link is posted on the Jerusalem Post site. The authors of the article are shamefully ignorant & ill-informed. No mention of seconddraft, by the way. Besides, the label “right-wing” is thrown around to defame some of those who dispute the myth.

  16. Orbit Rain says:

    great read, thanks!

    (yes, media are lying bastards…blah blah blah)

  17. The Mohammed Al-Dura Case: Where’s Israel?

    Little Green Footballs

    Richard Landes has an excellent detailed account of the France 2-Mohammed Al Dura trial going on in Paris: France2 Accused: The Appeals Case Takes Another Turn.

    And one of the most disheartening things about his report is the i…

  18. Lee Kaplan says:

    Today on You tube we have a video showing the same Pallywood program regarding Rachel Corrie, killed accidentally while blocking destruction of a weapons smuggling tunnel. Altered photos, a lying opportunist named Joseph smith/Carr from the ISM, the IDF video shows she was not protecting a house. But would Israel speak out against the calumny that she was murdered? Not at all. Israel has failed to even outlaw the ISM in the country after they were linked to the bombing of Mike’s Place and admissions they work with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP in the American press. Who says Jews are smart? Ego above everything…Go see the videos at:


    Becky Johnson and Lee Kaplan present
    Club Cruz on the death of Rachel Corrie and the ISM
    This episode (#262) taped in March of 2005 for the 2nd
    anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie includes the
    actual IDF footage surveillance tape depicting the
    circumstances of Corrie’s death.

    For more information:


    part one

    part two

    part three

  19. laZardo says:

    The damage has already been done, as that video is already several years old and buried under the other Israeli “atrocities.” No verdict is going to change that.

  20. jerry says:

    From the comments comes the reason that Israel will not involve itself with the Karsenty arguments. If, indeed, France2 is a semi-governmental agency, proving the France2 was derelict condemns the French Government, placing Israel in the uncomfortable position of criticizing those who she is trying to befriend. It is short-sighted, because truth is a friend to everyone.

  21. Stephen Fox says:

    Richard, that’s a percaptive analysis of our terrible quandary in the West today generally. Once a peer group makes up its mind how it will perceive something, any attempt at contradiction arouses agression.

    ‘I said they were mad and they said I was mad, and they outvoted me…’

  22. Tatterdemalian says:

    Why even bother? The footage is so obviously staged that anyone who doesn’t see it for what it is, will not change their mind no matter how strongly Israel defends itself, because their goal is to find reasons to destroy Israel, not learn the truth.

    The entire world is out to kill all the Jews, just as much today as it was in 1939. If only Hitler hadn’t tried to conquer Britain and Russia, he would have continued to receive praise for his efforts to purge Europe of the Jews until every last one was gone.

  23. […] I wish I could say it’s shocking. 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.’” Augean Stables » France2 Accused: The Appeals Case Takes Another Turn […]

  24. fp says:


    the trick would be neat, but i doubt that the french would not find a way to both do the wrong thing AND justify it as honorable. they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.


    these days one should point out cases of knowledge. ignorance is so prevalent that pointing it out is more than several fulltime jobs worth of.

  25. Samizdata says:

    Thank you for covering the story.

    Could not agree more: Israeli government silence and absence are despicable.

    If only the likes of Olmert, Barak and Peres cared about anything else apart from their internal party squabbles…

    I think I’ll now go dig up an old issue of Der Stürmer: At least there, the “vast Jewish conspiracy” is portrayed as all-powerful, purposeful and controlling. The reality that we are represented in the Israeli government by a bunch of self-absorbed dumb asses is to sad to contemplate.

  26. bert says:

    I have to shake my head at the morons who inhabit the government of Israel.

  27. fp says:

    the israeli elite are failures, but not because of their inexistent PR effort. rather, it’s because they seem to be cowards lacking any initiative and creativity. they are all talk and no action.

  28. Steve O says:

    Karsenty made the logical argument, but he might have done better to return sarcasm for sarcasm.

    I would have suggested he create a dramatic pause, sigh, look up, and say something like, “Okay. Two can play that game…” And then let loose with a Dennis Miller/Ann Coulter style broadside attack. He could have talked about life in “Enderlin-world” with its magic clocks, divine blood, and slow-motion battery changes, and convoluted logic. It’s endless.

    If he’d have been more entertaining he would have also been more persuasive.

