[Translated by Llewellyn Brown]
A Summary of the facts
After three years of research, more than 150 inquiries, interviews and analyses devoted to the France 2 report of September 30, 2000 at the Netzarim Junction, in the Gaza strip, the Ména has published a long series of revealing articles establishing the fraudulent nature of the reporting of this story.
The news report produced by Talal Abu-Rahma and Charles Enderlin, asserting that a Palestinian child had been assassinated by Israeli soldiers, and distributed free of charge by a French public television channel around the world is a gross staging, aimed at demonizing Israel and the Israeli army. The soldiers accused by the commentary of the permanent correspondent of FR2 at Jerusalem did not fire a single projectile in the direction of the adult Jamal Al-Dura and the child at his side, as they were completely unaware of their presence on the scene.
The supposed authenticity of the report, defended until now by the channel's management, was based on the sole testimony of its reporter Talal Abu-Rahma and principally on the declaration written, filed and ratified by the latter, 3 October 2000, in the presence of the lawyer of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Raji Sourani at Gaza. In this declaration, published in its entirety, with sketches of the events to corroborate it, on the Center's web site, Abu-Rahma notably declares:
"I, the undersigned, Talal Hassan Abu Rahma, resident of the Gaza Strip and who bears ID no. 959852849, give my statement under oath and after having been given legal warning and choice by Lawyer Raji Sourani, on the killing of Mohammed Jamal Al-Durreh and the injuring of his father Jamal Al-Durreh both shot at by the Israeli Occupying Forces… Then, I focused my camera on the child Mohammed Jamal Al-Durreh who was shot in his right leg. His father tried to calm, protect and cover his son with his hands and body. Sometimes, the father Jamal was raising his hands asking for help. Other details of the incident are as they were apparently shown at the film. I spent approximately 27 minutes photographing the incident which took place for 45 minutes…"
The Metula News Agency, confirming the conclusions of the inquiry appointed by the commander of the southern front of the Israeli army, led by the physicist Nahum Shahaf, has constantly asserted that Abu-Rahma's declaration was a false testimony and that the 27 minutes of film of the incident — that is to say the filmed documents showing the Israeli soldiers firing in the direction of Jamal Al-Dura and leading to the death of the "child" — did not exist.
Until Friday, October 22, the numerous official appeals made by our agency to FR2 to view the 27 minutes of Abu-Rahma's footage, as well as our reiterated proposals to compare our respective materials, were refused. Furthermore, our agency, supported by the conclusions of our inquiry, has constantly asserted that Charles Enderlin's numerous declarations evoking the existence of this footage of pictures showing the child's death, that the permanent correspondent of FR2 says he edited in order to spare the television spectators, are a fabrication. We assert that they serve to confer an appearance of authenticity to a fictional event that it contributes to transform into an event reputed to be real.
We find a sample of this sort of declaration by Enderlin in the issue 2650, page 10, of the publication Télérama, October 25:
"I edited the death of the child. It was too unbearable. The story was told, the news delivered. It would not have added anything more."
This untruth covers up the absence of images showing the moment when the child was supposedly hit by Israeli projectiles, which are missing — and for reason — from the fiction filmed by Talal Abu-Rahma. Enderlin alludes to it in the same issue of Télérama:
"As for the moment when the child received the bullets, it was not even filmed."
Structurally, the theory of the assassination of the child by Israeli soldiers was not supported by pictures. The entire staging was based on a suggestion of the facts provided by the commentary and the possession of image of the death by Enderlin. The judicial department of France 2 became the other key element, albeit invisible, when it guaranteed the veracity of the monstrous act attributed to the Israelis. If the images existed…
On Friday October 22, the abscess burst.
In circumstances that are too sketchy to relate but that result from the presentation of evidence gathered by the Ména and summarized in the film we have devoted to the case, the president of France Télévision, Marc Tessier, invited Ms Arlette Chabot, the news editor of France 2, to present the 27 minutes of footage in France 2's possession to Luc Rosenzweig, a former journalist of Le Monde, a contributor to the Ména and a columnist at RCJ, one of Paris' Jewish radios.
