A blood libel is born: Fisking the Guardian’s original report about Mohammed Al Durah

Today, an Israeli Government Review Committee published a long-awaited report on the Mohammed Al Durah incident, determining that the Palestinian boy was in fact not harmed by Israeli forces and did not die in the exchange of fire on September 30, 2000 at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza.  

The Israeli committee arrived at the conclusion which had been reached by other serious observers who have studied the incident (and its tragic consequencesover the years: The incident was in all likelihood a hoax.

The report was released just three days before a French court is to rule on a defamation case involving the producer who broke the story for France 2, Charles Enderlin, and the French media analyst who accused Enderlin of fabricating the story, Philippe Karsenty.  (You can learn more about the background, evidence, and consequences of the Al Durah incident here.)

The following is my fisking of the original report in the Guardian on the Al Durah incident, written by Suzanne Goldenberg and published on Oct. 3, 2000 and titled ‘Making of a martyr':

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Suzanne Goldenberg begins her Oct. 3, 2000 Guardian account of an incident which had taken place three days earlier, near the Netzarim Junction in Gaza, ‘Making of a martyr’, thus:

“A circle of 15 bullet holes on a cinder block wall, and a smear of darkening blood. That is what marks the spot where a terrified 12-year-old boy spent his final moments, cowering in his father’s arms, before he was hit by a final shot to the stomach, and slumped over, dead. Those last minutes in the life of Mohammed al-Durrah, captured in sickening detail by a Palestinian cameraman working for French TV, have taken on a power of their own. His death, aired around the world on Saturday night, has become the single searing image of these days of bloody rioting.”

Goldenberg, as with nearly every journalist who reported on the incident, was relying entirely on a one minute, deceptively edited, France 2 video, as well as uncorroborated Palestinian “eyewitness” accounts.

While the the video purported to show the boy’s final moments – filmed by stringer named Talal Abu Rama, and which was cut by France 2 producer Charles Enderlin – the last few seconds showed a clearly alive boy lifting his hands and peeking out through his fingers and then slowly putting his arm down.

There is no video or still photos – despite the numerous journalists at the scene – of the boy being carried away in a stretcher, or being loaded onto an ambulance.

Additionally, despite claims that the IDF fired on the boy and his father for 40 minutes – which somehow only managed to produce a dozen or so bullet holes in the wall and barrel – and supposedly died of a stomach wound, it evidently didn’t seem odd to Goldberg that there was only a “smear” of blood?

Goldenberg:

“The pictures of Mohammed’s death seemed not just to encapsulate the horror of these last five days but also to have become its motor.

Though more Palestinians have been killed since Mohammed’s death – including a two-year-old yesterday – it is his image that haunts Israel. For all of the claims of the prime minister, Ehud Barak, and other officials that their soldiers only fire to protect Israeli lives, Mohammed’s death seems an irrefutable reply.”

Here, any semblance of objective reporting is shrewn to pieces. Not only in the last sentence of this passage is Goldberg determining Israeli guilt in the boy’s death, but imputing malice to the entire army – all based on 63 seconds of video.

Goldenberg:

“By the end of the weekend the evidence was pointing to a still more chilling conclusion: that the 12-year-old boy and his father were deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.”

The blood libel begins.

Goldenberg has now established – a mere four days following the incident – that the 12-year-old Palestinian child was deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.

“Caught in a burst of firing, the pair sought shelter behind a concrete water butt, about 15 yards to the east of the Palestinian post, diagonally opposite the Israeli position. The father gestured frantically towards the Israelis, as if pleading with them to stop firing. They did not.

They were cleaning the area. Of course they saw the father,” says Talal Abu-Rama, the camera man who watched the horror unfold. “They were aiming at the boy, and that is what surprised me, yes, because they were shooting at him, not only one time, but many times.”

Goldenberg takes the hideous claim that the IDF decided to fire mercilessly at a young boy until he was dead at face value, without even a hint of journalistic skepticism.  It didn’t occur to the Guardian journalist to ask why, if the  the camera man was filming for 40 minutes, there is no footage of the IDF shooting at the boy and his father, no footage of the Israeli position – and, thus, no evidence even demonstrating where the fire was coming from.

Goldenberg:

“The result of that salvo is visible on the cinderblock wall. Aside from the circle of bullet holes – most of them below waist level – the expanse of wall is largely unscarred. This appeared to suggest that the Israeli fire was targeted at the father and son.”

