French court examines footage of Mohammad al-Dura's death
Allegedly staged TV report on death of boy during Gaza clashes is screened in defamation case against station.
PARIS - A French appeals court screened footage Wednesday of the September 2000 television report on the death of Mohammad al-Dura, in a case of defamation brought against French television channel France 2 and its correspondent in the Middle East, Charles Enderlin.
The disturbing images of Mohammed al-Dura's death were shown around the world seven years ago. In the France-2 report, the boy and his father cower in front of a wall amid a furious exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The report shows the father gesturing to try to stop the shooting - then cuts to a shot of the motionless boy slumped in his father's lap. The report said the gunfire had come from nearby Israeli positions, though the circumstances remain in dispute.
On November 22, 2004, Phillipe Karsenty, a 41-year-old French Jew and a well-to-do financial consultant, wrote on his Web site, Media Ratings (www.m-r.fr), which surveys the French media, that al-Dura's death had been staged and that France 2's conduct "disgraces France and its public broadcasting system."
A few weeks later France 2 and Enderlin sued him for defamation. Two years later Karsenty was found guilty and was required to pay a symbolic sum of 1 euro in compensation (in addition to 3,000 euros for trial expenses).
That same day, Karsenty filed an appeal, and the court has taken up the case this week, with the judge demanding to examine the full footage of the al-Dura report before deciding whether Karsenty was guilty of defamation or not.
France-2 and Karsenty could not immediately be reached for comment about the court order.
The IDF declined earlier this week to say why it was seeking the material from the French network.
Enderlin explained in court each segment of the 18-minute footage- filmed on September 30, 2000 by his cameraman Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim junction while Enderlin was in Ramallah- the street battles with dozens of people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at an IDF outpost, an interview with a Fatah official, and the incident involving Mohammed al-Dura and his father in the last minute of the video.
Karsenty challenged Enderlin's explanations. "The boy moved his head after we heard the cameraman say he was dead. How do you explain this?" asked Karsenty. "Why is there no blood on their shirts although they had bullet wounds?"
Enderlin said that Talal Abu Rahma did not say that the boy had died, but that he was dying. The journalist maintained that only the Israelis shot at the al-Duras, explaining that he could hear the difference between the shooting of the Israeli rubber bullets and Palestinian regular ones.
Karsenty repeated several troubling details. He pointed out that an article by senior journalists Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte in 2004 noted some staged scenes filmed by Abu Rahma in the first part of the footage, which they had examined at French TV studios with former le Monde journalist Luc Rosenzweig.
Jeambar and Leconte called on French TV to launch its own internal inquiry, citing a possible lack of journalistic standards, but did not not share the theory of a possible staging of al-Dura's death.
"The al-Dura report has had terrible consequences, causing hate against Israel and Jews," Karsenty told Haaretz. "We have to repair the damage now, before it's too late."
Tension was high in the courtroom Wednesday, and some pro and anti-Enderlin militants were arguing loudly, causing some commotion. Dozens of Jewish bloggers were present at the courthouse.
Serge Kovacs, a friend and co-worker of Enderlin, said Enderlin was falsely accused and has become a "new Dreyfuss." Enderlin told journalists that there was no new "affair," and suggested they come to the next hearing on February 28.
Karsenty said that he intends to counter-attack French TV by pointing out that they only presented 18 minutes out of the 27 minutes Abu Rahma originally claimed to have shot.