The meeting was set for 3:00 pm. Rosenzweig was accompanied, for the occasion, by two eminent figures of the French media who, while being most interested in this case, do not wish for the moment to appear in the public debate it raises. One is a former lead reporter of France 2, an Albert Londres Prize winner. The second is an editorialist who is unanimously respected in Paris.
The group met Arlette Chabot cordially and then headed for their host's office near the top of the FR2 building. Didier Epelbaum, counselor to the channel's president, former member of the Francophone department of Qol Israel [an Israeli radio station] and former mediator of France 2, waited for them, holding a file entitled "Who killed Mohammed Al-Dura?", as did a representative of the judicial department of the "image analysis" section.
The atmosphere was clearly tense. Epelbaum asked: "Shall we talk first?"
To which Rosenzweig replied: "We came to see the 27 minutes of footage showing the Israeli soldiers shooting the child that Talal Abu-Rahma quotes in his statement under oath…"
The representative of the juridical department interrupted our colleague: "It won't tell you much."
That is obviously what we feared… all the more so as Didier Epelbaum immediately followed with an eminently surprising argument: "You know full well that Talal went back on his testimony, that he retracted it. He was acting under pressure, he was caught unawares…"
Caught unawares? Three days after the events, in a comfortable lawyer's office? Abu-Rahma is thus confirmed to have given false testimony: the suspense did not last long. It was, at the same time, the end of the enquiry. With the retraction of the only France 2 witness of the assassination of Mohammed Al-Dura, nothing is left of this case, nothing but a bit of bad fiction that is no longer worth a kopek.
No, the three great journalists "did not know" that the Palestinian reporter of the public channel had retracted his statement. No one in the world is aware, because France 2 has not disseminated this crucial information. France 2 has had the famous footage at its disposal for four years and has known that the 27 minutes of the incident, the sole evidence of the almost ritual crime of Israel, never existed.
Yet the public television station remained silent, letting the fiction it had distributed, that had become the incontestable symbol of the Palestinians' revolt against the Jewish barbarians, sweep over the world, spawning Mohammed Al-Dura street, postage stamps, hate-filled books and guides to shahaha [martyrdom, translator’s note]. The film begot violence, a lot of violence, revenge-lynchings in Ramallah and deadly riots at the beginning of October which left 12 people dead. And above all, this counterfeit dug a chasm of insurmountable hatred between Israelis and Palestinians, and also between Jews and Arabs, eradicating for many long years any hope of reconciliation.
The air became hot in the office of Chabot, who did not take sides, but whose legendary poker face started to crack. And Epelbaum, the architect of the channel's ethical charter, had just trampled on dozens of clauses in section 2.4 dealing with Honesty and Pluralism. I just read it, before writing this paper and I cannot miss the sub-chapter "126.96.36.199. Deepening and follow-up of news:”
“when events that have been related on the channel undergo developments that change or contradict elements previously provided by the channel, it is important to go back over them…”
Is such schizophrenia conceivable?
The people from this channel told the journalists that Abu-Rahma was in Paris to undergo treatment. Straight away, the three great witnesses suggested meeting him. Three times. Three times, the others feigned they did not hear. Epelbaum took Rozenzweig aside and whispered: "You know, he does not speak French and he speaks English badly. You will not be able to understand each other." The editorialist who heard this strange whispering suggested paying for the services of an Arab translator.
This was met with silence and blanched faces. I remember hearing Talal Hassan Abu-Rahma expressing himself very well in English, live on CNN for ten minutes, at the time of doctor Rantissi's elimination. So it is hard to fall any lower than Epelbaum's falsehood.
They watched the 27 minutes anyway and, of course, they did not contain the slightest picture of the incident that had been broadcasted by FR2 and reproduced in the Ména's film. Not the slightest picture of the most Lilliputian of Tsahal's [the Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers. The only images of Jamal, the child, involved two interviews, without any direct relationship to the incident and pictures of skirmishes between solders and demonstrators. Several times, in Abu-Rahma's footage, children pretended to be hit by Israelis, which made Epelbaum exclaim: "You see, they always do that, these kids.”
I am astounded!
