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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Al-Dura Trial starts today

The case of France 2 v. Philippe Karsenty opens in a French courtroom today. This is the first of three trials arising out of France 2's use of a staged film in what has become known as the Al-Dura Affair. Mohammed Al-Dura was a 12-year old boy who was killed in crossfire outside the Jewish town of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip in September 2000. The IDF was blamed for the killing, but it turns out that the entire thing was likely staged, and that Al-Dura was killed by 'Palestinian' gunfire and not by the IDF.

Philippe Karsenty runs a media watchdog site in France and he has been sued by the France 2 television network for claiming that France 2's footage was staged.

Blogger Augean Stables is testifying at the trial, and has been covering it extensively on his blog site. A guide to his voluminous materials on the trial may be found here. For those who are looking for a brief summary, there is a good one here.

This is an excerpt from Augean Stables' latest post:

I have been in Paris for two days, getting ready for the al Durah trials in which I testify on behalf of the defendant, Philippe Karsenty of Media Ratings.

The situation reflects the kinds of fissures in French society that I’ve discussed for almost a decade now. On the one hand a small embattled Jewish community, not clear on what to do, and how to plan a well-timed exit, feeling suffocated.

    “No one listens, no one pays attention. Al Durah? No one even knows him, and if you mention ‘le petit Mohammed’ they’ll tell you, it’s so long ago…”
    “Forget it, the French media will never cover this.”
    “Yes they will, but only if Karsenty loses and France2 wins. If Karsenty wins, they’ll give it five lines in the back of the edition.”

And yet Paris shines in the late summer sun, beautiful women, good food, pleasant neighborhoods like Belleville (north-eastern Paris) where people of every ethnicity mix easily, including Muslims walking by Kosher restaurants with tables spilling out into the large sidewalks.

One can understand how the French can live in denial. “As long as they get their 35 hours (short work-week) and their vacations…” Paris, indeed France, is a nation of immigrants, like the US. And if you squint your eyes, and imbibe only French media, you can be excused for not realizing that real dangers loom ahead. And, of course, none even know that a trial over their press’ coverage of “le petit Mohammed” is coming up, much less what’s at stake.

Not even all the French Jews are worried. They read the media, talk with their colleagues, and mock the paranoids who wring their hands about the darkening clouds. Most of the leaders in the community, like the Israeli government officials, do not want to publicly challenge anyone on this case. For them it’s the express lane to getting dismissed as a conspiracist nut, and to rekindling people’s memory – and anger – over the death of this poor innocent child.

“French justice is an oxymoron,” explains one lawyer to me. “It’s deeply politicized, and it focuses on technicalities of law that can make any decision possible. Add to the situation, the fact that since 2000, French justice has been very hostile to any effort to use the law to punish attacks on Jews – verbal and physical – and the profound hostility to Zionism in the establishment, and you have a recipe for losing this case.” Just as there’s a book entitled “The Lost Territories of the Republic,” about the “quartiers difficiles” where the writ of Republican France does not run (the real cause of the riots in November), so there is an article about “The Lost Territories of French Justice,” and the radical unfairness in cases of defamation of Jews that had dominated French libel trials since 2000.

So what’s the likely outcome? Most people are pessimistic. I have long found the French to be inveterate zero-sum players with negative expectations about the outcome… at least as much from a desire to protect themselves from failure by not trying, as because they truly believe that things will go that badly. But almost everyone thinks that it’s a pipe dream to get the MSM to cover the trial.

It’s always revealing when I tell them about the blogosphere.
“Have you heard of Pajamas media?”
“Do you remember what happened to Dan Rather.?“
“Vaguement.” [Vaguely – what the French say when they don’t know.]
“Do you know about Adnan Hajj?”
“The photographer who got fired in Lebanon for photoshopping his pictures?”
After a brief explanation…
“Oui mais… c’est pas comme ça en France.” [It’s not like that in France.]

Read it all.


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