Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
Philippe Karsenty is a tall, handsome, charming, and very determined gentleman.
Karsenty, a 41-year-old former stockbroker, media analyst, and founder of Media-Ratings, came to America on a lecture and media tour shortly after his interim victory in a Paris courtroom in the matter of Mohammed al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly killed by Israeli army gunfire.
The state-owned TV channel France 2 sued him for defamation when Karsenty insisted its airing of a very brief portion of the 27 minutes of raw footage constituted a blood libel. The event occurred on September 30, 2000 at the Netzarim Junction and al-Dura became the Face that launched more than a thousand Islamist riots, anti-Israeli petitions, and successful and intercepted Palestinian suicide bombings.
This past September, almost seven years later, a Paris judge finally ordered that France 2 turn over the film to the court by November 14. The trial itself is set for February 27, 2008.
Karsenty recently visited me one afternoon and he returned two days later to speak at a gathering to honor him at my home. Among those I invited was a direct descendent of Captain Alfred Dreyfus (my friend and neighbor, Gilles Dreyfus).
Karsenty is a hero who would not allow me to introduce him as one. He interrupted me each time he thought I was about to do so. He said he was “just doing the right thing and standing up for the truth” – the implication being that anyone can do so.
He is right, but only a handful of people actually do – or continue to do once they find themselves on trial and very much alone. Karsenty and I are both correct – he is a hero, but mainly because such heroes are scarce; they are forced to work alone as they assume their bone-crushing historical burden. Organizations do not support them.
Indeed, organizations sometimes obstruct and sabotage their own heroes. Such collective bodies do not intervene even when it might be in their national or organizational interest to do so. What they do instead is stand down, slander, or showcase the hero in an exploitative way – and then rush to take credit when the hero crosses the finish line at the end of a long, hard race.
Karsenty is willing to name some names, namely that of Israel’s Ambassador to France, Danny Shek, who not only would not give him a fair hearing but who refused to shake his hand at a party. He also names Charles Enderlin, (a Jew and an Israeli) who is France 2’s bureau chief in Jerusalem and who recorded the voice-over for the al-Dura program. According to the Jerusalem Post, “Danny Shek enjoys warms relations with Enderlin.”
Karsenty’s comment: ”Such treason by an ambassador should have him fired forever from the Israeli foreign ministry.”
Perhaps American Jewish organizations active in France have other priorities and are willing to sacrifice heroic and symbolic cases like Karsenty’s in order to gain other objectives. Perhaps they fail to understand the importance of the al-Dura matter or even want it to be forgotten in order to protect their access to power, photo opportunities or “money shots.”
Nevertheless, Karsenty is agonized – outraged – by the decision of those American Jewish organizations that have chosen not to support him and that in fact have worked with those who actively oppose him.
Good people allow evil to triumph merely by doing nothing. Most Israeli intellectuals have remained silent about this case. On October 2, Natan Sharansky (whom I respect and with whom I have been privileged to work) finally wrote an important piece about it in the Wall Street Journal. Karsenty said he “is happy – even thrilled – to have the support of such an important public figure.”
I quietly note two things: First, that Sharansky came forward only after the Parisian judge ordered the raw footage turned over to the court; after the IDF finally demanded the raw footage; after the Israeli government proclaimed that now believes the event was staged; and after the Israeli Shurat HaDin Law Center announced it would sue Charles Enderlin and request that the Israeli Government Press Office cancel his Israeli press credentials.
Second, I note that Sharansky is the only major internationally recognized voice of conscience to have come forward. Elie Wiesel has said nothing. Former president Bill Clinton, who publicly mourned the presumed death of al-Dura has remained silent, as have former presidents Carter and Bush.
Where, indeed, are all the voices against racism and for justice in “Palestine”? If they really cared about Palestinians more than they cared about defaming Jews, wouldn’t they be pleased to learn that a Palestinian child had not met such a violent end after all? Wouldn’t they be enraged about the Palestinian “fake-a-death-and-fool-the-infidel” propaganda industry?
