November 14, 2007

Al Dura Video Shown in Court

Today was supposed to be a breakthrough day in the seven-year old story of the al Dura shooting. Richard Landes, writing yesterday at PJM, set it up.

When Talal abu Rahmah received an award for his footage of Muhammad al Dura in Morocco in 2001, he told a reporter, “I went into journalism to carry on the fight for my people.”

These remarks serve as an important prelude to considering the France2 rushes that will be shown in court in Paris on November 14 in the Enderlin France2 vs. Philippe Karsenty defamation case. These tapes were filmed by Talal abu Rahmah on September 30, 2000, and for seven years, Enderlin has claimed that the tapes prove him right and show the boy in such unbearable death throes that he cut them out of his report. But several experts who have seen the tapes (this author included) claim that the only scene of al Dura that Enderlin cut was the final scene where he seems alive and well; and still more disturbingly the rest of the rushes are filled with staged scenes. Indeed there seems to be a kind of “public secret” at work on the Arab “street”: people fake injury, others evacuate them hurriedly (and without stretchers) past Palestinian cameramen like Talal, who use Western video equipment to record these improvised scenes. Pallywood: the Palestinian movie industry.

Late Wednesday evening, Haaretz.com posted the first story I have seen on what actually went on in court today. It turns out only 18 minutes of video was produced for the court by France 2 TV, as opposed to the 27 minutes that the photographer claimed he shot at Netzarim Junction on 9/30/00. Here's the text of the Haaretz report:

PARIS - A French appeals court screened footage Wednesday 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 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 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.

In Israel, as the J-Post reports, some government officials are wishing the whole affair would go away, while others support Karsenty, and want to air it all out, believing that enough blood has already been shed for what they are convinced was a hoax. In the U.S., Jewish groups have asked visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pressure France 2 TV to be forthcoming with the evidence the judge has ordered them to produce.

al Dura links here

PJM's al Dura links and chronology

I await details of the courtroom scene from Nidra Poller and Richard Landes, who are no doubt all over it.

UPDATE 11/15: A report in the Spectator by Melanie Phillips, who was in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Nidra Poller suggests that the al Dura trial may have just had its "Rosemary Woods moment."

And Richard Landes thoughts are over at Augean Stables, complete with visual aids. One snippet:

I must admit, many people told me that Enderlin would doctor the tapes, and I didn’t believe them. “No,” I thought, “it’s one thing to lie to me and others in his office, but to the court, where he would surely get caught? He would not be that reckless…” Not.

Today Charles Enderlin presented in court the “rushes” of Talal abu Rahmah which the Judge had requested from him. And he presented an edited version in which he took out at least three minutes, and several scenes that I distinctly remember seeing. In the United States that’s called tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and perjury. In France, we’ll find out what it’s called.

Posted by dan at November 14, 2007 10:35 PM