March 4, 2005

For The Record

Cliff May says that Jacques Chirac and his French governmnent-owned TV station could clear up the question of who killed Mohammed al-Durra, but they don't seem to want to.

The image is as disturbing and iconic as any seen during the many decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Mohammed al-Durra, just 12 years old, caught in a cross-fire in Gaza, trembling against a wall, his father desperately attempting to shield him. And then, heartbreakingly, Mohammed al-Durra, shot and killed by Israeli gunfire.

His death, in September 2000, inspired poems -- and suicide bombings. According to the 2001 Mitchell report it was one of the events that set off the intifada.

A poster of Mohammed al-Durra is in the background of the video of the butchering of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Osama bin Laden used the boy's image in recruitment tapes and began a list of indictments against America by saying that President Bush "must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Durra and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq."

But there is something most people don't know about this story: It didn't happen the way I described it above. It may not have happened at all.

This is not a new revelation. Back in 2002, a documentary made by the German State Television station, ARD, concluded that Palestinian rather than Israeli gunfire must have killed the child. In June 2003, the veteran journalist James Fallows wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly presenting "persuasive evidence that the fatal shots could not have come from Israeli soldiers."

More recently, Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of the French newsweekly, L'Express, and documentary filmmaker Daniel Leconte, were permitted to review the raw, unedited video of the shooting. They reached the same conclusion. "The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position," Leconte told the Cybercast News Service (CBN). "If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner."

Posted by dan at March 4, 2005 1:54 AM