Monday, February 28, 2005

Values Matter? : Joschka Fischer’s Speech at the Opening of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin

The US does not maintain diplomatic relations with Iran and has designated Iran’s clerical regime a state sponsor of terrorism. As consequence of this designation, Iran is subject to US economic sanctions. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called Iran “the world's primary state sponsor of terror”. One day later, during a February 3rd press conference in London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the Iranian regime’s human rights record as “something to be loathed”. More fully, she said this:

Now, in terms of the Iranian regime, I don’t think anybody thinks that the unelected Mullahs who run that regime are a good thing, for either the Iranian people or for the region. The region is going in a quite different direction, and the President last night again said that the Iranian people deserved better, essentially. I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime’s human rights behavior, and its behavior towards its own population, is something to be loathed.

The next day, Secretary of State Rice met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. In the a joint news conference following their meeting, the Secretary of State and the Chancellor expressed a unity of purpose on the matter of Iran’s nuclear program. More generally on the question of the Iranian regime, Secretary Rice added:
The American President must speak as should the German Chancellor, and as he has and others, about the fact that peoples everywhere, including in Iran, have the right to have their aspirations acknowledged and that it will – it should be that the Iranians enjoy the freedom that they deserve. The behavior of the Iranian Government, both internally and externally, is of concern to an international community that is increasingly unified around the view that values matter.

Less than two weeks later, on February 16, Iran opened its new Embassy in Berlin. The German government was represented at the opening ceremony by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Mr. Fischer gave a speech on the occasion [link in German]. Here are some translated extracts:

Honored Colleagues,
Most honored Mr. Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the occasion of the opening of the new Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Berlin, I am pleased to be your guest and to be able to speak to you....

Exchange between our two countries has a long tradition. The political contacts date back to 1602....

Germany figures among the most important economic partners of Iran. The fact that the [economic] relations between our countries have been developing so well for some time is undoubtedly a positive factor.

In the cultural domain also, our exchanges have long been close and intensive....

I am especially pleased that also our scientific exchanges are intensifying....

Bilaterally, we are currently on the right path [auf einem positiven Weg]. The potential, however, is far from being exhausted. In almost all aspects of our relations, there are numerous possibilities to make these more intensive and the contacts more profound. Thus we are continuing to pursue the idea of a bilateral cultural accord, such as to facilitate the work of our cultural institutions....

This new embassy in our capital Berlin could become the visible symbol for the start of a new chapter in our bilateral relations. The great possibility is now presenting itself to open this chapter together, since our bilateral relations are not separated from international developments that are very worrisome.

Along with France and Great Britain, we are involved in an intensive process of negotiations on a long-term accord. With this accord we want to dispel [ausräumen] existing international concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Therefore, the core of the accord is agreement on objective guarantees that assure that Iran’s nuclear program can only serve peaceful purposes.

An agreement on this central point opens the way for deeper cooperation in the economic and technical domain, as well as in the political. It would also make possible expanded cooperation between the European Union and Iran. The extension of these relationships remains closely tied to the development of democracy and progress in respecting human rights in Iran.

We must not let this chance pass unused.

The second to last sentence in the extracts represents the extent of Foreign Minister Fischer's - to paraphrase Secretary Rice's formulation - "speaking about the fact that the Iranian people have the right to have their aspirations acknowledged and to enjoy the freedom they deserve. " Mr. Fischer said nothing about terrorism.

Readers may judge for themselves whether the tenor of Joschka Fischer’s speech at the Iranian Embassy reflects the same values as those animating the remarks of President Bush and Secretary Rice. By the way, concerning Mr. Fischer’s “Ladies and Gentlemen”, an article in the German daily die Welt confirms that there were “a few” women among the 1300 guests invited to the opening ceremony.

