In the wake of the official Israeli report on al Durah, Ha-artez, whose record in this case, from its reporters to its editorials has been consistently hostile to any Israeli effort to challenge the evidence, continues to beat the drums of cognitive war against Israel. This picks up just where Anat Cygielman left off: IDF keeps shooting itself in the foot. Were I an anti-Zionist, Ha-aretz would have an special place in my playbook. Below, a fisking of their latest, entirely predictable response to the latest Israeli report on the Al Durah Affair.
Its publication and the accompanying international public relations campaign only threatens to awake sleeping dogs. If international press picks up on the report, it could lead to a renewed discussion around Palestinian children getting hurt during IDF operations. By Barak Ravid | May.20, 2013 | 2:28 AM | 2 The infamous image of Mohammed al-Dura (left) sheltering with his father Jamal. Photo by AP
Yes, it is the infamous picture. And yes, the boy and the father do look terrified. After all someone from “their own side” has been shooting bullets right over their head. Instead, people should be looking at this picture, taken later, and cut by Charles Enderlin in his effort to give the story of a dead child credibility:
“Take 6”: the “dead boy” (according to Enderlin’s voiceover), holding his hand over his eyes, raises his elbow and looks out.
By Barak Ravid | May.19,2013 | 8:40 PM | 24 The report of the committee investigating the “coverage by French TV station France 2 of the Mohammed al-Dura affair, its results and implications”, which was presented Sunday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is probably one of the least relevant documents written by the Israeli government in recent years.
Is this Ravid’s version of “that’s so fifteen minutes ago?” Or does he not understand the historical meaning of this icon, and the importance in that story of the credibility and power that journalists gave it.
Another take: This is a long overdue response to what may be the longest-standing and most destructive news media hoax in the history of modern journalism.
The fact that 13 years have elapsed since the incidents addressed in the report took place turned the submission of the report into a surreal affair. Netanyahu recited slogans about “a campaign of de-legitimization directed against Israel” and Minister Yuval Steinitz, who had no part in preparing the report, muttered a few words about a ‘blood libel’, and everyone present felt very righteous. The person who advocated for setting up the committee and who chaired it was Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry for strategic Affairs. Kuperwasser, who was the Intel Officer at Southern Command and later head of research and analysis for Israel Defense Forces intelligence , has been waging a 13-year long public relations campaign against the Palestinians. For better or worse, his attention to the al-Dura affair became an obsession, leading to a suspicion there might be a conflict of interest.
This is classic. The public relations campaign that matters is Israel’s against the Palestinians, as if they didn’t wage far more vicious PR campaigns against Israel. This is the cognitive war equivalent of “Israel bombed Gaza today, starting a new round of violence.”
The result of the committee’s work was a document for the extremely meticulous. It is doubtful whether even a hundred people in Israel or worldwide are sufficiently familiar with all the intricate details of the incident as to be able to follow the convoluted arguments by the authors of the report.
Furthermore, the document contains no new evidence that might significantly impact the accepted version.
On one level, one needs no “new” evidence. The “old” evidence, which almost no one has bothered to look at, is pretty overwhelming. Everywhere one turns in this affair, the evidence contradicts the narrative that Charles Enderlin, trusting his Pallywood cameraman Talal abu Rahma to the point of inexcusable credulity, laid over footage that contradicts that narrative at every turn.
Even the new interpretation given to some of the old findings seems groundless. For example, Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of the Israel’s National Forensic Institute, determined, based on viewing poor quality video footage, that Mohammed al-Dura wasn’t shot and killed in that incident. The expert opinion which was attached to the report reads like a report by a movie critic and not by a pathologist. “The final scenes, in which the boy is seen raising his head and arms, bringing his hand to his face and looking into the distance, are not compatible with death throes but seem like voluntary movements”, wrote Nachman. “One doesn’t need to be an expert to see that”.
Indeed, one doesn’t. Look yourself:
The impression is that the report was written for use within Israel. The evidence and arguments that were presented might convince the already convinced, but no more than that.
When I first started working on this case in 2003, I had a chance meeting with three prominent Israeli journalists. When I asked them about al Durah, the response of one, with nodding approval from the others, was “100% the Israelis killed him.” There’s an amazing eagerness of Israeli journalists to believe the worst about themselves. In fact, after Nazir Fares, the Druse commander of the unit, after spending a week inside that vulnerable outpost without any relief, finally got out, the Israeli radio journalist who interviewed him, wanted to know who killed Muhammad al Durah. In some bizarre way this may be related to this unspoken belief that the outside world will only believe the worst of Israel. It is this very psychology that may be responsible for the colonization of the Israeli mind by the Palestinian narrative.
