Israel Matzav and Richard Landes have the first word on a story that is still only in the French papers. "Israel Radio's Paris correspondent Gil Michaeli has just reported that the French Court of Appeals has overturned the libel judgment against Phillipe Karsenty and has determined that Karsenty did not libel France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin when he reported that the 'death' of 12-year old Mohamed Al-Dura at Netzarim in the Gaza Strip in September 2000 may have been staged, and that it was unlikely that the death was caused by IDF soldiers."
Richard Landes writes, "More details to follow. But word from Paris is that the court dismissed charges against Philippe Karsenty today. Now we get to see how the French (and Western) MSM handle this. It’s a stunning victory for Karsenty and loss for Enderlin and France2 who initiated this case when they didn’t have to. In order for an appeals court to reverse a decision, they must have strong evidence to the contrary. The fact that they did indicates that their written decision will be very critical of France2. The implications of this decision are immense. We’ll be following up in the days, weeks and months to come."
For those who haven't been following the case, here is the Wikipedia summary of the events and the controversy that followed.
Muhammad Jamal al-Durrah (1988–2000 (aged 11–12); Arabic: محمد جمال الدرة), was a Palestinian boy who became an icon of the Second Intifada when he was filmed crouched behind his father during a violent clash between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip. The two were sheltering during a crossfire between troops at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) outpost and Palestinian police and gunmen shooting from a number of locations. After a burst of gunfire, the two slumped into prone positions. Al-Durrah was reported to have been killed and his father severely injured by Israeli gunfire. The footage, which was filmed by the French television station France 2, was re-broadcast around the world and produced international outrage against the Israeli army and the government. Images from the footage became an iconic symbol of the Palestinian cause and al-Durrah himself was portrayed as an emblem of martyrdom; the footage was shown repeatedly on Arabic television channels and al-Durrah was publicly commemorated in a number of Arab countries.
Although the Israeli army initially accepted responsibility for the shooting, a number of commentators later sought alternative explanations. They disputed the authenticity of the tape and questioned the honesty of the France 2 cameraman and reporter, the source of the fatal bullets, whether Palestinian gunmen had shot him rather than the Israelis and the identity of the boy in the footage. Some speculated that the entire incident had been faked with no actual casualties. Campaigners sought the reopening of the case but did not attract public support from the Israeli government or army. Instead, unofficial investigations were carried out that disputed the official account of the shooting; these conclusions were not publicly endorsed by the Israeli state.
In 2004 the affair became the subject of legal proceedings in France. The France 2 channel sued the commentator Philippe Karsenty, who alleged that the channel had faked the footage and demanded the firing of Charles Enderlin, the journalist who had produced the original September 30, 2000 report on the al-Durrah shooting. A French court ruled in favour of France 2 in 2006 and convicted Karsenty of libel, though he subsequently took the case to an appeal that is still ongoing. In February 2008 a report presented to the French court of appeal by an independent ballistics expert maintains that the death of Mohammed al-Dura could not have been the result of Israeli gunfire, corroborating claims that the shocking footage was doctored.
The al-Durrah trial and the obstinate effort efforts by Karsenty and Landes to get at the truth may with justice be compared to the Dreyfus Affair. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and imprisoned for treason, following the Franco-German war, ultimately for being a Jew and therefore a scapegoat.
The writer Émile Zola can be credited to have exposed the affair to the general public in a famously incendiary open letter to President Félix Faure to which the French journalist and politician Georges Clemenceau had affixed the headline "J'accuse!" (I accuse!); it was published January 13, 1898 in the maiden issue of the newspaper L'Aurore (The Dawn). It had the effect of a bomb—in the words of historian Barbara Tuchman, "it was one of the great commotions of history" . Émile Zola's intent was to force his own prosecution for libel so that the emerging facts of the Dreyfus case could be thoroughly aired. In this he succeeded. He was convicted, appealed, was retried, and, before hearing the result, fled to England on the advice of his counsel and friends, returning to Paris in June 1899 when he heard that Dreyfus's trial was to be reviewed.
It will be interesting to see what transpires next. If Karsenty's allegation that France 2 doctored the film to frame the IDF for a murder it did not commit are supported by any more forthcoming revelations then the subsequent riots and vengeance killings visited upon the Jews may be sheeted home to them.
Philippe Karsenty makes his first statement, at Pajamas Media.
The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.