In response to the court decision, some of the “friends of Charles” have come out in support of him with a petition posted at the Nouvel Observateur‘s website. [The Nouvel Obs is one of France’s three major news weeklies run by Jean Daniel, who, along with his daughter Sara, are among the signatories.] I have translated and fisked the peition below.
The petition, which Luc Rosenzweig has denounced as a “petition of shame,” and it is a precious document. It reveals the degree of confusion sown in the minds of the French elite by their quasi aristocratic status, which results in a form of (unconscious?) demopathy. Menahem Macina shrewdly points out that it recalls the “patriotic forgery” of an anti-Dreyfussard, who tried to make the forger of the documents that incriminated Dreyfus into a hero and martyr of Jewish malevolence . Like the right-wing anti-Semites of the turn of the 20th century who paraded their hatreds under the banner of Libre Parole [Free Speech], the signers of this petition present their defense of Enderlin’s reputation and indifference to the evidence as a valorous deed in defense of democracy and a free press.
I have argued that one of the fundamental contributors to the progress of Eurabia is an inertial force of aristocracy among the European elite – what one commentator called their “Olympian complex.” This attitude, and the culture that promotes it, reflect the social dynamics not of modern society, but of prime-divider society, not of a sense of equality and solidarity throughout the society, but a sense of privilege and exceptional status among the elite.
In the context of Eurabia, this means that the professional elite – media and political – that pushes the agenda of the European Union has much more in common with other elites in other countries than it does with its own commoners. It can, therefore, easily countenance a massive demographic transfer of Muslim immigrants to do the manual labor – what difference between a Muslim, a Christian, a post-Christian working in a factory? And it can at the same time dismiss without qualms the complaints of commoners when such a transfer does not work. The fate of Brussels, a city where both the capital of the EU (and hence massive numbers of well-paid administrators live) on the one hand, and one of the largest and increasingly aggressive Muslim populations in Europe on the other, offers both a real and symbolic case in point.
This elitism in the case of Charles Enderlin produces a notion of the journalistic profession that rejects transparency, that considers criticism by the journalists’ audience (their reading and viewing public) as inadmissible attacks on their honor and reputation, which threaten one of the main pillars of democracy[!].
For Charles Enderlin
NOUVELOBS.COM | 04.06.2008 | 15:39
Seven years. It’s now seven years that a obstinate and hateful campaign has tried to tarnish the professional dignity of our colleague Charels Enderlin, correspondent for France2 in Jerusalem. For seven years the same individuals have attempted to present as a “hoax” and a “series of staged scenes” his report showing the death of Mohammed al-Doura, 12 years old, killed by fire coming from the Israeli position on the 30 of September 2000 in the Gaza Strip during a confrontation between the Israeli army and armed Palestinians.
As far as I can make out, they think Charles did no wrong in reporting as he did. Even Larry Derfner admits that Charles got it wrong. But the evidence appears nowhere in this manifesto. Charles is, by virtue of his position, above such suspicion, and any effort to criticism is, by definition, obstinate and hateful. Would it ever occur to these enlightened folk to consider the decades-long campaign of Pallywood — with Al Durah as a signal success — as a “hateful and obstinate campaign to tarnish” the international reputation of Israel?
On the 19 of October 2006, the correctional tribunal of Paris had judged the principle animator of this campagne, Philippe Karsenty, guilty of defamation.
The decision rendered on the 21 of May by the appeals court of Paris, invoked by Philippe Karsenty recognizes that the claims made by him “unquestionably struck at the honor and professional reputations of the information professionnels” but admits, curiously, that the “good faith” of Philippe Karsenty, who “exercised his right to free criticism” and “did not transgress the limits of free speech.”
This is Charles Enderlin’s and France2’s reading. It’s one thing for a lawyer defending his client, or the client, to so misrepresent the thrust and tone of a document, but for journalists to do so calls into question the very issue of “good faith” which they seem to consider so insignificant. As one scholar said to another who had badly misrepresented what he had written: “If that’s how you read, I’ll have to check your footnotes.”
This decision which exonerates Philippe Karsenty both surprises and worries us.
And so it should. The game is up, the free ride of “no transparency, no accountability” is over. Alas for you, good news for your public whom you misinform (how often?), with tendentious reporting similar to what Charles has now gotten caught for doing.
We are astonished, because it grants the same credibility to a journalist known for the seriousness and rigor of his work, who exercises his profession in sometimes difficult conditions, and to his detractors, engaged in a campaign of negation and discrediting, who ignore all the realities of the terrain and have no experience of reporting from a conflict zone.
The idea that journalists should not be criticized by people who are not “in the ranks” is so astonishing that it beggars the imagination. The notion that because we critics have not “been in the field,” means we can’t spot a fake or errors in the reports of journalists constitutes a notion of privilege that only aristocrats could entertain. These “professionals” live in a world where all minds are not equal, and commoners have no right to contradict their superiors. To call this democratic is newspeak.
