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Monday, December 6 2004

The mythical martyr

In the Wall Street Journal Europe on Nov. 26, Stephane Juffa brought additional evidence that the entire Mohammad al-Dura affair was a complete hoax.

To read the article, click below.

The Mythical Martyr

By Stephane Juffa
1,874 words
26 November 2004
The Wall Street Journal Europe
(Copyright (c) 2004, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

The first thing that comes up when you google Mohammed al-Durra's name is a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates called "To the soul of the child martyr." It gives an idea of the mythical proportions that the young boy has assumed in the Middle East. The images of Mohammed al-Durra hiding from Israeli fire behind his father's back in the early days of the second intifada, only to be struck down by enemy bullets, shocked the whole world. For many Arabs and Muslims, the boy became the symbol of Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.

On the Palestinian Authority's TV channel, as well as in Palestinian school books, his example is used to encourage other children to emulate his spirit of sacrifice. Even in the West, the pictures that won so many journalism prizes have become the most recognizable symbol of Israeli aggression. When Ehud Barak, then Israel's prime minister, visited Paris in the same year, French President Jacques Chirac wryly scolded him. "Killing children is no policy."


And yet, it was nothing but a hoax. For those readers who recognize the famous image reproduced here, it might be difficult to believe that the scene was actually staged. (see accompanying illustration -- WSJE Nov. 26, 2004) I will elaborate later how it has been proven that Israeli soldiers could not have killed the boy. Some might ask why it still matters. Haven't too many innocent people on both sides died since then, and is it not time to look ahead now?

Well, it matters for exactly those same reasons. Mohammed al-Durra became more than just the poster boy of the intifada. According to the Mitchell report, drafted in May 2001 by a joint U.S.-European committee, this story was one of the events that sparked the intifada. For peace we need reconciliation and for reconciliation we need the truth. But French state-owned TV channel France 2, which produced and distributed the damning footage, refuses to release the facts.

The story began on Sept. 30, 2000, two months after Yasser Arafat walked out of the Camp David peace talks. The place was Netzarim junction in Gaza, where Israeli soldiers were posted to protect a nearby settlement. Palestinian rioters were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israelis while gunmen were shooting at them from amidst the crowd. It was during this fighting that the boy allegedly died.

Claiming they didn't want to make money on an innocent child's death, France 2 distributed the dramatic coverage free of charge to the global media. The Israeli army hastily issued a statement saying that the boy may have accidentally been killed in Israeli cross-fire. Only later, maybe too late, did the army authorize a full investigation. It entrusted this mission to civilian physicist Nahum Shahaf, who scientifically proved that -- given the angle of the Israeli position vis-a-vis Mohammed al-Durra -- the soldiers could not have possibly killed the boy. Mr. Shahaf then uncovered an incredible plot: He demonstrated that since the shots must have come from directly behind or next to the cameraman, the whole scene of the supposed infanticide must have been staged -- and that the boy seen in the film was not killed at all. Going through the film in slow motion, he could even see the cameraman's finger making a "take two" sign, used by professionals to signal the repeat of a scene.

Three years ago I interviewed Mr. Shahaf, and after viewing all his evidence I realized that this might be one of the greatest media manipulations the world has ever seen. We started our own investigations and wrote over 150 articles on the issue, concluding that the French report is, beyond any reasonable doubt, pure fiction.

We can't cite all the evidence that we were able to uncover on top of Mr. Shahaf's findings. But to give just one example: We have the testimonies of Dr. Joumaa Saka and Dr. Muhamad El-Tawil, two Palestinian doctors of the Gaza Shifa hospital who said Mohammed's lifeless body was brought to them before 1 p.m. The problem is that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 correspondent in Jerusalem, claimed in the disputed report that the shooting started at 3 p.m. How can someone be killed by bullets that were fired hours after he was already dead? This is only one of the many questions that the French state TV channel needs to answer.

In our battle with France 2, we have focused on the statements of the two journalists who filed the report. In order to fully appreciate them, it is important to realize that the pictures themselves do not actually provide any evidence for the charges raised against Israel. No Israeli soldier, no weapon (Israeli or otherwise), no strike, no wounds and no blood, not a drop, can be seen. That's despite claims by official Palestinian sources that Mohammed was killed by three high velocity bullets, and Jamal al-Durra -- the father -- wounded by nine.

