Reflections on Al Durah Staged and Conspiracy Theory

One of Charles Enderlin’s favorite defenses is to accuse his critics of believing in “conspiracy theories.” Here is Larry Derfner, whom Charles cites approvingly in his book on the subject, dismissing Philippe Karsenty and me as “conspiracy nuts”:

No doubt about it – Phillippe Karsenty and his allies have a lot of evidence that the killing of Mohammed al-Dura was a hoax, that it was staged by France 2 TV in cahoots with the Palestinians. In fact, Karsenty, Richard Landes and the rest of the conspiracy theorists have so much evidence that it may even add up to .001% [Enderlin mistranslates as 100% – rl] of the evidence that the Mafia, or Castro, or the Pentagon killed JFK. They may have the merest, slightest fraction of the evidence there is that Shimon Peres masterminded the Rabin assassination, or that the Mossad was behind 9/11.

Now that the Israeli government has come out with a report on the al Durah affair which is at least as sharply critical of his work as the French Court of Appeals in 2008, we can expect Charles and his defenders to come out with both conspiracy barrels blazing.

There is, however, a fundamental difference between a “coup montée” (a planned sting) and a conspiracy.

In the former case, it’s a small group of people who coordinate their activities in order to violate rules without the knowledge of the wider public. In this case, we are dealing with a cognitive or narrative hoax, in which some group of players wants the public to believe even though it didn’t happen. These are common in the history of the modern press, and they play a key role in broader “propaganda” campaigns aimed at swaying public opinion.

The Al Durah coup was pulled off by a core of planners and actors, a larger circle of people who cooperated once the tale had been set in motion, and finally a broader circle of believers who were duped by the coup. In a basic sense, the issue is how many people need to know it’s a fake, and how many are duped? If it takes a really broad group of people who know it’s a fake and play along (including people at high public levels), then we’re dealing with a conspiracy. If it only takes a few who know and many more who are duped, it’s a sting.

Here are a survey of the minimum of planners of the hoax to pull this off the Al Durah hoax:

  • the crew at the site:
    • certainly: Talal abu Rahmah, the gang around his shouting and yelling “The boy is dead” when he’s still sitting up, the al Durahs, the people charged producing automatic gunfire, the “street” who watched this, as other staged scenes.
    • possibly: The two other cameramen (AP Reuters) who left when their jobs were done, a Palestinian marksman tasked with firing at the scene, starting with the jeep scene…
  • at the hospitals (Gazan and Jordanian):
    • certainly: Gazan doctors willing to identify the body of an older boy with a tattoo as that of Muhammad al Durah and to produce an official report; Jordanian doctors willing to continue the hoax of the father’s “wounds”.
    • possibly: a wider range of hospital officials and journalists.
  • at the funeral:
    • certainly: the people who had already prepared posters of the “dead boy.”
    • possibly: a larger group of people who knew this was a fake

The key to understanding how this is not a conspiracy theory is to understand that it did not have to be a conspiracy, that on the contrary, a small group of people could work together to launch the hoax and a much larger circle of people, for various reasons well worth considering, eagerly adopted the hoax.

The circle of dupes involves most of the people Enderlin cites when he mocks the notion of a conspiracy:

  • in the media
    • a Western chief correspondent willing to edit the material in a way to give it believability and a TV station ready to run with the story. Charles Enderlin may or may not have been part of the planning committee. My guess is, he’s a dupe, at least in part because of his arrogance. When he admitted to me that the Palestinians stage scenes all the time, I asked him if so, why not al Durah? To which he responded, “They’re not good enough to fool me.” Apparently not. As for his superiors in France2 who gave him the green light, they were almost certainly fooled by believing in their correspondent.
    • a compliant press ready to run with the story once it broke. Among these, most notably, were journalists like Suzanne Goldenberg and Robert Fisk who found proof of abu Rahma’s account at every turn, and fed the flames of a post-moden blood libel.
  • in the higher echelons of Arab culture
    • King Hussein of Jordan, who visited Jamal al Durah in the hospital and donated blood almost certainly did not know that he was being duped. He had no reason to question the fact that the bandages and blood on Jamals wounds might not be real.

