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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mohamed A Dura Affair Proven a Hoax

by Stéphane Juffa.
Original article in French

Background
September 30, 2000: a France 2 news report filed by Talal Abu Rahma with a voice-over commentary by Charles Enderlin purports to show the fatal shooting of a Palestinian child, Mohamed A Dura, and the wounding of his father Jamal by Israeli gunfire. France 2 distributed the report free of charge to world media.

The accusation against the IDF was based solely on the testimony of France 2 reporter Abu Rahma, backed up by his hierarchy at France Télévision.

The 3-year Metula News Agency investigation, in conformity with the findings of the IDF commission led by physician Nahum Shahaf, has consistently maintained that Abu Rahma’s declaration was false, and that the 27 minutes of footage allegedly showing the Israelis shooting at the A Duras does not exist.

Repeated requests by our agency to view the 27 minutes of footage were denied

Further, MNA concluded that France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin was deliberately lying, to make the incident seem authentic, when he claimed that he cut out the sequence of the child’s death throes because they were too horrible to show.

Enderlin also declared that there was no footage showing the fatal bullet hit the child. The images on the news report do not corroborate the accusation that child was killed by Israeli soldiers; the commentary suggests what the images do not show.

France 2 claimed to be holding the clinching evidence—the film of the child’s death throes--but would never present it.

Under circumstances connected to the Metula investigation and film demonstration, France Télévision’s CEO, Marc Tessier, asked the station’s news director Arlette Chabot to show the 27 minutes of raw footage to Luc Rosenzweig, former Le Monde journalist (now free lance contributor to Metula News Agency, Radio Communauté Juive, etc.)

Rosenzweig, accompanied by two eminent media directors, was received in the France 2 offices by A. Chabot, Didier Epelbaum (advisor to the president of France 2) and an “image analyst” from the station’s legal department.

The France 2 officials tried to sidestep projection of the 27 minutes of raw footage, dismissing them as insignificant and irrelevant, since Abu Rahma had retracted his testimony, explaining that the cameraman had been “caught off guard” when he testified.

“Caught off guard? Three days after the incident, comfortably seated in a lawyer’s office?

So they are admitting that Abu Rahma gave false testimony…and subsequently retracted. Now that the sole witness to the assassination of Mohammed A Dura has retracted, there is nothing left of the affair “but a shred of bad fiction not worth a kopek.”

Rosenzweig and his colleagues were not aware of Abu Rahma’s retraction for the simple reason that France 2 never made it public.

For four years French public TV officials had been hiding the fact that they do not have 27 minutes of film to prove the blood libel against Israel.

They had allowed the hoax to become a symbol of the Palestinian revolt against the barbarous Jews.

The A Dura image has generated years of dreadful violence, murderous mobs, the Ramallah lynching, etc. It has fanned hatred between Palestinians and Israelis, between Jews and Arabs.

The atmosphere in the France 2 office became tense.

Didier Epelbaum was violating numerous provisions of the ethical charter he himself had drafted, namely the obligation to correct news reports when new, contradictory information arises.

Informed that Abu Rahma is in Paris undergoing medical treatment, Rosenzweig said he would like to speak with him. Epelbaum replied that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble because the Palestinian cameraman doesn’t speak French and his English is very poor.

Stéphane Juffa remembers hearing Abu Rahma speak on CNN; his English was fine.

Finally Rosenzweig and his colleagues are shown the 27 minutes of raw footage.
No new images of the A Duras. No shots of Israeli soldiers. Scenes of demonstrators attacking the Israeli position, scenes of kids pretending to be wounded by the Israelis.

Epelbaum comments, “Those kids are always doing that!”

Enderlin claimed he’d handed over the raw footage intact to Israeli authorities.

Rosenzweig saw that this wasn’t true.

The few seconds where you can see the child moving voluntarily after he was (allegedly) killed instantly by the fatal shot, had been retouched with stills.

Rosenzweig asks about the “unbearable” death throes. Embarrassed reaction from the France 2 officials. There are no such images. Epelbaum asks the visiting journalists if they have proof that the news report is a fake.

He doesn’t seem to realize that the September 30, 2000 incident at Netzarim Junction is totally baseless now that it has become obvious that the sole witness (Abu Rahma) gave false testimony and the correspondent (Enderlin) was caught lying.

But Rosenzweig has further proof. He plugs his USB stick into a computer and brings up the picture of a dead child taken in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital on the day of the A Dura incident, and presented as Mohamed A Dura.

“There’s a slight problem here,” he says. “The face on this corpse is not exactly the same as the face [of Mohamed] in your news report.”Chabot wonders out loud if they had been “fooled,” and suggests having police experts compare the two. Metula has already made the test: the two boys are not the same age, the wounds on the corpse have nothing in common with the alleged wounds of M. A Dura.

Conclusion

Enderlin can stick to his usual defense--explaining that Israeli army officers fell into his trap, which is true, and that the State of Israel would have sued him if the report were a hoax—but it won’t work anymore.

In fact, Daniel Seaman, head of the government press office (GPO) and the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Ra’anan Gissin, have already publicly announced that the A Dura news report is a fake.

Seaman informed us that the government had decided it was not appropriate to drag accredited foreign correspondents into court. But that might change after the revelations in this article.

There is nothing left of the claim that Mohamed A Dura was assassinated by Israeli soldiers.

But the larger question, of the dangers when foreign media interfere in a conflict, remains to be addressed. France 2 has been fooling people for four years, pretending they were holding raw footage that showed Jewish soldiers assassinating an Arab boy.

The French public TV channel contributed to the revival of medieval rumors that demonize Jews: the Israeli soldiers would have to be utterly heartless to pick out a child in the crowd and fire at him for 45 minutes until they killed him.

The media hoax fabricated by Abu Rahma and Enderlin exceeded their expectations. The image of the ferocious Israelis still holds, and it has convinced the vast majority of French-speaking people.

Now France Télévision has a tremendous task. They have to explain what happened and acknowledge what they did. And they must reconsider the journalists and methods that produced the A Dura affair, the biggest hoax in media history.

The people who did it should no longer be allowed to inform the French public about the Arab-Israeli conflict. And they shouldn’t be allowed to keep the prizes awarded for the scoop.

The Metula News Agency will be watching!