The ballistic tests had proved that the three bullets shown in the filmed sequence by Abu Rahma came from the Palestinian side and not from the Israelis. The bullets kicked up dust in a way that could not come from a 30-degree angle of a bullet shot against the wall behind the barrel. Furthermore, given the protection provided by the barrel, it would have been nearly impossible for the Israelis to have hit either father or son once, yet alone over a dozen times.

Goldenberg:

“Inevitably, the Israeli army version of Mohammed’s death is rather different.”

“Inevitably”? You can see her eyes rolling. Her mind was made up. Judgement was passed.

Goldenberg:

“Although the army expressed regret about the boy’s death, it said the soldiers in their armoured post had been under fire.”

The incident occurred on the Jewish New Year, so it took a few days for a proper investigation to get under way.

However, Nahum Shahaf, an Israeli physicist, later conducted a thorough investigation and concluded that the killing of Muhammad al-Durah was staged.

Goldenberg:

“Abu Rameh also believes it unlikely that the Israeli fire could have been directed further down the road from the water butt where the al-Durrahs sought shelter. “In that whole area, there was nobody except me, the boy and his father,” the camera man says.

“Whatever the truth about the circumstances surrounding his death, Mohammed’s terrified face has now entered the grim gallery of images that have come to symbolise – and often to powerfully influence – a conflict.

“Nothing good will come of this. We will have many more martyrs, and nothing will change.””

The image had a spectacular effect, inflaming Palestinian-and Israeli Arab-violence and justifying the Intifada  and the insidious use of suicide bombings, to the West.

There was a mass demonstration in Paris on Oct. 6, 2000.  There were large banners, including one indicating that a Star of David = a swastika = a picture of the father and the son behind the barrel, with ‘They kill children too‘ written over it. The crowd shouted ‘Death to the Jews’ and ‘Death to Israel’ for the first time since the Holocaust.”

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Goldenberg’s protagonist in the story, Abu-Rama, was correct about one thing: Nothing good would come of this media manufactured event, for Israel, Jews or the West.

‘Comment is Free’ contributor: Israeli leaders murder Palestinian children to score electoral points

Up to 37,000 people (mostly civilians) have been killed in the Syrian civil war since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted 20 months ago.

During the Libyan Civil War, roughly 15,000 were killed.

At least 846 Egyptians (mostly civilians) were killed during the Egyptian revolution – the 3 week uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Many were killed by  police forces “shooting protesters in the head and chest with live ammunition.”

Around 219 were killed during street protests in Tunisia. 

The death toll thus far in operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ has been 40 Gazans and 3 Israelis.

But, guess which country Egyptian ‘Comment is Free’ contributor  demonizes as vicious killers of Arabs?

In ‘Gaza is no longer alone‘, Soueif not only advances the insidious narrative that Israel’s operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ was launched by Netanyahu to win an election (a meme parroted by Guardian journalists Harriet Sherwood and Simon Tisdall) but characterizes the conflict as a “killing spree” inspired by Zionist blood lust.

Soueif writes the following, in a post which was highlighted at the Guardian’s ‘live blog’ on the conflict:

“Israel has always sold itself to the west as a democracy in a sea of fanaticism. The Arab spring has undermined that narrative, possibly fatally. So Israeli politicians have been pushing hard for a war against Iran and, in the interim, they’ve gone on a killing spree in Gaza.

If they had wanted to instigate violence against themselves they could not have done better than to assassinate Ahmed al-Jaabari, the Hamas commander who’s prevented attacks on Israelis for the past five years. With his killing they’ve raised the probability of these attacks resuming, as is happening now. They can then try to hijack the narrative of the Arab spring and wind the clock back to “Islamist terrorists v civilised Israelis”. Meanwhile, they take the heat off Bashar al-Assad’s murderous activities in Syria – and, of course, score hawkish points for Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak before the coming elections.

But they have served to remind the world that Israel is a democracy where politicians may order the murder of children to score electoral points. [emphasis added]

So, for Soueif, murdering Palestinian children is quite popular among the Jewish electorate.

The enormity of this smear – a staggering moral inversion which evidently was unchallenged by Guardian editors – is difficult to even fathom.

Speeches which literally call for the murder of every last Jew on earth have been made by Hamas leaders and other leading Islamist figures – calls for genocide which can be found on several reputable websites.

