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Who killed Mohammed al-Dura? (english)
07 Sep 2003
The "martyrdom" death of 12-year-old Palestinian Mohammed al-Dura at the hands of Israeli soldiers – which received widespread international news coverage and spurred on the current intifada, inspiring countless "suicide bombers" to attack Israel – was actually a "staged" piece of street theater
The "martyrdom" death of 12-year-old Palestinian Mohammed al-Dura at the hands of Israeli soldiers – which received widespread international news coverage and spurred on the current intifada, inspiring countless "suicide bombers" to attack Israel – was actually a "staged" piece of street theater.
The entire world was transfixed as news broadcasts played the sensational video footage of the 12-year-old Palestinian boy and his father, pinned down in crossfire between Arab snipers and Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza's remote Netzarim junction on Sept. 30, 2000. The image of the boy crouching in terror behind his father, both of them struggling in vain to protect themselves from Israeli gunfire, only to be shot – the boy apparently dying in his father's arms – became immortalized in posters that were later plastered up and down the streets of the West Bank and Gaza.
Although the Israeli military initially assumed responsibility for the incident, it soon became apparent that the IDF could not have shot the boy, due to a large barrier between the Israeli military outpost across the remote junction and the location of the boy and his father.
Now, a just-completed, long-term journalistic investigation conducted in France concludes that the Mohammed al-Dura affair was actually a piece of Palestinian theater – similar to the dramatic Palestinian funeral processions last April after the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp. During that public spectacle, a martyred "corpse" twice fell off the stretcher, only to hop back up and retake his place in the procession. The Palestinians had claimed 3,000 deaths in Jenin – the actual toll was 52.
The groundbreaking investigation and its conclusions are spelled out in "Contre-expertise d’une mise en scène" published by Éditions Raphaël, and translated into English for Whistleblower by Nidra Poller. In the book, Gérard Huber, a psychoanalyst and permanent Paris correspondent of the Israel-based Metula News Agency, reports on the investigation conducted by a team of journalists, including Huber and Stéphane Juffa, Metula's editor in chief.
"What really happened at Netzarim junction?" asks Huber. "One thing is certain: Given the position of the protagonists during the firefight it is impossible that the child was hit by Israeli bullets. Mohammed al-Dura was not killed by Israelis. And the bigger question remains: Was Mohammed really killed?"
Whistleblower cites stunning reports of Palestinians playing to the camera, including Israeli commentator Amnon Lord's account of the larger scene at Netzarim Junction when al-Dura was supposedly shot to death. He describes "incongruous battle scenes complete with wounded combatants and screeching ambulances played out in front of an audience of laughing onlookers, while makeshift movie directors do retakes of botched scenes."
Palestinian journalist Sami El Soudi echoes Lord's observation, who discloses that "Almost all Palestinian directors take part more or less voluntarily in these war commissions, under the official pretext that we should use all possible means, including trickery and fabulation, to fight against the tanks and airplanes the enemy has and we don’t. … Our official press reported 300 wounded and dead at Netzarim junction the day when Mohammed was supposedly killed. Most of the cameramen there were Palestinians. … They willingly took part in the masquerade, filming fictional scenes, believing they were doing it out of patriotism. When a scene was well done the onlookers laughed and applauded."
"It is incredible," says Huber, "how many people were calmly filming the battle of Netzarim on September 30th, 2000. Not only professionals – some of them standing no more than ten meters away from the al-Dura incident – but amateurs as well.
"The rushes [video clips] are full of surprising incongruities: Children smile as ambulances go by. A 'wounded' Palestinian collapses and two seconds later an ambulance pulls up to take him to the hospital. It looks as if the driver had been cued in, knew in advance where the Palestinian was going to fall, or was waiting in the upper right hand corner just out of the photographic field ready to zoom in on signal (there is a scene like this in the France 2 report.)
"In another rush we are startled to hear a Palestinian shouting: 'It's a flop! We have to do the whole thing over again!'"
The French close ranks
Even more disconcerting, says the Whistleblower report, is the fact that France 2, the news organization that broke the story of Mohammed al-Dura's supposed "martyrdom" at the hands of Israeli soldiers, adamantly refuses to release all the raw footage taken by its Palestinian cameraman. For instance, journalist Charles Enderlin, who narrated the original story of the shooting, claims his employer, France 2, holds onto images of the child’s death throes – which he says he took out of his report for ethical reasons – because they were just too terrible to view.
To this day, says Huber, it remains unproven whether Mohammed al-Dura is dead or alive.
Meanwhile, every French television station to this day refuses to broadcast a film by German director Esther Schapira, titled "Three Bullets and a Child: Who Killed the Young Mohammed al-Dura?" Nominated for best TV documentary in Germany, it also concludes Israelis did not kill the boy. Although she understands why the Palestinians are not interested in further investigation, Schapira, a staff filmmaker for German public television, wonders why the West should be so resistant to a solid, impartial investigation.
And French author and Whistleblower translator Nidra Poller asks some probing questions about the French media's behavior:
"Of course the Palestinians won't allow any investigation on the evidence they hold," Poller tells Whistleblower. "However, France 2 is not the Palestinians. It is a public service TV station in a democratic country. And Huber makes a convincing case for the collusion of France 2 in this stunt.
"How is it possible that France 2 refuses to cooperate with the investigation? If they have nothing to hide, wouldn't it be to their interest to come forth, even partially? Would the American media sit back and allow this kind of enormous question to remain in the box? If CNN cheats, does Fox News back them up? Well, that's what happens in France."
"The truth," says Huber in the Whistleblower report, "is, first of all, that the child shown on the screen is not dead. He plays dead."
But what about Mohammed al-Dura's funeral?
"The badly wounded corpse of a child was shown by doctors at the Shifa hospital in Gaza," says Huber. "[That] child was dead, but he is not the child seen in the famous TV newscast."