(Hat tip M.K. - Vielen Dank!)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Inveterate Enderlin

At the close of “Controversy? No Controversy...”, my last post on the Al-Dura/France2 affair, I asked readers who follow the French media to post comments or send me e-mail regarding uptake of the affair in the major French media that I may have missed. As I noted in the post, and contrary to the impression created by the recent NYTimes article on the affair and by some English-language blogs, the latest revelations in the Al-Dura/France2 affair have not in fact provoked substantial controversy in France. In the major French media, there seems rather to be a sort of conspiracy of silence on the matter. No further examples of French coverage of the affair were brought to my attention. The French site acmedias monitors the media coverage of the affair and it too notes no further examples of coverage in the major French media since the publication of the January 25 op-ed piece by Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte in Le Figaro. (Among French publications, only the specialized magazine, Jeune Afrique L’intelligent, appears to have devoted an article to it.)

However, as Gudrun Eussner has brought to my attention, Charles Enderlin, the France2 reporter who filed the original Al-Dura report on September 30, 2000, did participate in an internet forum hosted by the website of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in the second week of February. Not surprisingly, several of the visitors to the forum posed questions related to the affair. The most astonishing response was surely that provoked by the following question concerning the unedited rushes of the alleged Al-Dura shooting:

Mister Enderlin : leave aside for the moment...everything that has been said during the 4 years since you sent France2 your story on Netzarim.... Can you tell us exactly what you believe is supported by the images you had in your possession at the time?
In fact, as readers will be able to appreciate from the following, Charles Enderlin either misunderstood the question or willfully chose to misinterpret it. Here, in any case, is his response:

I think I would make the same commentary and edit the sequence the same way. With perhaps one difference. Knowing how much I’m criticized for it now, I would broadcast the few seconds of the child's death throes [agonie] that I cut thinking at the time that it made the report too painful.

During the past four years, Charles Enderlin has repeatedly claimed that he cut the scene of the child’s death throes from his report for the reason stated. Note, however, that he says this now in spite of the fact that three of his peers who have in the meanwhile seen the unedited rushes confirm that they do not contain any scene of the child’s death throes, as indeed, despite its other deficiencies, does the recent NYTimes report.

(Note: For German readers, Gudrun Eussner has a detailed discussion here of the Al-Dura/France2 affair, including its ramifications in the German media. Gudrun begins her treatment by citing the American PR specialist James Harff to the effect that “What counts is just what is said first. Subsequent denials are completely ineffective.” The quote, incidentally, comes from Jacques Merlino’s Les vérités Yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes à dire, a remarkable study of media manipulations at the outset of the Balkan wars of the last decade. Much can be learned from Merlino’s book also for understanding the major media’s performance in covering the current Middle East conflict. At the time it was published, in 1993, Jacques Merlino was a reporter for none other than France 2. Despite the fact that the book was a major success in France – or perhaps because of this – he would subsequently disappear from the airwaves.)

Sunday, February 20, 2005


I will be taking a small vacation from blogging. I might try during the week to add an update on Arte's admiring portrait of the "Black Bloc" to the "Inveterate Arte" post, since I said I would do so. But I'm afraid it won't be there by Monday, as I originally said. Sorry about that. The scrap over on David's regarding the original post kept me busy.

Otherwise, you can expect Trans-Int to be mostly silent this week. I'll be back again in earnest starting next Monday, February 28. Please bookmark and come back!

Follow-Up to "Inveterate Arte"

For those coming from elsewhere and who might be interested, there is a long debate over on Medienkritik on my "Inveterate Arte" post, including some contributions from me. The link is here.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Inveterate Arte: A Sign of Respect?

In her recent speech at Paris’s prestigious Institute for Political Studies (or “Sciences Po”), Condoleezza Rice spoke of a common European and American struggle to promote freedom and face down what she identified as agreed upon threats: “Terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and regional conflicts, and failed states and organized crime”. “Our transatlantic partnership will not just endure in this struggle,” Secretary Rice concluded, “it will flourish because our ties are unbreakable. We care deeply about one another. We respect each other.”

