Fisking Rachel Shabi: How Dare the Israelis Suggest Palestinians Lied!

Cross posted by Richard Landes 

When the Guardian came out with their first article on the Israeli report on Al Durah, I thought that even though it was done by Harriet Sherwood, it was fairly neutral. I should have known that CiF would deliver the goods. Below the reaction of Rachel Shabi, with fisking.

dura“So low?” Lots of people and lots of governments have faked deaths. It’s not a particularly heinous or rare phenomenon. But wait, the Palestinians have done much worse: they’ve killed their own children and then made a media circus of trying to blame Israel.

Or wait, maybe the Israeli accusation of fakery is itself the indication of a horrifying new nadir. An Israeli report has concluded that Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian whose death in 2000 in Gaza was captured by a French public TV channel, was not killed by Israelis – and may in fact not be dead at all.

Back then, a short film of Muhammad and his father, both caught in a shootout, trying helplessly to shelter against a barrage of gunfire, was narrated by French Channel 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin and relayed around the world, turning the boy into a symbol of the brutality of the second intifada and the Israeli occupation. Now, Israel says those same images are yet more proof of a global campaign to delegitimise Israel – and are, additionally, attempts to invoke the blood libel.

Not invoke… deploy. If you look at the particularly vigorous life of all kinds of blood libels in the wake of Al Durah, from the extensive TV Ramadan series (2005) to the new variants on the old European variety (Muslim blood for Purim Humantashen in addition to Passover matzah), the blood libel is in the cognitive bloodstream of the Arab world.

And so begins another ugly bout of the endless propaganda disease that is so endemic to this conflict. Israel is reported to have killed 1,397 Palestinian children not involved in hostilities since the start of the second intifada, according to the NGO Defence for Children International in Palestine, but there are no investigations into their deaths because none have been as emblematic as Muhammad.

I’m in favor of an investigation of all of them, but I doubt that many of these statistics will hold up to scrutiny. B’tselem, whose figures are considerably lower, itself has a serious reliability problem. In any case I’m willing to bet that (had we serious evidence) we would find:

  • that the number is greatly inflated by including older teenagers (16-17) who are often combatants
  • that in no case were any of those children deliberately murdered (as Talal Abu Rahma explicitly accused Israel of doing)
  • that some of them were killed by Palestinians as herehereherehere, and here (not to mention honor-killings)
  • that a goodly number were killed in situations where their lives were deliberately endangered by Palestinian combatants firing at Israel from behind them

There is perhaps no society on earth with as dark a history of promoting a child death cult, sacrificing its children, encouraging its children to seek death, praising those who die, than the Palestinians. Any serious investigation here will not go well for the Palestinians, who systematically, indeed ghoulishly exploit the children whose deaths they cause.

kid killed by hamas

Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil and Hamas Chief Haniya kissing a baby killed by Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli children.

Shabi:

Those images of his terrified face seconds before his death were relayed around the world and are now burned into so many hearts: there are postage stamps of him, parks and streets named after him and screen-grab posters of that terrible moment raised on roads across the Arab and Muslim world.

And the most likely explanation for the terror is that Palestinian marksmen were firing bullets over their heads (but very close). Their expressions suggest that this was not what they had signed up for.

1st-bullet-a1

The opening scene: the circular cloud over their heads indicates a bullet from head on, not from a 30 degree angle (i.e., from the Israeli position)

Shabi:

This investigation, commissioned by Binyamin Netanyahu last year, seems intended only to give fuel to rightist Israel supporters – any report seeking to get closer to the truth might have bothered to speak to Muhammad’s father, or Enderlin, or France’s Channel 2. Instead, what this document provides is spin and no new evidence. It has cued a flood of commentary, about lying Palestinians and a hostile foreign media, from rightwing Israeli commentators.

Is it to be ignored because it gives fuel to those who think that Palestinians systematically lie in their cognitive war against Israel (something easily documentable), and that the foreign media is hostile, specifically in their predilection for passing on Palestinian accusations, no matter how unsupported by the evidence – as real news to their audiences back home? If it’s not your take on matters, not interested?

If my take needs Al Durah as a symbol of Israeli brutality, I don’t care if its been faked, it’s true. If the Israelis paint Al Durah as a symbol of Palestinian malevolence and journalistic incompetence, they must be lying.

Shabi:

But what stands out, yet again, is the disregard for anything Palestinians might have to contribute to the story. In effect, this report is saying to Palestinians: your words, your pain and your losses are insignificant, erasable bumps in this narrative.