  29. Don Meaker says:

    Remember that Dreyfuss was twice convicted by the French Court, the second time after years at Devil’s Island, and when all France knew the evidence was either forged or perjured. Dreyfuss was only freed after a pardon. Yet he was able to play a substantial part in the defense of France.

    The French government is unworthy and shameful. The best unit in the French Army is the Foreign Legion. Rather than serve the French people in a way that inspires loyalty the French Government has decided to import foreigners to replace them who have proven that they are easy to manipulate.

  30. Solomonia says:

    Online Antisemitism 2.0

    The internet brings with it many gifts, and we hope in the grand battle of ideas that the truth will out. Unfortunately, the interweb also amplifies the voices of hatred as well. While the sites of outright Nazis themselves are…

  31. Joanne says:

    “The vast majority of the public, not to mention te french elite, are completely unaware of how the media operates. they take most of what they read at face value…”

    That may be true. The following isn’t proof positive, just an anecdote: A Frenchmen (probably not elite, but educated) wrote me several years ago online stating authoritatively that the KKK has 2 million active members in the US. He said that he had recently read that in Le Monde, which, he claimed, is a “serious” newspaper. Maybe he misunderstood the article. Maybe. But the last time the KKK had 2 million members was in the 1920s.

    Just an aside, about European media:
    In the early 1990s, I was following some international trade negotiations that were going on then (maybe GATT?). The French didn’t like the American push towards overall liberalization, and the US didn’t like the French demand for agricultural protection and “cultural exception.” I compared the coverage, side-by-side, of the International Herald Tribune (I was in Paris at the time), the Financial Times, and Le Monde. It was amazing what Le Monde left out or discounted. I learned so much more from the IHT and FT, and saw far more perspectives being aired in the IHT. From the French coverage, you’d never have known that the vast majority of the countries sided with the US, especially the East Asian countries. Le Monde’s coverage wasn’t only biased, it was a caricature, but totally.

    As for Israel’s (non) role, I don’t understand what they’re up to, unless the government thinks it’s being very clever, smoothing its relations with the Europeans. Or maybe they’re tone-deaf enough to think it doesn’t matter. What is wrong with them?!

    Just for the hell of it, because it was so easy, I wrote an e-mail to the press office of the Israeli embassy here in the US, and I included a link to this site, noting this particular post. Of course, I didn’t hear back. I wonder if they just deleted it, along with 100 or 1,000 other e-mails they probably get every day. Oh well, I hated sounding like a crank, but it made me feel better.

  32. Michael B says:

    Perhaps it’s true that the Israeli govt. should have been present, but I’m less certain about that than some others. There’s a damned if they do and damned if they don’t quality about it for most any Israeli govt. representative, at least potentially so, and it’s not entirely impossible that they bring that thought into their calculus. Perhaps not and regardless I’m inclined to think they should have made the effort, but given the fact that L’affaire Al Durah itself reflects perverse and systematic treatment via the media, maltreatment based upon a fabrication, given the fact Al Durah is also but a reflection of an ubiquitous phenomenon in the media and elsewhere, it’s not impossible at all that they would bring such considerations into their calculus.

  33. […] On The New Year’s Day – BeRosh Hashanah The Mohammed Al-Dura Case: Where’s Israel? Mar11 11 March 2008, Administrator @ 8:15 pm The Al-Durah case takes yet another turn… . […]

  34. fp says:

    when will the obvious be finally accepted: that no matter what israel does, it won’t have any affect on the resident dogma: that israel is an inconvenient mistake, that it oppresses the arabs and that it should disappear.

    the sooner this is accepted by israel supporters and particularly by the incompetent israeli elite, the sooner they will start doing what’s really necessary to save israel from extinction.

  35. fp says:

    what can israel do when things reach this point?

    The logical conclusion of the media trend

  36. Solomonia says:

    Walid Shoebat on CNN

    Very nice job by former Palestinian terrorist Walid Shoebat on CNN. I especially liked the moment where he corrects the interviewer on the reason Israeli had put him in prison: The casual use of inaccurate language is how understanding gets…

  37. Will48 says:

    “If only Hitler hadn’t tried to conquer Britain and Russia, he would have continued to receive praise”

    Correction: if only he didn’t try to conquer Britain he would have …

    “Or maybe [the Israeli elites] are tone-deaf enough to think it doesn’t matter. What is wrong with them?!”

