On September 30, 2000, at the start of the second ‘Intifada’, France2 broadcast footage of an episode that happened at Netzarim Junction in Gaza that day. It was captured on film by a Palestinian ‘stringer’ named Talal Abu Rahma who – perhaps oddly – was the only one out of the numerous cameramen filming at Netzarim that day to record the incident, even though he claims it occurred over the course of nearly an hour. Charles Enderlin, Jerusalem bureau chief for France2 who edited and interpreted the footage, was not present. On the contrary he was in Ramallah on the West Bank at the time.
France2 put the Abu Rahma footage to air the same day, accompanied by dramatic commentary supplied by Enderlin, and, at the same time, gave copies of the key footage to numerous other news agencies. The footage seemed to portray a horrifying scene: a father and his young son cowering behind a barrel as bullets are fired at them. In subsequent scenes, the boy lies on the ground as if dead. Enderlin’s commentary identifies the gunfire as coming “from the Israeli position” and “targeting” the father and son, eventually killing the boy and badly wounding the father. Talal, under oath, made the narrative still more accusatory: the Israeli soldiers had murdered the boy, Mohammed “in cold blood,” firing “hundreds of bullets”. Mohammed bled to death of a stomach wound.
The story immediately became a global sensation, with all the studios using the footage given them by Enderlin, to tell the same story of an innocent boy killed by Israeli troops. It played a decisive role in both the Muslim and in the Western world, where it mobilized ferocious hostility to Israel and unwavering sympathy for the Palestinians no matter how violent their “resistance.”
Twelve and a half years have passed since the events depicted in the Al Durah video. That’s certainly a long time in terms of a news cycle. But along the way it morphed into something iconic and enduring, with devastating effects in terms of lives lost and ruined. This “icon of hatred” still alive and potent today.
In Search of the Truth
In the years since the incident, questions have been raised about the accuracy of the attribution and even about the authenticity of the scene. Those who accuse the television station and journalists of manipulating the facts have been met with denial, cover-up, obfuscation, and lawsuits.
The Al Durah incident has been in and out of the courts for years in a legal saga pitting the state-controlled France2 television juggernaut along with its senior news producer, Charles Enderlin suing a French citizen and media critic, Philippe Karsenty for criminal defamation of their honor and reputation.
The matter has gone through four separate rounds of legal hearings since the well-funded plaintiffs launched their attack in September 2006 – testament to the determination of both sides, and perhaps to the larger issues at stake.