We respect each other?

If Secretary Rice had a chance during her visit to watch some of the programming on Arte, the jointly-financed French-German public television channel – about which I have had occasion to write before on Trans-Int – she might reconsider this remark. Keep in mind in considering what follows that Arte receives direct financing from the French and German governments on the order of some 350 million Euros per year. It has no advertising revenue. Given that much of its programming either consists of rebroadcasts from or is co-produced by German public television, Arte also, in effect, receives massive indirect subsidies from the German government.

On Thursday of last week (February 10), just two days after Secretary Rice’s speech in Paris, Arte broadcast an animation clip mockingly portraying a State of the Union Address by her boss, President Bush. In it, real audio of President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address – n.B., his first such address following 9/11, which was overwhelmingly devoted to national security and the terrorist threat – is spliced together with taped additions in such a way as to have the President refer to his audience as “parasites” and to make the substance of his speech a plea for the importation of “illegal drugs”. Among other visual effects, such as dollar signs floating across the screen and a shot of Laura Bush applauding while holding what looks like a jug of liqueur, the clip also repeatedly included images of President Bush with devil horns...

...or with horns and fangs.

The animation clip – which is promoted on the Arte website here [link in French or here in German] and can be viewed in full on the website of its creators by clicking here – was shown during an episode of the weekly program “Tracks”. As the name implies, "Tracks" is ostensibly dedicated to popular music. In fact, however, “Tracks” provides a sort of inventory of everything its producers deem “hip”. On Arte, anti-Americanism – those who check out the “State of the Union” animation on the animators’ website will note that it is preceded by the message “Inspired by the USA” – is hip.

So too, perhaps not coincidentally, is the “Black Bloc”, the self-styled anarchist formation that has gained fame for its violent clashes with police at “anti-globalization” demonstrations worldwide. The same episode of “Tracks” featured a glowing portrait of Danish “Black Bloc” “activists” [link in French and here in German]. Especially in light of Arte’s public status, the channel’s admiration for the “Black Bloc” should give Secretary Rice and the members of the American Foreign Service she heads some cause to pause about whether France and Germany are indeed involved in a struggle with America and not rather a struggle against it.

Readers may familiarize themselves here [link in French or here in German] with the names and titles of the German and French public servants responsible for Arte.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Süddeutscher “Humor”

George Bush as Falstaff - Courtesy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung

If the much-anticipated “thawing” in transatlantic relations has begun, one would not know it from reading the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the paper of record for Germany’s Social Democratic establishment. On Monday February 7, the Süddeutsche published an apparently “humorous” article, titled “Bürger-King”, ostensibly inspired by the confluence of Carnival and an article from the NYTimes on a Shakespeare seminar for Air Force officials. In the Süddeutsche piece, author Willi Winkler ponders the question: if George W. Bush were a Shakespeare character, who would he be? The article is accompanied by – likewise apparently “humorous” – photo montages depicting Bush as respectively Falstaff, Henry VIII, Hamlet, and Henry V.

Winkler’s answer: Henry V, who began life as prince Hal:

...who has got nothing in his head but drinking and womanizing and wasting the dear Lord’s time. Together with the fat Sir John Falstaff..., he brawls his way through an irresponsible youth. Then, however, the drunkard himself becomes King – and indeed Henry V – and overnight he is transformed almost into a statesman and – it’s always like that with Kings – into a murderous warlord.

And just in case this was not yet hilarious enough, Willi Winkler adds:

Only Falstaff has gone missing in the meanwhile. And not even the idea of Donald Rumsfeld as court jester, attired in a Burger King crown and a tattered cape and sitting on the right side of his Majesty, can make up for the loss.

Controversy? No Controversy...

