The Hoax That Framed Israeli Soldiers as Killers of Children

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of two connected events: the launching of the second intifada by Yasir Arafat on September 2000 and, two days later, the airing of video on French television showing the twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Dura shot dead, supposedly by IDF bullets. But the boy in the film, it turned out, had not been killed that day, and it is unlikely any gun battle took place. Nidra Poller, who played a leading role in uncovering this hoax, recounted the story in a 2005 essay in Commentary. In the course of her investigation, she was able to view other footage from the scene of the nonexistent crime from the same day:

The Reuters, AP, and France-2 outtakes that I viewed show two totally different and easily identifiable types of activity at Netzarim junction: real, intifada-style attacks, and crudely falsified battle scenes. Both the real and the fake scenes are played out against a background of normal civilian activity at a busy crossroads. In the “reality” zone, excited children and angry young men hurl rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli outpost while shababs (“youths”) standing on the roof of [nearby apartment buildings] throw burning tires down onto the caged lookout; this goes on seemingly for hours, without provoking the slightest military reaction from Israeli soldiers.

At the same time, in the “theatrical” zone, Palestinian stringers sporting prestigious logos on their vests and cameras are seen filming battle scenes staged behind the abandoned factory, well out of range of Israeli gunfire. The “wounded” sail through the air like modern dancers and then suddenly collapse. Cameramen jockey with hysterical youths who pounce on the “casualties,” pushing and shoving, howling Allahu akhbar!, clumsily grabbing the “injured,” pushing away the rare ambulance attendant in a pale green polyester jacket in order to shove, twist, haul, and dump the “victims” into UN and Red Crescent ambulances that pull up on a second’s notice and career back down the road again, sirens screaming. In one shot we recognize Talal Abu Rahmeh, [the source of the original report], in his France-2 vest, filming a staged casualty scene.

This footage, of course, never reached so wide an audience, nor did that of young Dura changing position after being “shot.” And the lie had murderous consequences:

Televised images of the boy, . . . instantly ignited anti-Israel and anti-Jewish passions all over the world, provoking a wave of violence from the lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah to synagogue burnings in France. In the ensuing years, the story of Muhammad al-Dura has attained near-mythic stature in the Arab and Muslim world.

That the death of Muhammad al-Dura was the real emotional pretext for the ensuing avalanche of Palestinian violence . . . is attested by the immediate and widespread dissemination of his story and of the pietà-like image of his body lying at his father’s feet. Streets, squares, and schools have since been named for the young Islamic shahid [martyr]. His death scene has been replicated on murals, posters, and postage stamps, even making an iconic appearance in the video of Daniel Pearl’s beheading.

When called to account, the French journalists who disseminated the story stood by it, prevaricated, and then sued for libel those who reported on their libel. While the truth is now known about Dura, questions Poller asked in 2005 still remain:

What was the role of the government-owned French television network, which is to say the French government itself, in devising, implementing, and spreading this atrocious calumny, whose repercussions are with us to this day?

And now? Al Jazeera ran a long piece this week commemorating Dura’s “death,” and a Google search suggests that the lie still garners at least as many clicks as the truth. Recall also that this occurred before social media and before the perfection of “deep fakes” and other sophisticated means of digital manipulation.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Al Jazeera, Daniel Pearl, France, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Media, Second Intifada

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas