“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About the Author: Adam Levick serves as Managing Editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and is a member of the Online Antisemitism Working Group for the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism. Adam made Aliyah from Philadelphia in 2009 and lives with his wife in Modi'in.
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