PARIS - A French appeals court screened footage today of the September 2000 television report on the death of Muhammad al-Dura, in a case of defamation brought against French television and its correspondent in the Middle East, Charles Enderlin.
The veteran journalist was accused in 2004 by Philippe Karsenty, the owner of an internet site, of broadcasting a staged report on the al-Dura killing, and of instigating hate against Israel and Jews throughout the world.
Karsenty was convicted in the original defamation trial, but a second trial ended with the judge demanding to examine the full footage of the al-Dura report before deciding whether Karsenty was guilty of defamation or not.
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 enquiry, 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 yesterday, 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.