The ability of France2 to continue using its Mohammed Al-Dura footage as if there was no question about its authenticity (see previous post), thus ignoring the public revelations of Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte regarding the content of the rushes, reflects the sad fact that in France these revelations have, in effect, not provoked any particular controversy - at least not as far as the major media are concerned. The NYTimes article on the matter was titled "Photo of Palestinian Boy Kindles Debate in France". But even this title - like so much in the article - is misleading. There has not been any debate. Since the Jeambar and Leconte article appeared as an op-ed in Le Figaro on January 25, to my knowledge there has been no further reference to the affair in any major French print or traditional electronic (television, radio) media - apart that is from the response of France2 reporter Charles Enderlin which appeared in Le Figaro two days later, but addressed none of Jeambar's and Leconte's factual charges. This observation concerns also the influential French newsweekly L'Express - which, however, is edited by none other than...Denis Jeambar. In his interview with the Parisian "community" radio station RJC (Jewish Community Radio) which I cited in my first post on the Al-Dura affair, Jeambar offered various implausible excuses for failing to cover the affair in his own magazine. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the spirit of intimidation that must be presumed to reign in the French media.

Several French-language websites have sought to highlight the affair and to keep the pressure on France2: among them acmedias, media-ratings, and, of course, the website of the Metula News Agency (MENA), which has been the organization most responsible for exposing the inconsistencies in the Mohammed Al-Dura story. But the efforts of these sites has had virtually no echo in the major media - other, that is, than occasional efforts to demean and disqualify the sites' authors. Indeed, if one is to judge by the results of searches conducted with the usual tools (google, technorati), even the French blogosphere has remained remarkably silent on the Al-Dura/France2 affair.

One of the phantasms about America which has been most carefully cultivated in the mainstream French media in recent years suggests that the American media is characterized - apart from a few heroic upstart organizations like the NYTimes - by a suffocating uniformity of opinion and that consequently American political culture suffers from a lack of debate. The recent bouts pitting the blogosphere against the MSM in the US have exposed, even for the French public, the untenability of this myth and hence its contours are bound now to change -which is not to say it will be abandoned. In any case, the Al-Dura/France2 affair demonstrates that the shoe is decidedly on the other foot.

(Note: I would be grateful for comments or e-mails to, in case there has been some uptake of the Al-Dura/France2 affair in major French media that I have missed.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Controversy? What Controversy?: France2's Continued Use of the Al-Dura Footage

(Note: For background to this post, see my earlier posts on the Al-Dura/France2 affair here and here. The France2 newscast discussed below can for the moment be viewed here.)

On its nightly news program of last Wednesday, February 9, France 2 used an extract from its famous Mohammed Al-Dura footage to illustrate its lead story. Here is how France2 news anchor David Pujadas identified Mohammed Al-Dura: “little Mohammed, the Palestinian child killed during an exchange of gunfire at the start of the second Intifada”.

Note that Pujadas does not quite say that Mohammed Al-Dura was killed by Israeli fire, as France 2 reporter Charles Enderlin claimed when he filed his original report on the alleged incident at Netzarim in September 2000. However, the context of the report, which highlights a televised encounter between Jamal Al-Dura, the supposed father of Mohammed, and Shmuel Biri, the father of an Israeli soldier killed three days before the alleged Netzarim incident, clearly encourages this assumption. After four years of conditioning by France2’s coverage of the matter, moreover, the France2 audience will, in any case, be largely predisposed to make such an assumption. (As an aside, though France 2 presents the meeting between the two “fathers of victims” as a hopeful sign of reconciliation in the Middle East, in fact Jamal Al-Dura’s discourse – demanding that Israel return to “us” what is “ours”, including, n.B., Jerusalem – is anything but conciliatory.)

As the famous images are shown, the voice-over of France 2 reporter Dominique Derda explains: “symbol of the Intifada, the image of the death throes of Mohammed Al-Dura was broadcast around the world.” In French, Derda speaks of the “agonie” of Mohammed Al-Dura. In such a context, the French word agonie clearly means death throes.