And, such extreme, homicidal antisemitism isn’t confined to Palestinian leadership, as suicide bombing, for instance, against Israeli civilians remains disturbingly popular among the Palestinian electorate.

In fact, after Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank butchered five members of the Fogel family in 2011 – brutally stabbing to death parents Udi and Ruth and their children aged 11, 4 and 3 months – there was celebrating on the streets of Gaza.

A Palestinian man distributes sweets in the streets of the southern Gaza town of Rafah to celebrate murder of five Israelis (Getty Images)

Not only is there no celebrating on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem when Israeli strikes against Hamas terror targets inadvertently injure or kill Palestinian civilians, but the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties during anti-terror operations.  This is one of the reasons why, according one leading British military expert, the ratio of civilian deaths to combatants killed in Gaza wars has been unprecedentedly low.

While there are no Israeli electoral benefits for causing Palestinian civilian casualties, you have to wonder which political crowd Guardian editors are trying to appease by sanctioning Soueif’s hideous smear against the Jewish state.

An unlikely endorsement of Israeli democracy at ‘Comment is Free’

Jamal Zahalka is an Arab citizen of Israel, and the member of a political party which opposes his state’s existence.

He has received a BA, MA and PhD at Hebrew University.

In April of 2006, after a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, during Passover, killed nine Israelis and wounded more than sixty, Zahalka met, not with families of the victims, but with top Hamas members, in a show of solidarity.

He and three of his colleagues visited Syria and Lebanon in September 2006, after the 2nd Lebanon War in a show of solidarity with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is an Iranian sponsored Shiite terrorist group in Lebanon whose goal is the establishment of an Islamic government across the Arab world. Their leaders have characterized Israel as a “cancerous entity” of “ultimate evil” whose “annihilation … is a definite matter”, and has called for the murder of Jews all over the world.

In 2009, Zahalka attended a pro-Hamas rally near the Gaza border, on the one year anniversary of Cast Lead, and accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of enjoying “…killing children in Gaza.”

In 2009, the Israeli Central Elections Committee accused the party which Zahalka belongs to of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Zahalka has also condemned Israel while speaking abroad in front of anti-Zionist groups, where he has called Israel an ‘apartheid’ state. He has also described the state as a “ethnocracy” and a nation which practices “racial colonialism”.

Yesterday, Nov.  4, Zahalka penned an essay at ‘Comment is Free’, calling for sanctions against Israel, which he characterized as a “racist”, “extremist” state that is suffering form an erosion in democracy. 

Oh, and one more thing.

Jamal Zahalka is an Israeli MK, and the leader of the Balad Party (National Democratic Assembly).

Imagine for a second what the reaction would be in the democratic US if a Congressman met with, and expressed support for, al-Qaeda figures or leaders of other proscribed terrorists groups committed to the destruction of the United States.  In fact, such acts are codified as treasonous in the Constitution, Article 3, which prohibits acts which have the effect of giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy.

The legal impunity Jamal Zahalka will continue to enjoy – the rights of citizenship, and special rights as an MK, afforded him by the very state whose existence he incites against – represents stubborn proof attesting to the continuing vitality of Israeli democracy.

Contrary to the illiberal politics in most of the Arab Middle East, democracy in Israel is thriving, and Jamal Zahalka is certainly using its full advantage.

Who’s afraid of the Jewish state? Guardian editorial derides Israel’s ‘enthusiasism’ for war

If the latest Guardian editorial about talk of war between Israel and Iran, ‘Israel and Iran: Lethal game of bluff‘, Aug. 14, represented your sole source of information about the conflict, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Iran is the largest exporter of terrorism on the planet.

And, more relevant to the debate over Iran’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons, you’d also be able to plead ignorance regarding the fact Iran has been engaging in proxy wars against Israel on its southern and northern borders for years, representing the chief supplier of arms and training for both Hamas (and Iran’s other terrorist clients in Gaza) and Hezbollah – the former of which has launched thousands of rockets into Israeli territory.

You’d also be given a pass for not realizing that Iran’s top political, military and spiritual leaders have explicitly called for the annihilation of the Jewish state – the latter going so far as to openly publish a religious decree (fatwa) justifying the murder of Israel’s six million Jews on, yes, religious grounds!

In other words, the Guardian would have you believe that it is the Jewish state, and not the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the military aggressor.