First of all, Palestinian testimony in this affair is ludicrous. Talal Abu Rahma has been caught in a continuous string of false statements and sly retractions. The other “witnesses,” whose testimony Enderlin bizarrely submitted to court, talk of helicopter gunships that never were.

Secondly, given that Palestinians systematically try to weaponize their pain against Israel, even when other Palestinians directly caused it (see above and below), it’s really a bit much for you to get indignant when someone tries to call a halt to the charade.

YE Mideast Israel Palestinians

Jihad Masharawi

Jihad Masharawi, BBC reporter, holding his baby, almost certainly killed by an errant Hamas rocket. I feel the pain, I just can’t get behind the way that it’s used to scapegoat Israel for Palestinian brutality.

Shabi:

It is no wonder that Muhammad’s father, Jamal al-Dura, has said: “What saddens me is that I feel alone in the face of the Israeli propaganda machine …”, going on to lament a lack of support from either the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or the Hamas government in Gaza.

I would take that as a sign that even the PA and Hamas aren’t willing to take this one on. “Everyone” – even (or especially) the Palestinian elites know this is a fake.

Shabi:

With this investigation, Israel’s government exposes its obsession with trying to win the propaganda war, as though this will magically make everything OK. Netanyahu has called the al-Dura incident part of the “ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel”. But the problem is that nothing could possibility delegitimise Israel more than its prolonged and oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people – the escalating deaths;

Escalating? Actually deaths in this conflict are exceptionally low. You want “escalating deaths” try Syria next door, where in less than three years more people have been killed (70,000) than in the entire Arab-Israeli conflict over 65 years.

media-vs-casualty-footprint

Shabi:

…the daily, grinding humiliation.

metro2

Ladies in a Gaza supermarket, humiliated in their open air prison.

Shabi:

The longer it continues, the more such attempts to obfuscate or detract from this reality – rather than bring about its end – will only make matters worse.

This is not reality that you’re talking about. This is a constructed lethal narrative, supported by statements that fly directly in the face of reality. (E.g., the Palestinians under occupation have the highest life expectancy, lowest infant mortality, and highest rate of higher education, than any other Arabs in the Middle East, except Israeli Arabs). Your article just illustrates the kind of reality-defying narrative that suits your purposes, the very epitome of the Al Durah Journalism that the Israeli report critiques.

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’:

goldberg

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.”

place-de-la-republique-cropped

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.

Why any Israeli can be murdered by Palestinian terrorists, as explained by Chris McGreal

A guest post by Richard Millett

Meet Abu Jindal and Abu Nizar. Up until fairly recent times they might have been fixing cars for Israelis. Nizar’s father even “had good things to say about the Israelis he knew”.

But those days are long gone and now Nizar, the son, has little problem with the rockets he fires into Israel causing civilian casualties “such as the three who died…from rockets fired from Gaza in recent round of fighting.” For Nizar “there is no such thing as a civilian on the other side.”

So what makes it so easy for Nizar and Jindal to murder innocent Israeli men, women and children?

Judging from Chris McGreal’s piece, ‘Gaza’s cycle of aggression shapes new generations more militant than the last’, published in the Guardian on Nov. 23, it’s all Israel’s fault with Nizar and Jindal having little, if any, responsibility for their terrorist activities.

McGreal describes the evidently violent childhoods that led to Nizar and Jindal firing rockets from Gaza and, possibly, murdering the three above-mentioned ‘civilians’ Ahron Smadga, Yitzchak Amselam and 25 year-old Mira Scharf in Kiryat Malachi. Scharf was pregnant.

Sickeningly, McGreal allows Nizar and Jindal the space in his piece to excuse themselves as mere victims, the implication being that the real criminals were Smadga, Amselam, Scharf and Scharf’s unborn child who weren’t “civilians”.

Incidentally, Scharf had recently returned to Israel to give birth and to attend the memorial service of her friends the Holtzbergs who were murdered in the 2008 Mumbai massacre. They all died on the same day of the Hebrew calendar four years apart.

Jindal and Nizar belong to the terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and McGreal’s piece attempts to evoke much sympathy for them. Jindal is quoted by McGreal, thus:

“The Israelis have always killed children in Gaza. They came here to kill children during this [latest] war. Our children see it.”

Nizar claims his school friends “were killed by an Apache helicopter”.

