The story that drives the cartoon is the Mohammed al-Dura “martyrdom,” put in quotes because in all likelihood it never happened.
Enderlin’s voice-over told France 2 viewers that they were seeing footage shot by Abu-Rahma at Gaza’s Netzarim junction earlier that day. As images unfolded of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura cowering against his father, Enderlin stated the two are “the target of fire coming from the Israeli position. The child signals, but… there’s a new burst of gunfire… The child is dead and the father is wounded.”
France 2 then promptly gave the video – barely 55 seconds in length – free of charge to other media outlets. The image of the boy ostensibly shot dead by Israeli guns raced around the world. Coming as it did in the first days of the Palestinian uprising, the dramatic scenes playing continuously on television stoked the violence.
In Arab nations, al-Dura was quickly mythologized as an emblem of alleged Israeli cruelty, with streets, parks, stamps and newborns named after him. Videos recreated the event, some with calls for young people to seek “martyrdom” and paradise with al-Dura.
Not everything is known about the chaotic events at Netzarim and the circumstances of the al-Dura case, but certain things are.
First, the footage contains no evidence at all that Israeli soldiers shot al-Dura. Neither in the 55 seconds broadcast around the globe nor in the 27 remaining minutes filmed by Abu-Rahma are there any soldiers in view. It is not logistically possible that the Israeli soldiers present that day, barricaded inside a building across the intersection, could have shot the boy and his father, huddled behind a concrete barrel blocking the line of fire. As James Fallows wrote in an investigation of the case for The Atlantic Monthly (June 2003): “Whatever happened to him, he was not shot by the Israeli soldiers…”
There is a trial underway in France right now to determine what happened and whether France 2 purposely committed a blood libel against the Israelis.
The raw footage was not so raw. And it was barely al Dura. If we take the cameraman’s word for it, given under oath a few days after the incident, not something but everything is missing. This is supposed to be the raw footage of the al Dura death scene. What we get is raw footage of Palestinian youths throwing stones, firebombs, and burning tires at the Israeli outpost. And provoking no reaction, except for one teargas bomb. Real provocations alternate with those familiar fake battle scenes with instantaneous ambulance evacuations.
Judge Trébucq had asked Charles Enderlin to move back from center stage to a more modest position but he continued to assume the lead role, talking without interruption. Telling war stories. Making cultural interpretations. He sent his trusted cameraman to Netzarim Junction that day because seven Palestinians had been killed on the Temple Mount the day before. He expected protests….
The timeline reads 13 minutes 66 seconds. Enderlin explains: Talal switched off his camera and wraps it up. He had done his day’s work. When he turns it on again, the real shooting has begun. Enderlin’s voice is dramatic. He comments, as the camera searches. Real gunfire, Talal is trying to see where it is coming from, is it the Israeli position? No, is it the Palestinian… From the “twin towers?” The fortress?
Karsenty reminds him he said you can’t see the bullets coming out. Enderlin says you can see the tip of the barrel of the gun at the window.
Suddenly everything is confused. The timeline skips from 14’20 to 17’00. We see the beginning of the al Dura news report as it was broadcast. The avocat général fiddles with the controls, the image winds back, forward. We’re back at the interview. The commentary is confused. Is Charles Enderlin saying the fire was coming from the Palestinian positions?
Finally—it’s not clear how—we get to the al Dura footage. And all we see is what you got in the original September 30, 2000 broadcast. It’s spliced. But we recognize the details. Karsenty interrupts every few seconds to point out the anomalies. No blood. The boy is holding a red kerchief to make it look like blood. The soldiers were supposed to be firing at them for 45 minutes, the wall is intact, there are a few holes. Round holes, shot head on.
Charles Enderlin and Talal Abu Rahma have consistently claimed that the Israeli position was directly opposite the targeted man and boy. It is not true. Enderlin stands in front of the judge and says everything and the opposite about the positions. He does not reply to a single objection raised by Karsenty, raised by other analysts repeatedly over the past seven years: The father’s arm is intact, he claims he was hit nine times by high power bullets, his muscles smashed, his bones crushed. No blood on his white t-shirt. Voices in Arabic shout “the boy is dead! the boy is dead!” He is sitting next to his father, eyes wide open.
Charles Enderlin standing in a French court explains: Oh, that’s something cultural. In their culture, when they say “the boy is dead” they mean he is in danger of dying, that he is in a very dangerous situation, he might die. The judges smile.
We reach the end of the scene as it figured in news reports, the point where Charles Enderlin said, “Mohamed is dead, his father is critically wounded.” We might ask what that means in his culture…because the scene continues for another three seconds in which we see the boy who is lying on his stomach with his hands over his eyes, turn, lift his elbow, shade his eyes, look at the camera, and slowly return to his prone position.
Philippe Karsenty interrupts every few seconds, leaps up, points to the screen, asks for a slow forward, backward, forward. The boy is moving. He is alive.
All of that ambiguity and evident deception in mind, and with the Annapolis meeting in the offing this week, watch the animation. It was produced by Hamas state-run TV. It builds on the al-Dura incident to create a whole new generation of jihadists.