    Several things, but at the root of it is Marxism’s anti-nationalism. Israel is a Nation state created and ruled by Marxist-leaning workers party who until early 1990s still went on May 1st parades with red flags and all (all the top Labor party figures, Rabin, Peres etc). Today’s elites are their descendents, both literally and ideologically. The Likud never tried to regain control over the public discourse, and the amount of brainwashing for “piece-by-piece process” on national TV by activist journalists is incredible. The Left has made it their central point to fight against the nationally-minded point of view, which is the only one there can be in the nation-state surrounded by unrelenting enemies.

    At the heart of it is the despair, and denial. Israel was created by the Left as a place where “we can be as any other nation, normal again”. Translation: not Jews anymore. Hence the Left’s anti-Jewish policies.

    This is clearly represented by a dichotomy of being a Jew, or an Israeli first. This was the question actively asked in polls at late 1990s. The Left overwhelmingly came up with the “Israeli”, and the Right – “a Jew”.

    This denial leads to the arrogance towards blood libels of Arab lies and propaganda. Since they are directed at the Jews, the ruling Israeli elites do not take them as a personal affront, only as a nuisance, a sideshow.

  38. Will48 says:

    And, there is this famous remark by Shimon Peres. When, despite the wave of sympathy to the Labor party after Rabin’s murder, he lost 1996 elections to Netanyahu, he said: “The Jews have defeated the Israelis”. The elections, in which Netanyahu was denounced for the slogan – which the Chabad came up with – “Netanyahu is good for the Jews”.

    It was branded racist, and pounded upon by the Israeli media, relentlessly, before the elections.

    And this is not limited to the political Left only. Sharon, who never protested the Left’s description of himself as un ultra-right figure, after coming to power used the phrase “The People in Israel” in all his speeches exclusively. This is no small feat to accomplish with such small a replacement. For those who didn’t notice: “The People of Israel” – in Hebrew – refers to the Jewish People, as they are desribed in the Bible (Torah). Suddenly, the Israelis weren’t Jews anymore.

  39. IC says:

    France protects her honor by killing the truth is like a Muslim father protects his honor by killing his daughters (after raping them himself).

  40. pst314 says:

    “For any outsider it’s obvious that anyone unjustly accused would respond to those accusations with indignation”

    I regularly encounter progressives who argue that Israel, America, American soldiers, or whoever is the current target of leftist defamation, should not attempt to refute accusations no matter how vile. Among their reasons are that “only whiners complain” and “rebuttal is unnecessary because false accusations cannot sully a person’s honor.”

  41. pst314 says:

    “such honorless wretches cannot see their own infamy”

    Yes, indeed. I like your fantasy, Mr. Rostrom.

    It’s sad that after the shameful episode of Vichy the French still collaborate with fascists.

  42. Eliyahu says:

    will is on to something about the Israeli “left.” Their idiotic insensitivity to blood libels may stem not only or not so much from their preferring to see themselves [or many of them wanting to so perceive themselves] as no longer Jews, but from the idiotic materialism of the Marxist-Leninist maniacs. Marx himself was too smart for that. He said that Ottoman Muslim society could not be understood through class analysis which did not apply where a rich dhimmi was always at the mercy of any Muslim, whatever his economic status.

  43. Israel’s Will to Live Revisited

    “We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t.” – Frank A. Clark [HT: Steve Browne]When I offer a Psychoanalytic interpretation, even in cases where I am fairly certain that I am correct and that

  44. soovey says:

    The silence on the part of Israel, when they are not quickly apologising for things they did not do, is ridiculous and I agree with Eliyahu above.

    Some interesting books:

    “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege” by Kenneth Levin, which sets out very well the attitude of the Israeli left and the dangers of it for Israel’s safety;

    “The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the struggle for media supremacy” which sets out the lack of insistence upon ethical journalistic conduct, which paved the way for France2’s and Enderlin’s unconscionable behaviour.

  45. […] forced to cut the most embarrassing scenes before showing the footage to the court, and to explain to the court why the remaining footage had so many suspicious […]

  46. […] to say that Derfner’s argument, which is at the core of France2’s defense — Karsenty is a bitter combination of Faurrison (Holocaust denier) and Meyssan (9-11 truther) — represents a classic case of cognitive egocentrism. You couldn’t get doctors in an […]

  47. […] of the first article, and more broadly of the Enderlin position, echoed by his attorney who ridiculed Karsenty as a “bitter combination of [the US Government bombed the Pentagon with a missile, on 9-11]Thierry […]

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