What turned these images into a modern blood-libel against Israel was only Mr. Enderlin's voice-over. Even though Mr. Enderlin was not in Gaza when the alleged killing happened, he tells the viewers with great confidence that the "shooting comes from the Israeli position. One more volley and the kid will be dead."

Possibly in order to compensate for the lack of real evidence in their film, the two authors of the report, Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma (who works for France 2 and CNN) and Mr. Enderlin, a French-Israeli journalist, provided supporting statements. Mr. Abu Rahma did so in October 2000 in a written testimony -- under oath -- in the office and presence of attorney Raji Surani in Gaza. (The statement can be found on the Web site of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights: Mr. Abu Rahma describes in great detail the alleged killing of the boy by Israeli soldiers. The words that particularly caught our attention were the following: "I spent about 27 minutes photographing the incident which took place for 45 minutes."

The importance of this sentence is twofold: First, Mr. Abu Rahma said he has 27 minutes of footage while France 2 had previously only shown about 55 seconds of film and later released about three minutes and 26 seconds of material to the Israeli army. This is of enormous significance as the additional material could help shed more light on this story. One of the most bizarre aspects of this affair is that among the hundreds of people present at the scene, including dozens of other cameramen, only Talal Abu Rahma claimed to have actually witnessed the alleged killing of the boy and managed to catch it on film.

Second, Mr. Abu Rahma gravely raised the charges when he said the incident lasted for three-quarters of an hour. Before his statement, it could have been argued that the boy might have been unfortunately caught in cross-fire. But for 15 Israeli servicemen to single out a harmless small boy and fire at him for 45 long minutes -- that's a war crime.

Mr. Enderlin added his own colorful detail, saying the 27 minutes of rushes contain pictures of the child's agony that are too graphic to be shown to the world. "I cut the child's death throes. It was too unbearable. The story was told, the news delivered. It would not have added anything more," he told the French monthly Telerama in October 2000.

For years we have pleaded with France 2 to let us view the additional pictures. We are senior pressmen living in a troubled area, certain we could endure the "unbearable" pictures. We sent numerous registered letters, made phone calls and repeatedly suggested to compare our findings with the France 2 report. But to no avail. France 2 would not let us see its footage.

The French TV channel's obstructionism and our own investigation led us to the conclusion that the additional footage did not exist. We were so certain that we even published several articles to this effect. However, it took until Oct. 22 of this year before France 2 finally caved in. Following massive political pressure, the state-owned channel was forced to invite Luc Rosenzweig, a former chief editor of Le Monde and one of our contributors, to view the ominous rushes. On that Friday, Mr. Rosenzweig, together with Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of L'Express, and Daniel Leconte, a former France 2 reporter, was admitted into the office of Arlette Chabot, the head of France 2's news department. Our friend delivered the sentence we had rehearsed so many times: "I came to watch the 27 minutes of the incident mentioned in Mr. Abu Rahma's statement under oath."

A legal clerk for France 2 told Mr. Rosenzweig and his colleagues that they "will be disappointed." "Didn't you know ?" added Didier Epelbaum, an adviser to the president of France Television (the department presiding over all French state-operated TV networks) "that Talal has retracted his testimony?"

No, they did not know. How could they since neither the French channel nor the Palestinian cameraman ever made that public? It is incredible how France 2 so nonchalantly admitted that their star witness, well, their only witness to the alleged killing, retracted his accusations. Without this testimony there is no story, and yet the channel refuses to make any of this public.

The 27 minutes of footage that the three journalists were finally allowed to see didn't contain a single new relevant scene, except for one that showed the child in a different death position from the one shown before. So the child moved after he was presumably dead? The unbearable images of the child's death that Mr. Enderlin rhapsodized about? A mirage, a total invention, worthy of Scheherazade, the storyteller of "The Arabian Nights."


So I keep asking France 2 three questions:

-- How is it possible that, after having been caught giving false testimonies, Messrs. Abu Rahma and Enderlin are not only still working for the public TV channel but are still covering, often together, the Israeli-Arab conflict?


-- How is it possible that France 2 has not yet informed the public of the significant new developments in the Mohammed al-Durra case? This would be standard behavior for any responsible media organization. By refusing to do so, France 2 is violating even its own ethical code.