As for “knowledge of the terrain,” what do we make of this map that Charles Enderlin drew for me (and apparently others), in which he locates the Israeli position on the wrong side of the road (i.e., where the bullets are really coming from).
Now Charles told the Canal+ documentarist Stéphane Malterre that shortly after the initial newsreport on al Durah, he returned to Netzarim to view the site. So either he’s memory impaired, or he’s deliberately misrepresenting reality, i.e., lying. What do you “professionals of information” who signed this letter make of his map?
Apparently awareness of “the realities” of the terrain does not guarantee accuracy if the journalist, whatever his reputation for “seriousness and rigor,” is dishonest, then we do not get accurate information. And at that point, someone who has never been to the intersection but has consulted maps, may well have more accurate “take” on what happened than your battle-hardened veteran.
Indeed, anyone familiar with the “terrain” in the Middle East – that is the radical difference between reporting on Israel in Israel and reporting on the Palestinian territories (or any other Middle Eastern country) in those countries, understands that often enough, you’re more likely to get a more honest report from someone not on the scene, someone who is not under the pressures of what one Italian journalist called “the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine.” (See below.) Indeed, given the serious problems posed by the impact of access journalism on the news we get, these kinds of pieties about brave reporters in “difficult conditions” are the last thing we need.
It worries us, because it gives permission in the future for a “permission to defame” journalists, which would permit anyone, in the name of “good faith” and “the right of free criticism,” to strike with impunity at the “honor and reputation of information professionals.”
This concern derives directly from the misreading of the judges’ decision. They did not give Philippe Karsenty the freedom to defame the reputation of information professionals with impunity. They said that Karsenty had done a credible and serious job, that his criticisms raised serious questions about both the incoherences of footage, and of the responses that Charles Enderlin provided the court. This decision says, rather, that serious criticism is legitimate, that it is the very essence of “the right to free criticism.”
Put differently, it says — as the Law of 1881 intended — that journalists do not have the right to present stories that defame others, public entities and private individuals, that do not live up to the standards of journalism; and that anyone with a prime-time audience has to expect to have his or her work submitted to the scrutiny of both colleagues and co-citizens. They have to live up to standards, and the in-crowd are not the ones who decide who’s been a bad boy. If we count on you folks who have signed this letter, we can wait a long time before you get around to self-criticizing, especially in public.
At a time when the freedom of action of journalists is the object of repeated attacks, we invoke our attachment to this fundamental principle, pillar of democracy and we renew our support and solidarity with Charles Enderlin.
This is real newspeak. One of the reasons that we cannot trust the reporting of journalists “in the field” is that they are systematically intimidated, and in order to move freely in the “territories” — as does Charles — they need to make sure the Palestinians like their work. Trashing the Israelis, on the other hand, is relatively cost-free. As a spokesman for the Foreign Minister’s office said recently, “The Israeli government has a policy not to attack or to sue any media outlet in a court of law, not in Israel and certainly not outside of Israel.”
Compared with the threats that journalists receive from Palestinian sources disgruntled at the coverage from the press, even what the Israelis do not permit themselves is mild. Can anyone honestly imagine a foreign media chief writing the following letterto an Israeli official unhappy with some coverage that hurt Israel’s international image?
Special Clarification by the Italian Representative of RAI, the Official Italian Television Station
My dear friends in Palestine. We congratulate you and think that it is our duty to put you in the picture (of the events) of what happened on October 12 in Ramallah [i.e., a savage lynching of two Israeli reservists]. One of the private Italian television stations which competes with us (and not the official Italian television station RAI) filmed the events; that station filmed the events. Afterwards Israeli Television broadcast the pictures, as taken from one of the Italian stations, and thus the public impression was created as if we (RAI) took these pictures. [I.e., by modern standards of journalism, they behaved appropriately by telling the story regardless of whose image got tarnished.]
We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect (will continue to respect) the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine and we are credible in our precise work.
We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting. We do not (will not) do such a thing.
Please accept our dear blessings.
Representative of RAI in the Palestinian Authority
(the official Italian station)
Mind you, the Italians who did film and release the footage of real events had to flee the wrath of the Palestinians; Christiano was here trying to avoid being the object of that wrath.
On the on other hand, when “caught” cheating the indignant response of European journalists is to cry out, like Bruno Stevens after the criticism from the blogosphere during the Lebanese war: “They are trying to get us to stop talking about massacres…” as if such was their right whether or not these events were massacres… as if they applied the same harsh standards to both sides. Or, as the head of the British cartoonists asssociation, shortly after giving their annual award to a vicious cartoon depicting Ariel Sharon as Goya’s Saturn devouring babies, remarked to an interviewer asking why they didn’t do similar cartoons about Arafat — who really did devour his own people’s children — “Jews don’t do fatwas.”
