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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse

You look at this story and you just have to wonder what would have happened over the past x years if Israel had actually stuck up for its rights in any of tens of other judicial forums to which we've been subjected.

On Monday morning, I reported that the IDF has finally requested the entire 27-minute France 2 television tape from which the 55-second staged 'murder' of Muhammed al-Dura was made. The IDF request was made in the context of the appeal of a judgment against Phillipe Karsenty for 'libeling' France 2 and its Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin. The IDF and the State of Israel had apparently ignored the original trial completely.

But now that the IDF has demanded the complete tape, the French court of appeals was apparently not going to be outdone:
The French Appellate court trial of Phillippe Karsenty in the matter of Mohammed Al Dura - the epochal case of the Palestinian boy allegedly shot by Israeli troops in 2000 - took a huge turn today. Photos of the boy have been accused of being the birth of fauxtography.

Appellate Court Presiding judge Laurence Trébucq has demanded that France 2 hand over the 27-minutes of raw footage shot on the afternoon of September 30, 2000 by Talal Abu Rahmeh. France 2 lawyer Maïtre Bénédicte Amblard tried to convince the judge that the request was not appropriate, relevant, necessary or even advisable. But the judge wants to see the outtakes with her own eyes. This is the first time the French court has made such a demand that would be normal in the US system. The court will now be able to determine if the Al Dura shooting and tape was a fake, as many have alleged.

Maître Amblard was not able to reach her clients to confirm availability of the footage. Today’s hearing was adjourned. The next hearing is scheduled on November 14th… to view the raw footage.
Earlier today, Pajamas Media's Paris correspondent, Nidra Poller, wrote that the French media was completely ignoring the appeal:
To my knowledge, the only mention of the upcoming hearing in the French media was a Radio J interview with Philippe Karsenty. The Radio J journalist, Michel Zerbib, is the only French journalist to have given consistently serious attention to the al Dura affair over the past few years. Mainstream media that reported on Karsenty’s conviction, misinterpreted as proof that the al Dura “death scene” was not staged, have not mentioned the recent IDF demand for handover of the outtakes — despite the fact that it expresses serious doubts about the credibility of a major news report.
It seems that even Karsenty himself never thought that the court would demand to see the tape:
Asked if the change in government might influence the outcome of his trial, Karsenty replied that there are two possible avenues of success: either the court could rule in his favor and/or President Sarkozy could instruct Patrick de Carolis, director of France Télévisions, to turn over the outtakes [to the IDF. CiJ] as requested.

Recalling that a letter of praise for Charles Enderlin from then president Jacques Chirac weighed heavily in the case against Karsenty, it will be interesting to observe the attitude of the Court during tomorrow’s hearing.

Only four people have seen the entire tape. The observations of two of those four people, Richard Landes and Luc Rosenzweig about the tape indicate that the entire event was likely staged:
To my knowledge, four people have viewed the 27-minute video: Richard Landes (professor of history at Boston University, director of www.seconddraft.org and Augean Stables), Luc Rosenzweig (a retired first-class French journalist), Denis Jeambar (former editorial director of the news weekly l’Express, currently director of Editions du Seuil), and Daniel Leconte (reputable journalist and director of Doc en Stock, producer of documentaries for French TV).

All four witnesses have testified, formally or informally, to the absence of images of Jamal and Mohamed al Dura in the 27-minute outtakes. They have all, in differing degrees, noted extensive footage of staged battle scenes in the 27-minute segment. None of the four have claimed that the 27-minute segment includes any image that could substantiate the voiceover in the narrative of the “death scene” as broadcast by France 2 on September 30, 2000.

Landes and Rosenzweig maintain that the 55-second video is a staged scene. Jeambar and Leconte maintain that the boy was killed and the father injured in a crossfire. There is no evidence of a crossfire in the 55-second “death scene” video. There is no other image of Jamal and Mohamed al Dura in the 27-minute outtakes.
One more thing. At the end of her article, Poller includes a translation from French into English of the IDF letter requesting the full tape. Here are the key paragraphs:
5. I am aware that divergent points of view were presented before the French court that judged the affair Enderlin, France 2 versus Karsenty (file 0433823049). In his verdict, Judge Joël Boyer reiterated the argument that the State of Israel had never adopted the allegations of a staged scene, had never denied that Mohamed Al Dura was killed by IDF soldiers, and had never made an effort to refute allegations on this subject in the France 2 report. This verdict also led one to believe that the State of Israel had never attempted to obtain the footage used to produce this news report.

6. I want to emphasize that these allegations are totally inconsistent with the repeated attempts by the IDF to obtain the footage, and equally inconsistent with the conclusions of the Tsahal Investigating Commission, which was widely cited in the French and international media. General Samia also made clear to me that all attempts to obtain the footage in order to complete the investigation had been unsuccessful. Furthermore, Reserve General Samia had asked his Palestinian colleagues (primarily General Majdaye, Commandant of the Palestinian police and Brigadier General Omar Ashur, chief of the unity of liaison with Israel) to send Palestinian representatives to join the investigating commission. These requests, as well as requests for handover of photographs of the child’s body and forensic pathology reports were rejected by the Palestinian police chiefs.

7. Given that we are fully aware of attempts to stage scenes for the media and given that such doubts have arisen with respect to the said news report we request handover of the said footage in order to discover the truth and bring an end to this affair.
If only the IDF had been this insistent seven years ago, instead of immediately taking the blame and apologizing.


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