Now, it will be recalled from my earlier posts on the Mohammed Al-Dura affair that the images broadcast “around the world” of Mohammed Al-Dura have in fact never included the boy’s death throes. Charles Enderlin has long maintained that he intentionally cut the images of the boy’s death throes from the report because they were “intolerable”. Speaking to the French magazine Télérama and using the same French word agonie, Enderlin said: “I cut the child’s death throes [agonie]. It was intolerable....It would not have added anything.” Contrary to Enderlin’s declarations, however, Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, and Denis Leconte – the three French journalists who were recently permitted to view the complete rushes in the presence of France2 news director Arlette Chabot – have revealed that the rushes do not contain any such scene of the boy’s death. To quote again Jeambar and Leconte: “These famous ‘death throes’ [agonie], which Enderlin claims to have cut from the report, do not exist.”

The absence of any scene documenting the child’s death in the rushes represents one of the major grounds that have emerged from the three journalists’ viewing of the rushes in support of the hypothesis that the alleged killing of Mohammed Al-Dura was staged. The other major revelation supporting this hypothesis is, of course, the presence in the remainder of the rushes of what Rosenzweig, Jeambar, and Leconte all concur were obviously staged episodes – or “mise-en-scène” – of other Palestinians being wounded.

My principal purpose on Trans-Int is to present information and analysis. It is not to editorialize. I believe that the information I have presented concerning the Mohammed Al-Dura affair and the involvement of France2 in it largely speaks for itself. Nonetheless, I will permit myself an editorial comment here: in light of the revelations of Rosenzweig, Jeambar and Leconte, the use made by France2 of the Mohammed Al-Dura footage on its February 9th newscast constitutes an act of remarkable bad faith.

Friday, February 11, 2005

More Evidence of UN “Success” in Kosovo

(Note: For background to this post, see my earlier post "Kosovo Rising?".)

The following on current conditions in Kosovo from an informative and troubling article in Tuesday's (February 8) Neue Züricher Zeitung [NZZ]:
...After an initial construction boom, in the five years since the withdrawal of the Serbian administration, the economic situation has gotten continually worse. Currently, the unemployment rate is well over 50%. 12% of the population lives in utter poverty, with revenues of less than two francs [roughly $2] per day.
The article, titled "The Calm Before the Storm in Kosovo?", is troubling because it surveys several reasons, among which the desperate economic situation, to fear a renewal of violence in Kosovo in the weeks ahead. If there is renewed violence, as during the rioting last March the remaining Serb enclaves can be expected to bear the brunt of it. The NZZ article also contains the following depiction of the attitude of large sections of the Kosovo-Albanian population who are dissatisfied with the UN administration and eager to fulfill the long-deferred promise of an independent Kosovo:
...for many of those who are dissatisfied, the conclusion seems evident that the Serbs must go such that the UNMIK [the UN administration] loses its justification and also withdraws. Only then will nothing more stand in the way of an independent Kosovar state.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

WTC Victims "not Innocent"? Daniel Libeskind Does not Disagree

Statements made by the University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 to the effect that the victims of the 9/11 attacks – and notably the financial services workers trapped in the World Trade Center – were not “innocent” have lately been attracting wide attention. More precisely, as implied by the title of his essay “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens”, Mr. Churchill suggested that the attacks on the WTC were a legitimate response to the injustices allegedly perpetrated by what he called “America's global financial empire – the ‘mighty engine of profit’ to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved.”

It might come as a surprise to some readers to learn that when expressing himself in the German-language media, Daniel Libeskind, the author of the so-called “master plan” for WTC reconstruction, has endorsed sentiments remarkably similar to those expressed by Ward Churchill.

Here is what Ward Churchill wrote in his September 2001 essay regarding whether the victims of the 9/11 attacks could be described as “innocent civilians”:

There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . .

Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" – a derivative, after all, of the word "ignore" – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants.