The difference between a conspiracy theory and a scam/hoax/sting is that in order for a conspiracy to take place on a large scale (e.g., the US government planning the 9-11 attacks, or the Jews planning to take over the world), it would take thousands of people in very high places. In order for a hoax to take place it just takes a lot of dupes. And in the case of Muhammad al Durah, it was a lot of willing, even eager dupes.

When people think that claiming al Durah was staged necessitates a conspiracy, they assume that the mainstream news media could not be fooled across the board by a fake, that if there were serious evidence against the story as the media reported it, then surely investigative journalists would have spoken up.

Alas, no. The current state of the mainstream media, especially where coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, is an Augean Stables of encrusted bad habits. As Charles Enderlin said, when confronted with evidence that his cameraman Talal abu Rahma had filmed multiple staged scenes, “Oh yes, they do it all the time.” And the journalists who should have put an end to such behavior, apparently had/have no problem with that.

7 Responses to Reflections on Al Durah Staged and Conspiracy Theory

  1. So, we have Enderlin benignly patronizing the Palestinians (“they do it all the time”) and casually spitting at the truth (that the boy was not dead) and all this happening because the post-modern world’s academic elites had once decided that the Palestinians should be the enfant gate of the “oppressed” peoples. From then on, the academic elites’ paradigm of the conflict (PCP) infected the MSM and we ended up with journalists that:

    1) Do not even acknowledge the possibility that by giving credence to Pallywood they are feeding the worst tendencies of Arab/Muslim/Palestinian society – i.e. the more hardcore Jihadis (not that the “moderates” are much better, but…) – because pallywood plays on Arab screens for a much bigger duration than on western screens and it is used to excite the Arab passions against Israel. This makes the possibility of peace even more remote.

    2) They refuse to even entertain the idea (for fear of being considered racists and because they are too high-minded to think that the “Other” can be so different from “Us”) that their Palestinian pets are immersed in an honor-shame mindset that not only does it make them intransigent to any peace agreement short of Israel’s demographic collapse, but also renders them incapable of adapting to (western) modernity, thus resulting in economic and political catastrophe for their society (poverty and authoritarian government). Therefore, the only realistic potential solution to the conflict, i.e. addressing publicly this honor-shame aspect of Palestinian/Muslim/ Arab culture (in effect, telling them that they should grow up and stop working themselves up into anti-Israel anger) is out of the cards, courtesy of the MSM’s bad habit not to report in a way that might bring to the spotlight this core cause of the conflict.

    Then again, nothing beats the feeling of being a force of nature, how could the journos resist it?

  2. mika. says:

    A real conspiracy which you fail to mention, Richard, is centered in Israel. The Israeli establishment/gov mafia went along with this theater for decades and decades. It wasn’t until an independent Canadian documentary film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, exposed this fraud in one of his films, that the public at large finally learned about it. There was obvious corporation between the ALL the propaganda press, including ALL of the Israeli press/establishment gov mafia (they all knew about it) to keep this theater going for as long as possible.

    Now ask yourself, why? Why, Richard?

  3. The Pedant-General says:

    There’s actually a THIRD level going on here:
    – active conspiracy – requires huge resources etc
    – PLANNED hoax – requires planning
    – spur of the moment hoax – requires willing participants but little planning.

    The “street” does not need to be in on the plan at all – it only needs to react on demand, something that is eminently plausible, given history of staging.

  4. […] Enderlin, who extensively pushes the “conspiracy theory” Be’er here repeats almost verbatim, is on the […]

  5. […] of all, the list you give is no big deal. As the rushes show, Pallywood is a public secret, and no one, including journalists like Enderlin […]

  6. […] of all, the list you give is no big deal. As the rushes show, Pallywood is a public secret, and no one, including journalists like Enderlin […]

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