The committee could not present any ‘smoking gun’ evidence showing the 25 year old al-Dura sunbathing on a Gaza beach. Not even close. Any thought of getting such a report to change the globally accepted narrative after 13 years is akin to trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
I must confess that I don’t see the purpose of this “prediction” which operates as a guide to foes. Does Barak Ravid want the rest of the world not to change their mind? Does he care that this is part of a larger phenomenon of DurahJournalism that poisons the world’s public sphere with lethal narratives that incite hatred and war?
The report was seemingly a campaign of revenge by the State of Israel, directed against a single journalist from the France 2 network, Charles Enderlin, who first reported the Muhammad al-Dura incident. Committee members tried to saddle Enderlin, who is an Israeli Jew who served in the IDF spokesman’s bureau and whose two sons served in the IDF, with all the problems of Israel and the Jewish people.
Wow. Part of the reason that Israelis have good reason to be angry with Charles Enderlin is that it’s precisely because Enderlin served in the IDF, in the Spokesman’s unit, that officials were inclined to believe him when he said that this was real footage. Most people – my guess is this includes Ravid – didn’t (haven’t) even looked at the evidence when it became available. Enderlin was probably the only person who could have made this hoax work, and that’s precisely because of his bona fides.
His sloppy work and his decade-long stonewalling and refusal to correct himself – worse, his aggressive pursuit in court of French people who criticized him – all of which is delineated in the report, should be a source of great indignation on the part of any Israeli as well as any other journalist who cares about the integrity of our information professionals.
Is Ravid, along with Gideon “so-what-if-it-was-staged-we’ve-killed-850-of-their-children” Levy, someone who is so intent on being self-critical, on accepting the Palestinian narrative as honest, that he ends up being someone for whom good news can’t come. People in the grip of such a post-modern masophicsm, like Levy, like his colleague at Haaretz, Amira Hass, have, can end up being “proud to be ashamed to be an Israeli”?
The committee went even further and hinted at Enderlin’s responsibility for the massacre of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse. “His report inspired many terrorists and contributed to the demonization of Israel and to the rise of anti-Semitism in Moslem and Western countries”, wrote committee members. “In some cases the implications were deadly”.
It doesn’t hold him responsible. But the fact is that Merah grew up in a culture in which the daily assault on Israel as child killers, fostered both by the Muslim community and by the French media, created his desire to kill Jewish children. People have been warning about the noxious effects of lethal journalism for a long time, and Enderlin’s mea culpa – at any time over the last thirteen years – might have contributed to cleaning up the toxic waste that dumps daily into the information circulation system of the global community. Ravid, apparently, thinks that defending Charles Enderlin is more important than protecting the global community from the malevolence of lethal narratives that Enderlin is a major player in laundering as “news.”
The damage done by this report could be greater than any doubtful utility. Its publication, accompanied by an international public relations campaign only threatens to awake sleeping dogs. If international press picks up on the report, it could lead to a renewed discussion around Palestinian children getting hurt during IDF operations.
And wouldn’t it be interesting if, as a result, the international media started paying attention to how many Palestinian children are killed by their own people, who in their obsessive desire to hit Israeli civilians, not only kill their own children, but then exploit for their lethal narratives. Let’s look at that list of 850 children that B’tselem has compiled, with the skeptical hermeneutic we can learn from the Al Durah case.
Overall, Ravid seems to be saying to the world, “don’t worry! nothing new. no need to look closer.” Why is he so eager to reject the criticism of Enderlin’s work? Is this a kind of pomo honor reflex? I, as an Israeli for whom the respect of my liberal and progressive friends around the world means a great deal, and whose admiration I acquire by being a “self-critical” (i.e., non-“tribal”) Israeli, am embarrassed by this awful attempt to exculpate this heinous deed so long afterwards.
I’d like to suggest something different. It’s never too late to challenge a deliberate and malicious falsehood, which is one of the things that the Al Durah story really teaches us. The exceptional willingness of Jews and Israelis to empathize with the Palestinian “other” – a trait notably weak on the other side – has been systematically exploited to everyone’s detriment. The Israelis may have been the obvious target of the Al Durah hoax, but the collateral damage was enormous, and the greatest victim may well have been Arab and Muslim peoples, drawn by this image into death cults that sacrificed their own children, even as they were inundated by their rulers with dreams of genocidal wars of revenge. In their own way, both Muhammad Merah and the Tsarnaev brothers are the inheritors of this propaganda of hatred.
For Jews and Israelis, the Al Durah affair is the ultimate test of, to paraphrase Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who am I?” If you can’t look at the evidence for this catastrophically destructive lie and say, “this time, my side was right.” … then, who are you?
And in the case of Al Durah, this is not just about “us” – Israelis, Jews – but about confronting the forces churning out hatred and war, tearing at the fabric of free, peaceful culture all over the world.
Owning the Al Durah affair as a dastardly and damage libel against our own people, and calling on others for an accounting of their behavior – thirteen years of refusal to reconsider, thirteen years of hegemonic lethal journalism and NGO reporting about our behavior – seems like a win-win all around, at least for people who care about civil society.