In April 2003, shortly after being designated the winner of the WTC design competition by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, Daniel Libeskind gave an interview to Roman Hollenstein [link in German], architectural critic for the Swiss daily the Neue Züricher Zeitung. Here is an excerpt:

The World Trade Center that was destroyed in New York was the nodal point of the globalized financial world and as such certainly not a place of innocence. In your project, however, …you do not thematize this problematic side, but instead glorify the place with a “Park of Heroes”, a “Wedge of Light” and “Gardens of the World”.


In the reconstruction project, I try to master all the contradictions and the whole complexity of the place. As for the heroes that should be honored here, they were entirely ordinary people, like me. To prevent them from being instrumentalized by the fundamentalists of the extreme Right, one has to give them real importance.

Note that Libeskind does not contest Hollenstein’s remark that the WTC was “not a place of innocence”. On the contrary, he reacts defensively to Hollenstein’s claim that his project does not “thematize” the implied guilt, insisting that he tried to master “all the contradictions and the whole complexity” of the place and thus tacitly acknowledging the justness of Hollenstein’s assessment of the WTC. Given the context, moreover, the emphasis Libeskind places on the specific need to honor the WTC “heroes” - who were “entirely ordinary people” - seems to suggest that such less “ordinary” people as lost their lives in the attacks – the many corporate executives, for instance – may have received their just deserts. Though he would later (presumably on the urging of city and state officials) use the term in a more inclusive manner, in Libeskind’s original submission the “heroes” who are to be memorialized clearly refers just to the firemen, police and other rescue workers who rushed to the towers.

That Libeskind would display such contempt for the usual occupants of the WTC will not seem so astonishing for anyone familiar with some of his earliest public pronouncements in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and before he entered the WTC design competition. Thus in an interview published in the Suddeutsche Zeitung of June 26, 2002, Libeskind was reminded that he had said that after 9/11 “everything must change.” Further on in the interview, commenting on what the interviewer called a “longing for spirituality,” Libeskind provided a more precise idea of just why he might harbor such apocalyptic sentiments:

Materialist capitalist culture calls forth in human beings a demand for something different. The excesses of capitalism and globalization elicit a radical response. The spiritual is always tied to the political. It is always bound together with the emergence of totalitarian powers, which give the human soul the impulse to unveil itself and its forces.

Libeskind does not here say anything quite so obviously outrageous as Ward Churchill, who in his “Roosting Chickens” essay would go on to compare the financial services workers in the WTC to “little Eichmanns”. But note that he uses the expression “totalitarian” not, for instance, in connection with Islamism, an ideology whose totalizing pretensions could hardly be more explicit, but rather in connection with “materialist capitalist culture”: i.e. the very “materialist capitalist culture” that America is said to epitomize and of which New York’s World Trade Center was once the most visible icon – the very “materialist capitalist culture,” in short, that on 9/11 came under attack. Although the immediate context for the remark was “spirituality” in art, moreover, it should be noted that the interview closes with Libeskind enthusing over the prospect of his staging a series of operas by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen: the same Karlheinz Stockhausen who famously pronounced the 9/11 attacks “the greatest work of art there has ever been.”

(Note: Libeskind is not wrong, by the way, to suggest that his contempt for the victims of the 9/11 attacks is evident in his WTC site design. I discuss the many manifestations of this contempt in my "The Future of Ground Zero".)

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....

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Fake, but Accurate Intifada: New Developments in the Mohammed Al-Dura Affair (with Update)

(Note: previously titled "The Mohammed Al-Dura Affair Revisited")

On September 30, 2000, the nightly news program of the French public television channel France2 shows images apparently depicting a Palestinian boy and his father caught in the crossfire of a clash between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops in the town of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. The voice-over of the France2 reporter, Charles Enderlin, explains the situation as follows: "Here Jamal and his son Mohammed are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position. Mohammed is twelve years old. His father tries to protect him. He signals. But...there's a new burst of fire....Mohammed is dead and his father is badly wounded."

