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 consequences) over 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”:
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?
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.
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.