-- And most importantly, how is it possible that France 2 still stands by this story even though it knows it was filmed by someone who gave a false testimony and who, by retracting this testimony, effectively eliminated the whole basis of the report? For four years, France 2 has been holding the "27-minute footage," pretending it contained crucial evidence, knowing full well though that both of their journalists simply lied. France 2 must be held responsible for this manipulation, first for issuing this fabrication and then for not coming clean.


Mr. Juffa is editor in chief of the Israeli-based Metula News Agency.



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» The Mythical Martyr from In Context
IMRA just brought this story to my attention. It's also been linked and/or discussed here, here and here, but not too many other places, apparently.... [Read More]

» The Mythical Martyr from In Context
IMRA just brought this story to my attention. It's also been linked and/or discussed here, here and here, but not too many other places, apparently.... [Read More]

» The al-Durra Hoax from Solomonia
Lynn B. points to a Wall Street Journal story (reprinted here, at Backspin, regarding the "Mythical Martyr," Mohammed al-Durra. He was the young Palestinian Arab boy supposedly killed by Israeli troops at the Netzarim Junction four years ago. The image... [Read More]



This story is pretty damning, and seems like it could be a potent tool in the hasbara campaign to counter the lies being spread against Israel. Any suggestions?

It would be interesting what were to happen should this and all orther articles showing the al-Dura Hoax be sent to all the major news outlets? My hunch is that the story would still be ignored and simply shoved into the conspiracy files. The Israeli gov't should start to make an issue of this and at the very least ask for an apology from France TV.

What he retracted was, presumably, the claim he filmed extra footage of the boy suffering. Not the claim that the boy was killed.

They demand too much based on the camera man's retraction.

Myself, I'm not convinced that a boy did not die. This sort of allegation needs more than a mix up in the hospital's documentation. I understand there is a little bit more to support this theory (tho this wasn't mentioned in this article) but it remains a conjecture.

There certainly was an exchange of gunfire (even if the film doesn't show any actual weapons). The Palestinians themselves, as I understand it, later admitted that Palestinian gunmen had been firing on the Israeli soldiers from several different positions.

There is good reason to believe the bullets which killed the boy were Palestinian bullets. Anyone viewing the film (not listening to the voice-over) is aware the boy and his father are caught in a cross-fire and might die.

Perhaps there really was no death and no injury. I doubt it. We can allow it as a conjecture but it cannot yet be regarded as a known and evident truth.

For example, Rabin's hospital records describe gunshots in a place where they could not have been. Conspiracy theorists make much of that. The hour of his admittance to hospital may have been written wrong too. Does that mean Rabin didn't really die?

I understand your point. I never believed that this story was all that it seemed, who goes car shopping when all evidence shows that the fighting was well underway before he supposedly left with his son to look at a car.

It is not logical to go looking for a car during a firefight, but it is logical that if you want to stage yet another farce to use to slaughter Jews in Israel, taking your child to where the gunfire is is the place to start.

Find out everything about what will prove to be one of the greatest scandals to rock the French government: the Al Dura controversy. Visit You can help by signing a petition in this site !

Following is the Press release on the Al Dura controversy, by the french National Union of the Communication and Audiovisual Personnel
The National Trade Union of the Audio-visual and Communication Personnel sent a petition to the France Presse (FP) Agency concerning the Al-Dura Case. The FP Agency does not seem willing to broadcast it, although it did relay the press conference of the Information Management of France Television on the same subject!

Twenty minutes to persuade

There’s a curious article published in the November 11, 2004 issue of "20 Minutes", a daily newspaper given out freely in subway stations in Paris, under the heading of "Benind the TV Scenes": "France 2* Fights Back Manipulation Rumors".

(* France 2 is a State-owned television station in France)

What is this about? The article in question states that "Arlette Chabot (Information Director at France 2) has closely studied each frame of the Al Dura footage, comparing the images of the boy and those of his father". In the next sentence, she concludes: "We’ll have to see if this will be enough to stop the rumor".

What is this rumor that has to be stopped? And are a few lines in a free newspaper enough to confirm this rumor?

Since Arlette Chabot has "closely studied each frame", how will the former prove the latter? She could at least explain! But no precision is given about these verifications.