The strap line of the editorial says it all:

“The enthusiasm of Israel’s prime minister and defence minister for an air strike on Iran appears to have united their country’s defence and security establishment against them.”

The editorial begins, thus:

“The war drums have been beating – again – in Israel.”

Later, the editors write:

The enthusiasm of Israel’s prime minister and defence minister for an air strike on Iran… depends only partially on Iran’s alleged actions, and the latest US intelligence assessment that Tehran now possesses 170 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium, from which it is relatively easy to produce bomb-grade material. Barak is worried that so many centrifuges are being hidden underground that they will soon be out of Israel’s military reach. After that point, Israel will have to rely on a US president it suspects will never order an attack .” [emphasis added]

So, while it almost seems like the Guardian, by acknowledging Iran’s progress towards achieving a nuclear threshold, inadvertently admits the rationale for war, they then pivot to a rhetorical spin akin to mere sophistry.

“Barak’s case for an airstrike now is peppered with inconsistencies – not least the calculation that if Israel attacked, Iran would be rational enough not to retaliate against US military targets in the Gulf and hence the regional war everyone feared would not materialise…”

“…to take Barak’s war-gaming at face value, if Iran were rational enough to contain its response, it would prove that deterrence works for a state Netanyahu continues to describe as an irrational actor motivated by Messianism. If Barak is right, the deterrence of mutually assured destruction would work all the more if Iran acquired a bomb, particularly as Israel has several hundred of them.”

I’ll attempt to unpack this.

First, contrary to the Guardian’s suggestion, an Iran “rational enough” to contain its response (and not cause a regional war) now would likely be inspired in their restraint by the fact that they don’t, as yet, have the capacity to do any real damage to either Israel or its allies – a military calculus which would necessarily change if they were nuclear armed.  

Iran’s messianic desires are necessarily predicated upon the capacity for a truly apocalyptic  war with Israel, which would require the military capacity currently, as a non-nuclear power, beyond their reach.

In other words, it’s not inconsistent of Israeli leaders to assume that Iran may be rational enough to know their current military limits, though malevolent enough to still, in time, seek Israel’s annihilation.

The specious logic of the Guardian’s op-ed then devolves, however, into something much darker.

“Loud talk of an impending airstrike could be no more than an attempt to twist Washington’s arm.If it is, nothing should stiffen Barack Obama’s resolve to prevent it happening more than the thought that Netanyahu is not just playing politics in his own country but in America too. Netanyahu foolishly dares Obama not to cast his veto, because if he did, Mitt Romney his Republican challenger would make hay with the idea that the Democrat in the White House endangers Israel’s security. [emphasis added]“

In addition to evoking the caricature of a manipulative Jewish state attempting to push the world’s greatest superpower unwillingly to war, the suggestion that the Prime Minister of Israel is not truly concerned for the well-being, indeed survival, of this country, but is merely playing cynical politics is a classic example of the imperiousness which continually informs the Guardian’s view of Jerusalem.

There’s nary a word in their polemical assault on Israel acknowledging the staggering amount of rhetorical, moral and spiritual energy expended by Iran, and it’s anti-Zionist allies around the world, beating their chests, begging their creator for the chance to annihilate the Jews.  Islamic antisemitism is always, at the Guardian, the hatred that dares not speak its name.

Indeed, in the Guardian’s supreme moral inversion, what they feel “must be said” is that it’s not the Islamist reactionaries but, rather, the Jews who endanger peace, and lust for war.

As Efraim Karsh recently wrote:

“If prior to Israel’s establishment Jews had been despised because of their helplessness, they are now reviled because of their newly discovered physical and political empowerment.

For millennia, the Jewish people, in the words of the eminent philosopher Martin Buber, was a sinister, homeless specter. This people, which resisted inclusion in any category, a resistance which the other peoples could never become quite accustomed to, was always the first victim of fanatical movements and vile prejudice and branded as the cause of mass misfortunes.”

One need not be a political enthusiast of Binyamin Netanyahu to understand intuitively that there’s nothing “political” about the sober insistence of the current government in Jerusalem that a fanatical, racist movement which rises up against us can not be allowed the means to carry out their destructive designs.

Israel’s existence is a constant reminder that the Jewish people have categorically rejected the role which history has assigned to them as pitiful victim – the ethos of ‘Never Again’ in it’s most ethically urgent manifestation.