Even McGreal, not content with merely evoking Israeli “machine gun fire” which “shreds Palestinian homes”, adds the following:

“[Palestinian children] worshiped ‘martyrs’, whether they were suicide bombers who killed Israelis on buses in Jerusalem, armed men fighting Israeli soldiers, or the children shot at their school desks in Gaza by Israeli gunfire.” (my emphasis)

Neither Nizar’s school friends shot from the sky, nor McGreal’s school children shot at their school desks are named. No evidence is offered. The unsubstantiated accusations are just thrown in.

In case the reader doesn’t quite understand that these are attempted justifications for Jindal and Nizar slaughtering innocent Israelis McGreal decides to import two old Guardian pieces of his. These give the views of two child psychologists in an attempt to help solidify the images of Jindal and Nizar as helpless victims.

In the piece from 2004 Usama Freona claimed “The levels of violence children are exposed to is horrific…Most of them were crying and shaking when they were speaking about their experiences”. In the 2009 piece Dr Abdel Aziz Mousa Thabet claimed that due to the traumatising effect of violence on children “they become fighters”.

The possibility that these two vile terrorists might be committed to the destruction of Israel and murder of its Jewish inhabitants on purely ideological grounds isn’t considered by McGreal.

Incredibly, McGreal’s piece on Dr Thabet still describes 12 year-old Mohammed al-Dura as being shot dead by Israeli gunfire despite overwhelming evidence produced over the years disproving that particular allegation and the even more insidious charge that the boy was actually targeted by the IDF.

McGreal is obviously keen in prolonging this blood libel.

McGreal admits that Palestinian children are sometimes taught in their schools and mosques to despise Jews but he sees that, mainly, as an excuse used by Israelis to absolve themselves of blame for why each generation of Palestinians seems more militant and violent.

Abu Nizar concludes, thus:

“The end of Israel is getting closer”.

By the way, next week The Guardian will be running a full-page piece on McGreal’s interview with two Al Qaida “fighters”. The “fighters” explain why they are at ease with their fellow Islamists slaughtering 52 British citizens in the London bus and tube bombings of 2005 and why, for them, there is no such thing as a British civilian.

Or, maybe, The Guardian won’t run it.

Maybe for The Guardian only the slaughter of innocent Israeli men, women and children (and unborn babies) can be explained with such apparent ease: No Israeli is a civilian. No Israeli is an innocent victim.

Yitzchak Amsalam, Ahron Smadga and Mira Scharf

The Guardian links Abu Rahma to the Al-Durra affair

A guest post by AKUS

The death of Jawaher Abu Rahma following the demonstration at Bil’in has given Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian an opportunity to try her hand at following the Guardian’s ignoble role in the Al-Durra and Jenin “massacre” libels.

As everyone following events in the Middle East knows, a woman named Jawaher Abu Rahma died at a Ramallah hospital last week. That is the one apparently indisputable fact. Everything else is either under investigation or assumption. The IDF has said that it has information that she died of other medical complications. “She most probably died as a result of other complications, combined with problems in the medical care she received at the Palestinian hospital,” the IDF’s commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon said.  The Palestinians and their supporters have rushed to claim that she died as a result of inhaling tear gas. In many versions of the Palestinian claims, which seem to have now been dropped, the IDF was accused of using a special kind of tear gas that affected (only) her.

There is an immense amount of conflicting information available.

Rather than waiting to see what might actually have happened, the Guardian, as usual, has rushed to judgment. A long article by Sherwood lists every statement by various Palestinians to accuse Israel of sole responsibility for this woman’s death. She includes statement by the Liar-in-Chief Saeb Erekat, whose claim of a massacre in Jenin fed reports for weeks in the Guardian before it was totally disproved, that this was a “war crime” and links to medical records that a family member provided.

Linking Abu Rahma to Al Dura

But the hasty judgment is not the only issue. The Guardian takes the space and trouble to link this latest event to the Al Dura affair, in which it played a major role in presenting “facts” that were later disproved.

Sherwood claims that  “that unnamed Israeli military sources told Yedioth Ahronot: “This is the new Muhammad al-Dura story and an attempt to delegitimise Israel.” (If they can find this unnamed source I hope they demote him to the ranks as a lesson that IDF “sources” should not be talking to the press as they seem to have no idea of the damage they do to Israel). This allows the Guardian to revive its version of the Al-Durra libel over four paragraphs at the end of her article.

Continue reading

Jawaher Abu Rahma – the manipulation of a tragedy

Whenever and however someone dies, it is always a tragedy which comes too soon for loved ones left behind. Unfortunately, there are those who appear to be intent upon making political capital from the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma last weekend.

The ‘Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee’, and its media co-ordinator Joseph Dana, put out a statement on their website denying Monday’s reports in the Israeli media regarding preliminary investigations into Jawaher’s death, including witness statements and medical documentation.

