French court rejects Al-Dura hoax

French broadcaster France2 lost its case and a large portion of its credibility yesterday when its appeals court called their Al-Dura story a hoax and reversed a lower-court ruling on a defamation case. Philippe Karsenty was vindicated in his criticism of France2 when he called their video of a supposed murder of a Palestinian child by Israeli soldiers staged for propaganda purposes. As PJM’s Richard Landes notes, the entire unedited footage of France2 contained a long series of laughably staged “injuries”, prompting him to refer to France2 as “Pallywood”:

The French court of appeals, presided over by the redoubtable Madame Laurence Trébucq, has reversed the decision of a lower court — the (in)famous “Chambre 17″ that specializes in verbal crimes had found Philippe Karsenty guilty of defaming France2 after Karsenty, in a 2004 article, claimed (as have many familiar with the dossier), that the scene was staged. The unexpected reversal by the court of appeals represents the first major European breach of the blanket of silence that has greeted any effort of critics to call into question France2’s presentation of the Al Dura footage as actual news.

The Muhammad al Durah affair represents one of the most revealing and distressing cases in the mainstream media’s coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. On September 30, 2000, France2’s Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, ran footage of what looked like a boy and his father, together hiding behind a barrel, “the target of fire coming from the Israeli position.” According to this report, the boy was killed and the father badly wounded. The footage went around the world instantly, provoking outrage and violence against both Israel and Jewish communities in the Arab world and in Europe.

France2 compounded these violations of journalistic ethics by attempting to block any criticism. Ridiculing the proponents of the “staged hypothesis” as conspiracy theorists on the order of 9-11 truthers or holocaust deniers, France2 sued independent French citizens who had the nerve to criticize them for their journalistic incompetence. …

France2’s legal maneuver backfired when they were called to show the court the raw footage of their Palestinian cameraman, Talal abu Rahmah, whose camera work and testimony lie at the heart of the accusation against the Israeli army. They found themselves forced to cut the most embarrassing scenes before showing the footage to the court, and to explain to the court why the remaining footage had so many suspicious scenes.

The reversal and the resultant implosion of France2’s credibility shows the lengths that some will go to paint the Israelis as the source of all woe in the region. Instead of reporting objective truth, the “journalists” at France2 decided to propagate lies as a means of telling the narrative they prefer. They couldn’t actually find examples of Israeli soldiers deliberately killing unarmed children, but France2 believed that they did, so they staged it and passed it off as truth. And unfortunately, they found many people who believed them despite the many inconsistencies in the video — such as the child moving after his supposed death and the lack of blood in the scene, rather odd for a gut shot.

The reversal upholds an important principle for freedom of speech — the freedom of criticism. Karsenty dared to criticize France2 for their hoax, and the broadcaster decided to wage a campaign of intimidation against him rather than attempt to defend its propaganda. They succeeded in the lower court and could have forced Karsenty into silence. Instead, Karsenty persevered and eventually forced France2 to release all of its footage, a step they had resisted from the first. That showed the depth of dishonesty not just for the team that created the al-Dura hoax, but for the entire organization that deliberately hid the truth and tried to silence Karsenty through legal action.

Landes includes a long video presentation as part of this story. Be sure to watch it all the way through, and ask yourselves this question: how many al-Duras have we been fed by a media eager to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Landes provides at least one more major hoax with which Americans may be very familiar.