Subsequently – thanks in large measure to France2 taking the unusual step of releasing the footage to other news services free of charge – the boy Mohammed would come to be known around the world as Mohammed Al-Dura and the supposed images of his death would become some of the emblematic images of the 2nd Intifada and a rallying point for anti-Israeli rage. Soon, however, questions began to be raised about Charles Enderlin's version of what transpired in Netzarim on September 30, 2000. It should be noted that Enderlin was not at Netzarim when the episode is supposed to have occurred, but based his account on the testimony of the Palestinian cameraman who shot the footage, Talal Abou Rama.

In the first place, by reason of simple considerations of geometry - the two Palestinians were next to a large concrete barrier that shielded them from the Israeli Army post - the claim that the supposedly deadly gunfire came from the Israeli position seemed impossible to sustain. Analysis of the available footage and the apparent impact of bullets on the wall against which the two figures were crouched indicates that the gunfire came rather from a position directly in front of them and behind or beside that of the cameraman. More seriously still, investigators pointed to several disturbing inconsistencies connected to the episode that suggested that the alleged death of Mohammed Al-Dura may have been staged. This hypothesis gained credence from the fact that footage shot on the same day in Netzarim seemingly documents the staging and filming of episodes of just this sort. The evidence is discussed at length in the book Contre expertise d'une mise en scène by Gérard Huber of the Metula News Agency (MENA) [French-language site]. In English, it has been touched upon more briefly and more cautiously by James Fallows in an article titled “Who Shot Mohammed Al-Dura” [subscription required] that appeared in the June 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

The MENA has long requested of France2 that it permit MENA investigators to view the complete rushes of the footage shot by Talal Abou Rama on September 30, 2000. To appreciate the full importance of this request, it should be noted that Talal Abou Rama claimed under oath to have shot some 27 minutes of footage while the episode was taking place, of which France2 released merely some 55 seconds. Furthermore, the moment of Mohamed Al-Dura’s alleged demise was not included in the footage shown by France2. Charles Enderlin has claimed that he consciously chose to edit out “the child’s death throes” : “it was unbearable.... It would not have added anything.”

Last October 22, France2 finally permitted three independent journalists to view the complete rushes: former Le Monde reporter Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar, the director of the newsweekly L'Express, and producer (and frequent Arte contributor) Daniel Leconte. They were accompanied by the director of France2’s news department, Arlette Chabot. It is not clear whether Chabot realized that Luc Rosenzweig was in the meanwhile a collaborator of the MENA. On Tuesday, January 25 – apparently prompted by the attention drawn to the meeting by an article (“The Mythical Martyr” [scroll down for article]) published by MENA director Stéphane Juffa in the Wall Street Journal Europe – Jeambar and Leconte for the first time expressed themselves publicly on the matter in an op-ed piece which they co-authored for Le Figaro. Here is what they have to say about the content of the rushes and, more specifically, Charles Enderlin’s claim that he edited out “the child’s death throes” from the France2 report:

...the viewing of the rushes teaches us nothing more definite about “the child’s death throes”. Or rather, it does! These famous “death throes”, which Enderlin
claims to have cut from the report, do not exist.

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. The viewing of the complete rushes also demonstrates that at the moment that Charles Enderlin says that the child is dead, supposedly killed by the Israelis – that is to say that very evening on the nightly news on France2 –there is nothing that would permit him to know that the child is dead, still less that he had been killed by the Israeli soldiers. Everything, on the contrary, starting with the relative positions of the principals on the terrain, would seem to incriminate rather one or more bullets fired by the Palestinians.

It should be noted that Jeambar and Leconte take pains to dissociate themselves from the MENA thesis of a staged shooting. The last sentence in the passage quoted is symptomatic of these efforts and indeed of their artificiality, since though the relative positions of the principals is known, they were never in question and hence the viewing of the rushes would not have contributed to clarifying them. It would seem that the addition of this sentence represents a shame-faced and rather schizophrenic attempt on the part of Jeambar and Leconte to divert attention from those elements of the rushes – which they have just related! – that in fact clearly lend support to the MENA thesis.


