If the editors, photographers, cartoonists, reporters and analysts who shape the reports delivered into the conventional news channels were obliged to face critical analysis, had to justify their frequently agenda-driven spinning, had to give an accounting for their prejudicial distortions and lies, then most of the venom directed at Israel and Israelis wouldn't be there.
The al-Dura scandal is a powerful case in point.
We've pointed visitors to this blog several times to the iconology that created a powerful image for the practitioners of lethal terror and their henchmen. See 7-Feb-08: Getting to the truth behind a lethal icon: the Al-Dura scandal, 28-May-07: The Ongoing Tragedy of Dead Palestinian-Arab Children, and 6-Sep-06: An unblinking look at French - and Western - values for three instances.
The image of a cowering Al-Dura father and son has been invoked by the jihadists in countless murders and maimings of innocent Jews. Tom Gross, a fearless writer and analyst whom we've quoted here several times, points out that "Osama bin Laden referred to al-Dura in a post-9/11 video; the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl placed a picture of him in their beheading video; streets, squares and academies have been named after al-Dura. He became a poster child" for what we know as the Second Arafat War that started in 2000.
So how true was it? A French appeals court has been asked to rule on that question. This week they answered.
Before we get into the background, let's point out that as important as the court decision is, it remains almost completely unknown to the great majority of people who need to know it. They mainly live in Western Europe and especially France where the story has gotten scant coverage - and certainly only a tiny fraction of the attention which the original 2000 report gained.
The legal case is about a Frenchman by the name of Karsenty. He took a long, cool look at the way France's main television channel put to air a video clip (15 seconds, out of what turns out to be either an 18 minute film, as France 2 says, or a 27 minute film as some of its critics have said) allegedly captured by the channel's Jerusalem correspondent. France 2 asserted that the recorded the cold-blooded killing of an Arab child in Gaza by Israeli soldiers - about the most incendiary kind of allegation you can make in a war of the perceived-strong versus the perceived-weak. Karsenty came to a definitive view that the video is a fake, and that the French media people knew it but pushed ahead for the worst of ideological motivations.
Prof. Richard Landes' outstanding Second Draft website, which mounted a far more detailed and careful investigative effort on the case than the France media establishment ever did, published a video clip in which the Gazan boy, whom Enderlin has already pronounced dead, lifts up his arm and head and looks around before resuming the "dead" position.
Karsenty went public with his findings, and for his troubles was sued by France 2 and its correspondent. In 2006, a French court found that Karsenty had committed a libel against France 2 and its man in Jerusalem. Against this decision, Karsenty appealed and this week he won.
In the wake of the almost entirely unreported verdict, he wrote an emotional and important opinion piece that was published yesterday under the title French Court Vindicates Al-Dura Hoax Critic. Here's the full text.
May 21, 2008Philippe Karsenty is the founder and president of Media-Ratings, an agency that closely monitors French media outlets for anti-American and anti-Israeli bias.
Today a French court ruled that I did not defame France 2 when I said that its news report was a staged hoax. Because I refused to be brainwashed, I was sued for defamation.
Our victory today was a victory for freedom — the freedom to think and to speak one’s mind; the freedom to question what one is told; and the freedom to disbelieve the solemn pronouncements of others when the individual concludes that his reasoning is correct and that the state and the state-run media — and all of the institutions they represent — are wrong.
The al-Dura lie is an assault on our ability to think, to criticize, to evaluate, and finally to reject information — especially the right to reject information on which we base our most cherished assumptions. One of Europe’s most cherished assumptions is that Israel is a vicious Nazi-like entity that deliberately murders Palestinian Arab children. Moreover, polls conducted in Europe have identified Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, greater than Iran and North Korea, Pakistan and Syria. The al-Dura hoax is one of the pillars on which these assumptions rely.
It is ironic that I, a private individual, had to lecture one of France’s most influential TV stations in order to demonstrate that a child cannot move; lift his head, arm, and leg; stare at the camera; and still be considered “dead” a good 10 seconds after the newscaster tells us “the child is dead.” One need only look at France 2’s own footage to realize that the “death” scene was faked.
My only objective was to correct this error. However, on the part of the French media, it turned into a titanic battle against critical thinking and freedom of thought and expression. On my part, it became a battle for the right not to be brainwashed by the French media. Only a few weeks ago, a French television station produced a documentary “proving” that the al-Dura story is authentic. First, I was compared to a Holocaust denier, and then to the fringe elements that insist that 9/11 was an inside job. I, and others who share my opinion about the story, including Richard Landes, were labeled dangerous extremists and fanatics. All the while, viewers observed the “dead” boy move exactly as I just described it. I can only conclude that, in France, it is critical thinking that is either dead or dying. Every French citizen should be complaining about this insult to our intelligence. In fact, very few complain because mass brainwashing works. Where are the angry letters to the station for its absurd documentary? Do the citizens of France now believe that a “dead” boy can move? Or have they merely forgotten how to think and draw their own conclusions?
The right to think, to speak, to evaluate, to accept, and to reject the conclusions of others goes to the very heart of what it means to be free.
Now it is time for France 2 to acknowledge that it created and is continuing to perpetuate the worst anti-Semitic libel of our era. It’s the responsibility of the French government and, ultimately, the responsibility of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy — who is, for all practical purposes, the chief executive of French public television — to finally reveal the truth