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.