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.