Introduction by Richard Landes

This section offers the basic elements for analysis: ballistic issues, medical forensic issues, the trail of evidence (or its absence), the controversies. Here you can participate in an analysis of the evidence, and speculate on “what happened.”

For those who prefer their analysis in documentary form, here is a 13 minute video analyzing the evidence in the Al Durah case.

The Birth of an Icon from Al Durah Project on Vimeo.

The ability to analyze and reconstruct “what happened” at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000 depends on both a close examination of the evidence and a willingness to approach this evidence with an open mind. Given that the footage has widely circulated as depicting the killing of a young boy in his father’s lap, it is very hard for most viewers to approach this video without thinking that they are seeing a child die before their eyes. Once, upon being presented this material, an Israeli soldier insisted that I must have left out some footage, since he remembered seeing the boy shot on film. Researchers have long insisted on the power of suggestion in affecting what we think we see. There are few cases where this is more salient than this case. The first viewers of this footage were warned in advance by the stations that presented the story, that they were about to see some disturbing footage.

And yet there are three critical issues that have major import for how the footage was interpreted and the impact that it had on the global community.

  • If, as the initial and almost universally accepted story was true, i.e., the child was killed, who killed him?
  • If we can identify who killed him, did they do it on purpose or by accident?
  • What if the boy was not killed? What does that mean about what happened?

This leads to the following five possible scenarios whereby we can reconstruct what happened. All the evidence either confirms or undermines a given scenario, and figuring out what happened depends on which scenario is best and least supported by the evidence. Lacking direct evidence of the death of the child, the circumstantial evidence only permits us to make estimates on the probability of any given scenario.

1) The Israelis on purpose
2) The Israelis by accident
3) The Palestinians by accident
4) The Palestinians on purpose
5) Staged by the Palestinians

Although this list is in descending order of world opinion (i.e., most people believe 1, fewest believe 5), we will argue below, based on a close examination of the evidence that it is in ascending order of believability (i.e., that 1 is the least likely and 5 the most). Further discussion at: Five Scenarios.

We welcome participation, comment, reasoned dissent, proffered additional material. Charles Enderlin has called for an international investigation. At least here, and hopefully there, the discussion will be honest.