Initial Responses

Arab and Muslim World Responses


The reaction of the Arab and Muslim world to the Al Durah story constitutes perhaps the most tragic and troubling part of the tale. As with Palestinian culture, but writ large, the Al Durah story became an icon of hatred, infusing with new vigor a cult of death propounded by the most extreme forces of Islamism and global Jihad. It is within this framework, that one clearly sees the operation of a new kind of “blood libel” that animated both suicide bombers and those who applauded and sanctified them.

In a larger sense, this narrative strengthened the forces of war and extremism throughout the Arab and Muslim world. When the Arab intellectuals who wrote the UN Human Development Report on the Arab world, lamented the utter absence of the kinds of cultural traits that would contribute to growth, freedom and peace, they were in part, looking at a cultural landscape devastated by the success of this lethal narrative.

Reception in the Arab and Muslim World

Beyond the Palestinian authority, the image had a powerful galvanizing affect on public opinion in the Arab and Muslim world. This picture was not alone in changing matters, but one notes that the Intifada marks the beginning of a whole new phase of anti-Semitic discourse in the Arab (and Muslim) world. It was as if the floodgates opened and the media was inundated with material that had always been there, but now reached new levels of intensity: Newspapers, movies, TV serials, tapes, books, all served up lurid depictions of the blood libels with new twists, and conspiracy theories, especially the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Mossad behind 9-11. Omnipresent cartoons, editorials, sermons in mosques replayed on TV spoke with an intensity of hatred and a will to violence, even genocide, that rivaled the Nazi propaganda machine of the 1930s. Finally, and most ominously, the picture made a deep impact on Jihadi circles both in the Arab world and beyond.

The Role of Al-Jazeera

• In Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging The West,” (2005) Hugh Miles describes the role of Al-Jazeera in making Muhammad al-Dura the poster boy of the intifada:

Al-Jazeera ran repeatedly the clip of the boy being shot, and for several days the picture of his dying became the network’s emblem of the intifada. This had a deeply galvanizing effect on the wider Arab public. Arabs everywhere became desperate for bulletins from the Occupied Territories, but state-run Arab news providers were slow to give good coverage … from the very start Al-Jazeera’s live coverage from the front line far outstripped any other network’s coverage.” (pp. 73/74)

Fouad Ajami, director of the program in Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, piece on Al-Jazeera television (“What the Muslim World is Watching,“) New York Times Magazine, November 18, 2001 described the “incendiary” manner in which the network covered the al-Dura episode:

The station played and replayed the heart-rending footage of 12-year-old Muhammed al-Durra, who was shot in Gaza and died in his father’s arms. The images’ ceaseless repetition signaled the arrival of a new, sensational breed of Arab journalism. Even some Palestinians questioned the opportunistic way Al-Jazeera handled the tragic incident. But the channel savored the publicity and the controversy all the same.

Al Durah in the Arab Press

• The image of al-Dura constitutes a symbol of all the oppression suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. It is a permanent symbol of Palestinian suffering.

• The “martyrdom” of al-Dura serves as a justification for suicide operations against Israeli civilians. As the Egyptian Journalist Fahmi Huweidi put it after the Sbarro Pizza attack:

Likewise, I know that Israel has no mercy on any Palestinian and does not distinguish between a fighter and a woman, a child or an elderly [person]. The child Muhammad Al-Dura was not known as a member of the “Islamic Jihad” or the “Al-Qassam Brigades,” he was killed simply for being Palestinian. Why is this so? Why do we not regret Palestinian blood but are shocked by blood when it is Israeli? Why do we shed a tear over the innocent victims who sat in the pizza restaurant on Thursday? It should be known that these citizens, like every Israeli man and woman, are accomplices in the crime of the robbery of Palestine [have we forgotten?] not to mention that they are reservists who turn into fighters and killers at the drop of a dime. (August 2001)

Note the importance of both Muhammad’s innocence and deliberate Israeli killing — the mercilessness — in Huweidi’s defense of suicide terrorism. Because they killed an innocent boy on purpose — as Talal says, “in cold blood,” so can we.

• Palestinian Authority and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sees the “martyrdom” of al-Dura as an example to be followed:

No one can rule that nation of giants [i.e., the Palestinian people]. One-hundred and four years passed since the first [Zionist] convention in Basle [Switzerland, 1897] where it was claimed that our land is ‘a land without a people for a people without a homeland [i.e., the Jews].’ When Golda Meir was asked about the Palestinian people she said ‘there are no Palestinians.’ Today, the martyr Muhammad al-Dura and all our martyrs in paradise tell them: ‘We are a nation of giants, we shall defend the frontline land.’ (December 2001)

• Al- Qaddafi (Libya) associates the helpless image of the death of al-Dura with a general Arab malaise of cowardice. Expressing his anger at the current Arab condition he said that the Arabs have nothing “but to cry the same they did for Muhammad al-Durah.”

