Monday, February 07, 2005

Seeing, but not Seeing the Rushes: The NYTimes on the Mohammed Al-Dura Affair

Via its European edition, the International Herald Tribune, the NYTimes has today finally acknowledged the controversy surrounding the Mohammed Al-Dura affair: or what perhaps, more precisely, should be called the “Mohammed Al-Dura/Charles Enderlin/France2 affair”. (See my previous post “The Fake, but Accurate Intifada”). Trusting, no doubt, that their colleagues at the IHT could be expected to show discretion, the management of France2 even permitted the IHT reporter to view the famous 27 minutes of unedited rushes filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abou Rama on September 30, 2000. The Times/IHT report, however, fails to mention what all three of the independent French journalists who have viewed the rushes – Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, and Daniel Leconte – have confirmed and emphasized: namely, that the bulk of the material contained in these rushes consists of obvious “stagings” or “mise-en-scène” of Palestinians being shot and wounded. It is, above all, this fact - hitherto unknown, since France 2 has refused to release the complete rushes - that lends support to the Metula News Agency’s longstanding charge that the Mohammed Al-Dura footage, reportedly comprising just some 3 minutes of the total, is also staged. Incidentally, no representative of the Metula News Agency (MENA) is cited in the Times/IHT piece and hence the IHT reporter presumably did not see fit to interview any, even though the MENA is widely acknowledged to be the principal adversary of France 2 in the affair. The piece does note that Boston University Professor Richard Landes – who, however, is not known to have seen the rushes – has concluded from other footage shot that day in Netzarim and the previously released footage of Al-Dura that “the scenes involving Muhammad al-Dura...had probably been faked”.

On the IHT’s own viewing of the rushes, the IHT report says this:

Last week, they [unidentified “France2 executives”] showed The International Herald Tribune the original 27-minute tape of the incident, which also included separate scenes of rock-throwing youths. The footage of the father and son under attack lasts several minutes, but does not clearly show the boy's death. There is a cut in the scene that France 2 executives attribute to the cameraman's efforts to preserve a low battery.
Thus regarding the remainder of the rushes, apart from the "several minutes" consisting of the Mohammed Al-Dura scene, we are merely told that they "included separate scenes of rock-throwing youth". Nothing more. Compare this parsimony to the account given by Jeambar and Leconte in their January 25 op-ed in Le Figaro:
On the other hand, viewing the rushes permits us to note...that in the minutes prior to the gunfire, the Palestinians seem to have organized a staging [mise en scène]. They “play” at fighting the Israelis and simulate, in most cases, imaginary incidents of being wounded.

Or compare the Times minimalist account of the rushes with the still more detailed description provided by Jeambar in his and Leconte's interview with Parisian radio station RCJ. As noted in my previous post, in conversation with RCJ, Jeambar specified that for fully 24 minutes of the rushes “one sees nothing but mise-en-scène”:
...young Palestinians...faking being wounded. One sees them fall. When they have the impression that nothing is happening, they get up.... You see boys who look at the camera, they pretend to fall, they fall, and when they see nothing is happening, they get up and run off....They completely fake [simulent] being wounded. One sees ambulances coming and going, which evacuate people who have not been wounded at all.
The omission of this information from the Times/IHT report is all the more glaring inasmuch as the latter cites the role of Jeambar and Leconte and their Le Figaro op-ed.

In the Figaro piece, moreover, Jeambar and Leconte emphasize that they took note of the simulations contained in the rushes “with the approval of our colleagues from France 2”. France 2 is thus apparently prepared to admit that the rushes largely contain “mise-en-scène”. In their interview with RCJ, Jeambar and Leconte cite one France 2 representative saying to them: “But you know very well: it’s always like that!” For the moment, France 2 merely continues to insist that specifically the scene depicting the alleged shooting of Mohammed Al-Dura is authentic. To be clear: France 2 also now admits – though, to my knowledge, they have never made any on-the-air rectification of their original story - that Charles Enderlin’s attribution of the supposedly fatal shots to Israeli troops was unfounded. So, in effect, France 2’s current stance seems to be that Mohammed Al-Dura was indeed shot, though perhaps not by the Israeli troops.

Nonetheless, the IHT/NYTimes, somehow cognizant no doubt that it makes France2’s position appear rather implausible, politely refrains from mentioning the evidence of mise-en-scène contained in the remainder of the rushes. It should be noted, finally, that the Times story - which, incidentally and strangely enough, appears in the Business section - is accompanied by the legendary still of Mohammed Al-Dura and his father huddled against the concrete wall at Netzarim.

The Times's caption?: “Jamal al-Dura shielding his son Muhammad, 12, during a battle with Israelis in a remote Gaza area in 2000.”

Apparently, then, there is no doubt about the authenticity of the image after all....