Karsenty is sharply critical of the “treacherous” former French president, Jacques Chirac. ”Chirac was more dangerous than any Arab dictator because during his entire career; he provided the enemies of the Jews and Israel with the most dangerous weapons.”
Of the French media he says, “They have failed to cover this case, except very minimally. As far as they are concerned, I am already on the intellectual equivalent of Devil’s Island” (where Dreyfus was imprisoned).
Karsenty says the staging of news events by Palestinians is both well known and accepted by the French media. He also notes that, with the exception of the president of CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France), Richard Prasquier, the organized French Jewish community has been at best unnaturally quiet about the al-Dura affair. He mentions, in passing, that he has lost most of his friends.
Karsenty also names the names of some heroes, such as Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf whose work proved the IDF could not have fired the shots and that it was a staged event. He also names the head of the Israel Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman; the French psychoanalyst, Gérard Huber, who first published a book on the case in January 2003; and the American professor Richard Landes, who has worked tirelessly to publicize the truth.
Karsenty also names Pajamas Media and its Paris bureau chief, Nidra Poller, as the only media outlet that “covered my struggle consistently, accurately, and as befit an important, historical case.”
Karsenty is not Captain Dreyfus. He says Israel, not he, embodies the Dreyfus Case today. I agree, but the fact remains that it is Karsenty, like Dreyfus, who has been sued and treated as a criminal by the French state and who, like Dreyfus, is being forced to defend himself. The French, who defamed and punished Dreyfus, are now defaming and punishing the very Jewish state that arose partly because of Herzl’s reaction to the Dreyfus case.
Karsenty is zealous about the truth of this matter. No one is exempted from his high standards, not even his supporters. He asked to see a copy of my 2003 book about anti-Semitism and I quickly obliged him. He pointed out that even I had not “gotten it” right five years ago when I wrote the book.
He is absolutely correct. In The New Anti-Semitism, I carefully noted that many experts and a German documentary filmmaker had begun to question the veracity of the 59-second al-Dura report. I noted that people had begun to suggest that the entire episode might have been staged.
I also wrote: ”I do know that Israel has been permanently damaged both by the footage and by the initial presumption of Israeli guilt [because] second and third interpretations two years later do not carry the same emotional resonance.” I noted that it was unlikely the Israelis had killed him. But I still wrote that “I do not know whose bullets killed the child. Perhaps we will never know.”
Thus, like nearly everyone else, I assumed the boy had indeed been killed.
I did the best I could at the time with the information we had. I even went further with it than most others did. Nevertheless, if someone like me could be taken in, it goes a long way in explaining how the entire world was fooled – a world not nearly as vigilant as I try to be concerning the truth about Jews and Israel.
We simply cannot trust Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian media. We know too much about the staging of events, the doctoring of footage, the documentation of fake massacres. But we also cannot afford to trust the international media, which kept replaying this staged footage without asking any questions.
Karsenty assures me that three independent journalists who viewed the raw footage “saw a series of staged events, casual passersby, a man riding a bicycle, and no death agony, as was claimed.” He said that two of these journalists were “pressured not to go public.”
Karsenty is unafraid. “Unlike Dreyfus,” he says, “I am not in prison. Only my social life is ruined. If they find me guilty, it will show that France is even more corrupt than we thought.”
Karsenty seeks vindication not only in the courts. He wants the kind of political intervention that will make such a court decision official.
“President Sarkozy, as the effective boss of the state-owned TV France 2, will have to intervene,” he says. “He could demand that the film be submitted to expert analysis. As France’s president, he could ask his TV to apologize to the entire world.”
When people wonder why he is doing this, since anti-Semites and anti-Zionists will only continue to defame Israel, he usually responds, “Sir, did you shave yesterday? And you will shave again tomorrow? Why bother?”
And then he says: “It is important to stand up for the truth, no matter the cost. That should not make you a hero.”
About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.
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