We will, likely, never know what really caused Jawaher Abu Rahma to die because a post-mortem was not carried out. The many conflicting reports both from witnesses and members of the family, as well as medical staff, only add to the confusion.  Some say that she attended the demonstration whilst others insist that she was half a kilometre away. Some suggested that she had underlying medical conditions whilst others claimed not.

The apparent refusal of the family to carry out a post-mortem examination means that the truth regarding both her general health and the actual cause of death will never come to light and it is therefore possible for politically motivated elements to continue to try to make capital from this incident.

What we do know, however, is that contrary to claims made in many media outlets and by political figures from the very top of the Palestinian Authority downwards, Jawaher Abu Rahma was not ‘murdered’ or ‘killed’. At worst, if connected to the demonstration at all, her death was accidental.

Reports issued by the protesters themselves claim that there were 1,000 people at the demonstration that day and yet they do not appear to have a plausible explanation for the fact that others were unharmed by the tear gas. If indeed Ms. Abu Rahma was located half a kilometre away from the clashes, and especially if on a hill, as claimed by some witnesses, issues such as the density of the gas –which is heavier than air – and its subsequent ability to travel such a distance without dissipating (particularly as it was raining that day and water is one of the recommended means of neutralising the effects of tear gas) come into question.

Continue reading

The al-Dura hoax, and a true hero of our time

This is cross posted by David Solway at Front Page Magazine:  (For more background on the al-Dura hoax, see Richard Landes’s blog, Augean Stables.)

 

Philippe Karsenty

 

 

In 1839, the Russian novelist Mikhail Lermontov published A Hero of our Time, the tale of a melancholy romantic by the name of Grigory Pechorin. In the preface to the book, Lermontov explains that his protagonist is “a portrait, but not of one man. It is a portrait built up of our own generation’s vices.” Pechorin is presented as a self-indulgent cynic, prone to bouts of dejection, world-weariness and pre-Existential nihilism. “What do I expect from the future?” he asks, and replies, “nothing at all.”

It was my great privilege to meet recently another kind of “hero of our time,” one who has nothing in common with Pechorin with whom he differs in two crucial ways. To begin with, he most certainly is not a representative figure of our pusillanimous epoch but a singular presence, very much in the courageous mold of Geert Wilders, who holds the era to account. And secondly, there is nothing of the cynic about him; on the contrary, he is a man notable for his sense of justice, crusading energy, and his belief in the eventual triumph of the truth—a man who expects everything from the future.

I’m speaking of Philippe Karsenty, who delivered a talk in Montreal on October 13 of this year dealing with the infamous Mohammad al-Dura hoax perpetrated by France 2 TV. Karsenty, deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine and director of the Paris-based analysis firm Media-Ratings, has become justly celebrated as the man who single-handedly defied the entire French media, political establishment and intellectual synod which closed ranks to defend the official version of what happened on September 30, 2000 at the Netzarim junction in Gaza. The episode and its aftermath are by this time widely known, but a brief recapitulation would not be out of place.

Jamal al-Dura, a native of Gaza, and his 12-year-old son Mohammad, were filmed supposedly caught in a crossfire between Palestinian operatives and Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim junction, approximately five kilometers from Gaza City. According to Israeli-French journalist Charles Enderlin, France 2 TV’s Jerusalem correspondent who edited and narrated the clip, and his cameraman Talal Abu Rhama who bore witness to the event, the Israelis deliberately targeted the two victims for a full forty-five minutes, wounding the father and killing the son. An expurgated version of the film circulated around the globe, and the international media, with scarcely an exception, condemned the Israelis as child killers. With the collusion of the Western press, the Palestinians had invented yet another martyr to grace their faux hagiography.

Indeed, it did not take long before Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish published his Requiem for Muhammad al-Dura, a piece of versified hogwash which became an instant hit and continues to this day to resonate. “Mohammad,” Darwish writes, “hunters are gunning down angels, and the only witness/is a camera’s eye…” Postage stamps commemorating the event were issued throughout the Islamic world, monuments were erected, the Second Intifada which had only just begun took on a second wind, journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in revenge and Israeli citizens were murdered in the streets by Palestinian suicide bombers. No one doubted the official story of Israeli barbarism and Palestinian innocence. Even the Israeli political and military establishment did not contest world opinion and issued a hurried apology. But there was a serious problem with the universally accepted transcript of the “firefight.” The only significant “shooting” was done by the camera crew.

Continue reading