Good News?: France2 agrees to an independent investigation

This just in a few days ago: France2 has met with the head of the French-Jewish organization CRIF, Richard Prasquier, who held a news conference a month ago demanding a committee of investigation into the al Durah affair, and has agreed to one. It’s hard to know what’s going on, since such an investigation, pursued impartially will be very harmful to France2, but initial responses from French sources close to the event are cautiously optimistic. Article below with brief commentary.

Sep 19, 2008 17:24 | Updated Sep 20, 2008 18:38
Panel of experts to probe al-Dura video
By JPOST.COM STAFF

The head of the state-owned France 2 television station has agreed to a demand from a Jewish community leader to establish a panel of experts to probe the controversial “Muhammad al-Dura broadcast,” the European Jewish Press reported Friday.
al durah take 3
Footage from the controversial Muhammed al-Dura video, aired by France 2.
Photo: AP [file]

As usual, lazy journalists put up the inflammatory picture Enderlin broadcast, not the anomalous one that Enderlin cut:

take6
Take 6, two “takes” after Enderlin has declared the child dead, according to Talal after bleeding to death from a stomach wound for 20 minutes.

In September 2000, a France 2 broadcast showed the “killing” of Muhammad al-Dura,12, during an exchange of gunfire between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.

The report was based on footage taken by the station’s Gaza-based Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, and accused the troops of killing the boy as he and his father tried to find cover.

The images shocked the world and caused outcry over Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip. But Philippe Karsenty, head of French media watchdog Media-Ratings, raised questions on the report’s authenticity. Karsenty argued that Dura’s death was staged, and accused France 2′s Jerusalem then-correspondent Charles Enderlin of doctoring the footage. Enderlin was not in Gaza at the time of the incident.

France 2, however, stood by Enderlin and the Palestinian cameraman who submitted the footage in question. The station sued Karsenty for libel.

In May of this year, a Paris appeals court reversed the original decision against Karsenty, saying that the examination of the footage had not resolved the question of the film’s authenticity. Karsenty presented judges with new evidence including a ballistics report and footage from other sources, which he said proved the boy’s death had been staged.

Karsenty’s claims are based on inconsistencies in the footage, including a publicly available video-taped admission by Abu Rahma that there are untold secrets related to the case, the fact that only seven bullet holes are seen behind Dura despite Abu Rahma’s repeated statements that the child survived 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli forces directed at the boy, footage clearly showing pretend gun battles and faked ambulance runs at the junction that day, testimony of the IDF soldiers stationed at the junction who said they did not participate in any firefight that day, and the lack of footage of Dura’s actual shooting.

Abu Rahma’s video shows Dura hiding, and then cuts to footage of him lying, apparently dead, at the junction. It does not show the child being killed.

In addition, the 55 seconds of video footage broadcast by France 2 in the original TV report were only part of some 18 minutes. The full film was shown in court, and detractors of France 2 claim that there is still more footage that has not been released.

The ruling absolving Karsenty of libel said that he had “exercised in good faith his right of criticism against the power of the press. [The watchdog head did not] exceed the limits of freedom of expression recognized by the European Human Rights Convention.”

The Anti-Defamation League has expressed support for the call for an independent investigation into the report. The panel of experts is expected to be established in November, and will be headed by Patrick Gaubert, chairman of Licra, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, who is also an EU Parliament member.

I don’t know much about Gaubert, but the LICRA looks like a good organization, and is certainly on the right side of the UN/human rights debate. That, in and of itself, is extremely encouraging, since Al Durah played such a prominent role in what LICRA justifiably sees as a travesty of human rights, namely Durban I.

Karsenty called the decision to set up a panel “good news” but said he would monitor who was selected as “experts” as well as what material was submitted for the panel’s consideration.

France 2 has appealed against the latest ruling to France’s Supreme Court.

The IDF concluded in its own investigation of the incident that Dura was not killed by soldiers. In 2007, deputy commander of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, wrote to France 2 asking for the entire unedited 27-minute film shot by France 2′s Palestinian cameraman on September 30, 2000, as well as footage the cameraman filmed on October 1, 2000. Am-Shalom stressed that the IDF had ‘ruled out’ the notion that Dura was killed by Israeli fire.

Citing the findings of the IDF’s probe into the incident, ordered by then-OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia, Am-Shalom wrote, “The general has made clear that from an analysis of all the data from the scene, including the location of the IDF position, the trajectory of the bullets, the location of the father and the son behind an obstacle, the cadence of the bullet fire, the angle at which the bullets penetrated the wall behind the father and his son, and the hours of the events, we can rule out with the greatest certainty the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers, who were at the time located only inside their fixed position [at the junction].”

Haviv Rettig contributed to this report.

One Response to Good News?: France2 agrees to an independent investigation

  1. andrew says:

    I know about Gaubert (being a member of the LICRA, I
    always read with considerable interest his editorials),
    and he is a top-class fellow. What is the catch ?

    To counter Enderlin’s inacceptable point that in any case, his report seemed to him to correspond to the
    general situation, one could argue that a general and
    permanent anti-Israeli position is a constant of many
    French media, including French Channel 2, but this would not be a sufficient reason for doubting any
    specific report. I believe that reading what Taguieff
    has to say (in French) on the bias of the French media regarding the middle eastern situation is essential.
    You can find a series of extracts from his last
    (excellent, as always) book, concerning the al-Durrah
    case, on the web site http://www.primo-europe.org or on
    http://www.desinfos.com.

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