Initial Responses

Israeli Responses

The Israeli response to the Al Durah incident has been extremely complex. On the one hand, the initial response was to apologize “if” the IDF had accidentally killed the boy, which the world press took as an admission of guilt. Once the immense outrage and anger the broadcast generated swept over Israel, most Israelis – in the government and out – believed that the IDF had indeed killed the boy, although few thought it was done on purpose.

Alone, initially, the physicist Nahum Shahaf looked at the footage and detected a fake. He convinced the Officer in Command of the Southern Command, Yom Tov Samia, to allow him to undertake an investigation. Although Shahaf believed the scene was staged, the report restricted its claims to the ballistics evidence that Israeli bullets could not have hit the father and son. When the report came out, it did not have the official support of the IDF, and most journalists responded by accusing Israel of “blaming the victim.”

Many journalists, especially those strongly opposed to the occupation, were quite aggressive about accusing Israel, including the editors and several journalists at Ha’aretz. When told about Al Durah as a fake, one board member of B’tselem rejoined, “You’re trying to whitewash the occupation.” When Shahaf’s report came out, Ha’aretz criticized and ridiculed it.

Given the immense power of the image as that of a terrified and then dead child, no one in the government, and certainly not in the foreign ministry, really wanted to tackle it. It was a third rail.

On the other hand, Israeli silence undermined every attempt to call the material into question. The French court noted three times in the first decision in France2 and Enderlin vs. Karsenty that the silence of the Israelis shed doubt on Karsenty’s claims. The tension between critics of France2 and Israeli officials could, at times, become quite tense.

It was not until 2012 (!) that the Israeli government officially decided to investigate the issue formally. That decision led to the just released Kuperwasser Commission Report.


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