• Five years later, an Arab News columnist calls the al-Dura death

a lasting image of the war against the Palestinian people and how Israel has conducted it … It recorded reality in a visual way that will be etched in our consciousness for generations to come. (September 2005)

Three thousand Palestinian children took part in a massive demonstration staged by the Islamic Jihad movement on the fifth anniversary of Al-Aqsa Intifada and the commemoration of Mohammad Al-Dura’s killing. (October 2005)


What Enderlin may not have understood when he claimed that the boy and the father were “the target of fire coming from the Israeli position,” is that according to the Sharia on Jihad, Muslims may not kill the women and children among their enemies, unless they kill Muslim civilians. When Osama bin Laden made a recruiting video in the immediate aftermath of the incident, published months before 9-11, he had a special section on Muhamed.

Bin Laden Recruiting Video. Note that the targets are not only the Jews (Yahud), but their allies, and all those cowardly Arab governments who fail to take vengeance.

After 9-11, Bin Laden made a statement entitled, “Nineteen Students,” that aired on al Jazeera TV, December 26, 2001. In it he refers repeatedly to al Durah as a justification for his deeds.

The deliberate killing of children in Palestine today is the ugliest, most oppressive, and hostile act, and something that threatens all of humanity. History knows that one who kills children, even if rarely, is a follower of Pharaoh… Slaughtering children was something for which the head of oppression and unbelief, and hostility, Pharaoh was famous; yet the sons of Israel have done the same thing to our sons in Palestine. The whole world has witnessed Israeli soldiers killing Muhammad al Durreh and many others like him…

So in fact it is as if Israel — and those backing it in America — have killed all the children in the world. What will stop Israel killing our sons tomorrow, in Tabuk, al Jauf and other areas? What would the rulers do if Israel hroadened its territory according to what they allege is written in their false, oppressive, unjust books, which say “our borders extend as far as Medina”? [NB: This even farther than the traditional paranoid fantasy from the Nile to the Euphrates.] What will rulers do except submit to this American Zionist lobby?

Rational people must wake up or what befell Muhammad al-Durreh and his brothers will happen tomorrow to their sons and women. The is no strength or power except in God… The events of the 22nd of Jamada al Thani or Aylul [9-11] are merely a response to the continuous injustice inflicted upon our sons in Palestine, Iraq,…
Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, pp. 147-48.

Daniel Pearl was executed as a Jew in that grisly style to which we have become unfortunately familiar – throat slit before the cameras – with a picture of al Durah behind him and scenes of al Durah spliced into the slitting of his throat.


In the words of Stephanie Gutmann:

Within the montage, shots of Mohammed and Jamal are given a sort of starring role: After Pearl makes his final statement in the confession portion – ‘my father is a Jew; my mother is a Jew; I am a Jew” – there is a cut to Mohammed and father huddling together. Seconds before Pearl is laid on the ground and hands begin to saw at his throat with long knives, a still shot of Jamal al-Dura clasping his dying son flashes on the screen. After Pearl’s detached head is exhibited, hanging from something that allows it to twist slowly in the air, there is a long crawl over a black screen informing the viewer that ‘scenes like this will be repeated’ unless the United States stops supporting Israel and its ‘massacres of children.'” (p.42)

Note that this was the first of now many “execution videos” produced by global Jihadis.

• Columnist Mona Charen, in an article about Mohammed al-Dura titled “Contrived Image” makes also reference to the video of Daniel Pearl’s death.


• Mohammed al-Dura became an icon for the Arab and Muslim world and he is celebrated in different ways.

Egyptian stamp

Tunisian stamp

Artists celebrate al-Durah
Oil on Canvas, Intifada Collection, By: Hicham Takache, 2001

• Festivals in honor of the Shaheed Mohammad al-Dura. For example, the Al Quds Festival.

• Several poems (read here and here) and songs dedicated to Mohammad al-Dura in the Arab and Muslim media. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai composed a poem in honor of al-Dura.



Music video broadcasted since December 2000 in Palestinian Television, showing al-Dura calling children to follow him to paradise: “I am waving to you, not in parting, but to say, follow me…- Muhammad al-Dura”

Saudi Fashion Designer Al-Bishri designed a dress featuring bloodstains, an Israeli tank and a picture of Muhammad Al-Durra. Al-Bishri said that he had dedicated the dress to the children of the intifada.

[NB the presence in the “artwork” of the blood absent in reality.]

• Streets named after al-Dura in Iran, Morocco, Egypt re-named the street in front of the Israeli embassy “Muhammad al Durra Street” and Iraq named a main thoroughfare in Baghdad “Martyr Mohammed al-Dura Street.”

• The Iranian Ministry of Education developed a website commemorating al-Dura.


• The Saudi ambassador to England said that the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank was “far more severe than anything the Germans did when they occupied Europe in World War Two” (July 2002)

• Reporting of “atrocities” committed by Israelis is presented as “proof” that “Jews act like Nazis.

• Dr. ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Rantisi, a top Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, writes that “Comparing Zionism and Nazism Insults the Nazis.” (August 2003)

In a sense, all this is standard fare in the Arab world, where such comparisons are a staple of anti-Zionist rhetoric. Part of the significance of al-Durah is that the story spread such comparisons to the West.

Demonstration in Place de la République, Paris, October 2000. The equation of Nazism and Zionism under the aegis of Al Durah.