Last week, Ms Chabot had hurriedly organized a press conference to "inform" about the France 2 report that "showed, live, the death of a young Palestinian, Mohamad Al Dura, supposedly killed by Israeli bullets while in the arms of his wounded father" (20 Minutes). But it is strange to see that a TV station, during a press conference called by it’s Information Director, denied access to some people it deemed undesirable. The station thus avoided any questions concerning this controversy either about the topic at hand, or about the station’s respect of it’s own charter.

As a public network, this station is particularly obligated to "give it’s viewers good information, therefore true information". Also, the Charter of duties of journalists (available on France Televisions websites) clearly states that "a self-respecting journalist is responsible for what he or she writes. He, or she, considers slander, proofless accusations, alteration of documents, manipulation of facts and lies as the most serious professional mistakes".

So why is it that a publication to be issued soon will deal only with the origin of the gunshots, without really looking into the whole controversy? Arlette Chabot, editor of that publication, declared on "Radio J": "It was impossible to be 100% sure where the gunshots came from".

It’s on this last point that a concerned citizen, trying to get to the truth, has complained to the State Council of France. He has a petition signed by 2000 people but has been unsuccessful in all his attempts to get to the heart of this matter.

That point was also probably what Roland Blum, representative for the Bouches du Rhône region, was about to ask the Government on November 8th when he wrote* : "I’m drawing the Culture and Communication Minister’s attention to the controversy involving France 2 concerning images, widely-circulated around the world since 2000, whose authenticity and interpretation are contested." That representative, elected by the French People, also wanted to ask the Minister "to verify if the facts reported by France 2, who later took back what it said, and by it’s reporter in Israel who supposedly showed the assassination of a Palestinian child by the Israeli military, are true. If they are not true, would the Minister inform the representative of the results of the inquiry that he would certainly have ordered".

(* Text of the question obtained on the Internet)

Finally, the representative wondered "if that TV report turns out to have been staged, the President of France Televisions and the Director of Information of France 2 will have to explain themselves about a possible media trickery".

As we can see, a Government representative can have questions, a well-respected weekly magazine (L’Express) can have enough doubts about this matter to put the story on it’s cover, but France 2 wants us to believe that only it has the "truth" and cries foul! France 2 even goes as far as filing a complaint against that concerned citizen who challenged them. It finds his text concerning the media invitation to be slanderous. It also says it could sue anyone who tries to question the professional integrity of it’s journalists!

Please, let’s be serious! Without going into details, after viewing the rushes on October 10, 2004, we now know that in the interview given to the magazine "Telerama" (October 25, 2000, n° 2650, page 10) by the journalist responsible for that TV report, his statement: "I cut the the part showing the agony of the child because it was unbearable", is completely false.

Therefore, there is a lot to say about the origin of the gunshots and the declarations made by Arlette Chabot on that matter. Even she says she cannot be 100% certain where the shots came from.

It is more than time to get to the truth. Since France 2 says it posesses all the elements that would "deny the rumor", why doens’t it show those elements to all the people who have raised doubts on the matter. An ad hoc committee could give it’s opinion on the images and the rushes that have started this controversy.

This would be the best way for those who will see these images to come to an undisputed conclusion and compare their findings to those of France 2. The TV station could then dispell the accusations. What does it have to lose?

Paris, November 24, 2004

if France 2 defamed and libeled "me" i would sue.
isn't it about time for the state of Israel to do the same? sue all media that knowingly publish
untrue stories slandering and libeling Israel.
when these so called news organizations start paying out millions in fines and penalties you will see them change their tune.

Le refus de devoiler toute la verite concernant cette calomnie anti-juive met de nouveau en question le droit et la capacite de la France en tant qu'arbitre impartial dans le conflit Israel- Palestiniens.

Prof. Dan Bradu
School of Statistics and Actuarial Science
University of the Witwatersrand
South Africa

Ce message represente mon opinion et n'engage pas
l'Universite du Witwatersrand

jeffrey lipson,

I think this is a great idea!!!

Why do you not make your own film about this story? I heard two years ago that the claim that this boy was alive and well but dismissed it as propaganda. It is important that the truth be told so that Palestinian lies can be seen for what they are.

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