Note that one of the original signatories, Sara Daniel, wrote a piece in her father’s journal on Palestinian “honor-killings” which she felt compelled to “balance” by finishing her otherwise well-documented piece with the following comment:
Palestinian women raped by Israeli soldiers are systematically killed by their own families. Here, the rape becomes a war-crime because the Israeli soldiers act with the sure knowledge of the results of their actions.
For this she offered no proof, because there’s no evidence. On the contrary, the lack of rapes of Palestinians by Israelis represents such an anomaly that it merited a (deeply bizarre) thesis at Hebrew University.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend the Europeans who are waking up to how appalling the values and attitudes of their MSM news providers, reconsider the hidden costs of these attitudes and practices. While the immediate cost to Enderlin of defaming Israel and inflaming the Muslim world were low, and the Europeans delighted in the “bad news” from Israel, the long-term consequences of this media error and cover-up were far more serious, and still operative.
Nidra Poller informs me that Alain Finkielkraut was asked to comment on the above letter on French Radio and that he came out squarely on the side of Enderlin’s critiques. He challenged the signers of this letter:
They weren’t even at the trial; they probably didn’t read the decision; or view the images. This is a debate that has not yet happened.
My guess is, we’ll be waiting a while for the answer. In the meantime, I predict that the list of journalists who signed this letter, and who persist over the weeks and months to come as the evidence reaches the larger public, will look like the courtiers in the Emperor’s New Clothes after the crowd as begun to openly admit that the Emperor is naked:
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn’t see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.
But the rumbling of the crowd has already begun. Almost all of the responses to this petition at Le Nouvel Obs are negative. The same thing happened to Larry Derfner. Thanks to the internet, there is now an audience of people better informed than the “information professionals” who pretend to inform them. It won’t do anymore to say, “Hush child, the emperor is wearing magnificent clothes!”
As for the list of signatories, my guess is we should take a leaf from the scholar who said, “if that’s how you read, I’ll have to check your footnotes.” It’s a good starting collection of journalists whose work probably deserves the scrutiny from which they so pitifully seek to protect Charles. X marks the spot. Dig here.
Farid Aïchoune (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Josette Alia (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Claude Angeli (Le Canard Enchaîné),
Max Armanet (Libération),
Association du Prix Albert Londres,
Claude Askolovitch (Le Nouvel Observateur),
René Backmann (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Luc de Barochez (Le Figaro),
Frédéric Barreyre (France Inter),
Nebia Bendjebbour (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Michel Bôle-Richard (Le Monde),
Christophe Boltanski (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Nicolas Brimo (Le Canard Enchaîné),
Hervé Chabalier (Capa),
Alain de Chalvron (France 2),
Patrice Claude (Le Monde),
Sylvain Cypel (Le Monde),
Olivier Da Lage (RFI),
Jean Daniel (Fondateur du Nouvel Observateur, écrivain),
Sara Daniel (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Christian Dauriac (FR3),
Gilles Delafon (Le Journal du Dimanche),
Grégoire Deniau (France 24),
Jack Dion (Marianne),
Mireille Duteil (Le Point),
Kathleen Evin (France Inter),
Didier François (Europe 1),
Pierre Ganz (RFI),
Alain Girard (Ouest France),
Martine Gozlan (Marianne),
Gérard Grizbec (France2),
Jean-Claude Guillebaud (Journaliste et éditeur),
Henri Guirchoun (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Gilles Grandpierre (L’Union de Reims)
Vincent Hugeux (L’Express),
Jean-Marc Illouz (France 2),
Erwan Jourand (AFP),
Jacques Julliard (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Sammy Ketz (AFP),
Serge Kovacs (France 3),
Michel Labro (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Jean Lacouture (Ecrivain),
Serge Lafaurie (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Loïc Lemoigne (France 3),
Gwenaëlle Lenoir (France 3),
Alain Louyot (L’Expansion),
Guillaume Malaurie (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Jean-Paul Mari (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Robert Ménard (Reporters sans frontières),
Agnès Molinier (Présidente de la Société des journalistes de France 2),
Denis Olivennes (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Claude Perdriel (Le Nouvel Observateur),
Pierre Prier (Le Figaro),
Jonathan Randal (Washington Post),
Philippe Rochot (France 2),
SCAM (Société civile des auteurs multimédia),
Société des Journalistes de France 2,
Syndicat SNJ-CGT de France Télévisions,
Maurice Szafran (Marianne),
Marcel Trillat (Journaliste),
Pierre Weill (France Inter),
Franck Weill Rabaud (RFI),
Wiaz (Le Nouvel Observateur).
• Théo Klein (Avocat, ancien président du CRIF),
Régis Debray (Ecrivain, directeur de la revue Medium),
Hubert Vedrine, (ancien ministre des affaires étrangères),
Guillaume Weill-Raynal (avocat)
soutiennent cet appel de journalistes