One thing, in any event, is now clear: France2's September 30, 2000 report of the Israeli shooting of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Al-Dura (or "Djamal", as he was called in that report) was unfounded. Or as Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte said in unison when interviewed on Tuesday on the Parisian radio station RCJ [Jewish Community Radio]: it is "false". (The full interview [in French] is available here [hat tip acmedias].) If Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte continue to take their distance from the MENA and to praise the cooperativeness and "transparency" of Arlette Chabot, this is perhaps in order not to burn their bridges with the French journalistic establishment or - just perhaps - because France 2 has filed suit [link in French] against as yet unspecified persons (a procedure known as filing suit "against X" in French law) for "public defamation" in connection with the charges that the reported events were staged. In any case, this attitude is not particularly honest, since there is virtually nothing in Jeambar's and Leconte's supposed "investigation" of the matter that one could not have already known from the published results of the investigations that the MENA has been conducting for over three years now.

The only exception to this last observation would concern the contents of the rushes, which, of course, the MENA had not been permitted to see. And on this point, Jeambar's and Leconte's interview with RCJ adds an important detail that was absent from their Figaro article. Whereas in the Figaro article, Jeambar and Leconte acknowledge that the rushes contain "stagings" [mise-en-scene], in the RCJ interview, Jeambar specifies that during fully 24 minutes of the rushes "one sees nothing but [my emphasis - JR] mise-en-scene":

...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.

In fact, those who have read Gérard Huber's book will not be surprised to find out that the rushes contained such scenes, since Huber's book contains virtually identical descriptions of footage shot on the same day in Netzarim. Perhaps it is indeed the same footage. But what is especially interesting about Jeambar's comment is that he says there was "nothing but" mise-en-scene for some 24 minutes. Jeambar suggests that the scene of Mohammed Al-Dura and his father was somehow "completely out of context". Now, the total length of the rushes is said to be 27 minutes and some 3 minutes of rushes specifically of the scene of Mohammed Al-Dura and his father had already been provided by France2 to the Israeli government. This is to say that Jeambar and Leconte are claiming, in effect, that virtually the entirety of the rushes - except the scenes of Mohammed Al-Dura - consist of faked events. Perhaps in order to make their isolation of the Mohammed Al-Dura footage from this context seem less far-fetched, they do say in the RCF interview that "one" of the other woundings also appeared to them authentic. They do not entertain the more plausible explanation that the "exceptions" might simply have been more convincing performances.

It should be noted that Charles Enderlin published a response to Jeambar and Leconte [link in French] in the January 27 edition of Le Figaro. He did not deny the facts cited by Jeambar and Leconte. But he noted that even if the claim that the Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mohammed Al-Dura should not be true, "for me, the image corresponded to the reality of the situation not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank." Americans will be familiar with this style of argument from some of their own supposed news organizations.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Forthcoming: the Mohamed Al-Dura Affair Revisited

A reminder that I post on Trans-Int typically every other weekday: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

On September 30, 2000, the nightly news program of the French public television station France2 shows images of a Palestinian boy and his father apparently caught in the crossfire of a clash between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops in the town of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. The voice-over of the France2 reporter, Charles Enderlin, explains the situation as follows: "Here are Djamal and his father. They are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position. The child signals, but...there's a new burst of fire....The child is dead and his father is wounded."
Subsequently, "Djamal" would come to be known around the world as Mohamed Al-Dura and the supposed images of his death, captured on film by a France2 cameraman, would become some of the emblematic images of the 2nd Intifada.

Relatively soon, however, questions started to be raised about Charles Enderlin's version of what transpired in Netzarim on September 30, 2000. Whereas France2 has defended their story for four years now, the credibility of the Enderlin version has just been dealt a serious blow.

I'll be back tomorrow with more....