The journalists also exposed another of Charles Enderlin's lies. He said he had given the footage, intact, to the Israeli authorities. On Friday, they saw the child moving, even though he was supposed to have been killed on the spot by the Israelis. On the report broadcast by France 2, these pictures were replaced by stills, to give the impression that the actor playing Mohammed Al-Dura's role was actually dead. In the context, this further mystification that would be crucial in other circumstances, suddenly appeared trivial.
Luc spoke of scenes that were "unbearable" for the spectators. Scenes of dying?
There was silence and blanched faces again. In the footage, there is no picture that could be considered, even with the most open of minds, as a death scene, nothing that is in any way more unbearable that what France 2 had already shown.
Not yet aware that his bunker had already fallen, Didier Epelbaum asked if the journalists had tangible proof that it was a fraud. He did not grasp that with their single witness caught red-handed providing false testimony and a star reporter lying, the hypothesis of the death of Mohammed Al-Dura, September 30, 2000 at Netzarim, did not even need to be criticized. It no longer existed. But Rosenzweig, in a dramatic gesture in the manner of Colombo, drew out of his jacket a USB key and plugged it into the office computer. Then appeared the picture of the small boy that died the same day at Shifa hospital at Gaza and that the authors of the false propaganda wanted people to believe was Mohammed. "It seems,” announced very serenely the man from Upper Savoie, "that there is a small problem; that the face of this corpse is not exactly the same as the one we make out on your film."
It was almost a knock-out. Arlette Chabot suddenly envisaged the strange hypothesis that the men of France 2 may have "been deceived.” She suggests having the scientific police undertake a comparison of the two faces.
Why not? At Metula we have already had the analysis done: the two children are not at all of the same age and the traces of wounds on the corpse do not at all correspond to those announced for Mohammed Al-Dura.
A conclusion, certainly, but the epilogue is missing.
As of this evening, the Al-Dura case, as a factual event of the Intifada, no longer exists. Enderlin may certainly pursue his line of defense, trumpeting that even the officers of the Israeli army fell into his trap — which is rigorously exact — or that "if it were an imposture, the state of Israel would certainly have engaged proceedings,” they are simply incidents of no causal significance in the objective analysis of the case. Moreover, and even before knowing the revelations of France 2, the Israeli government, through the voices of the head of the Government Press Office Danial Seaman and that of the Prime Minister's counselor and spokesman, Ra'anan Gissin, had already publicly stated that the French public television's report was a media imposture and that they had adopted the conclusion of the Shahaf Commission and those of the Ména. Seaman informed us that after a long meeting at the Ministry of Justice, it was decided that it was unfitting for the government of a democratic state to sue the accredited correspondents of foreign media. It was also decided that this decision in no way altered or attenuated the content of Seaman's and Gissin's declarations. And who knows, following the stinging revelations of this article, even the state of Israel may revise its principles?
The hypothesis of the assassination of Mohammed Al-Dura by the Israeli soldiers has thus been deconstructed, obliging its distributor France 2 to admit to its failings. But the dramatic end of this deceit immediately raises a host of questions concerning the interference of the media in a foreign conflict. France 2 deceived television spectators for four long years, denying the fact that the footage they possessed did not show Jewish soldiers assassinating a small Arab boy. The channel thus largely participated in resurrecting the intolerable Middle Age rumor, associating Israelites with racial characteristics of satanic origin. One would have to be extremely deranged, devoid of humanity, to single out a child in a large crowd and to aim at him for forty-five minutes until one succeeded in taking his life.
Unfortunately, the media deceit concocted by Abu-Rahma and Enderlin worked beyond its authors' hopes. So today, and since Mohammed's assassination, this picture constructed around the so-called ferocity of the Israelis clings to us and has persuaded the greater part of Francophone opinion. The task of reparation that befalls France Television is colossal. It starts tomorrow with an explanation to television spectators and victims. There must be an uncompromising recognition of the facts and a calling into question of the methods of the men who instigated the greatest and particularly the most serious masquerade in audio-visual history. And then, reason will not suffer the accomplices to this immense incitement to ethnic hatred, after having corrupted every item of our deontology, to continue claiming they inform France on the events of the Israel-Arab conflict. Nor can they claim to practice any media activity of any nature. Likewise, reason cannot allow us to imagine that they should be awarded professional prizes through the execution of their crime.
Needless to say, at the Ména, we will follow further developments with an extremely watchful eye.