A French appeals court has overturned the libel conviction of Philippe Karsenty, who claimed that the France-2 TV report of the death of Muhammad Al-Dura in 2000 was staged. The case for revoking France-2's press credentials remains open before the Israeli Supreme Court.
Following the French court's decision, handed down Wednesday, Karsenty said France-2 should acknowledge
Karsenty said France-2 should acknowledge that it "created and is continuing to perpetuate the worst anti-Semitic libel of our era."
that it "created and is continuing to perpetuate the worst anti-Semitic libel of our era."
The case began in 2004, when Karsenty, publisher of a media critique website, claimed that a report aired in September 2000 by France-2 from Netzarim Junction in Gaza purporting to show the killing of a young Arab boy by Israeli soldiers was a staged piece of political theater. The images quickly became a symbol used by Arabs to fan the flames of anti-Israel hatred. The Arab League, meeting in Cairo, went as far as to dedicate October 1 as the Day of Arab Children in honor of Al-Dura. Iran named more than 150 schools after the boy.
In the footage used by the French station in their report, an Arab father and son are shown allegedly hiding from IDF gunfire until there is a cut to the boy lying in the father's lap. At that stage, a voice-over by correspondent Charles Enderlin, who was not on the scene at the time of the filmed incidents, informs viewers that the boy was shot dead by the Israelis.
An official Israeli investigation, as well as subsequent reports in foreign media outlets, showed that it was not physically possible for the Israeli soldiers to have shot the boy. The France-2 news director, in a November 16, 2004 interview with French Radio J, admitted that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty whether the Israelis or the Arabs killed Al-Dura.
In 2004, Karsenty, director of the French website Media Ratings, published an article calling for the resignation of Charles Enderlin and another France-2 employee for staging the Al-Dura boy's death.
France-2 sued Karsenty for libel and won the case in October, 2006. The prosecutor had recommended that the court rule in favor of Karsenty, in light of the evidence he had provided, but the court ruled against him. Enderlin and France-2 were awarded symbolic damages of one euro each, and Karsenty was ordered to pay a small fine and court costs.
Karsenty appealed the decision and, at the outset of his second trial in September, 2007, the French judge ordered France-2 to hand over the raw footage to the court. France-2, however, only made part of the film available to the court. Nonetheless, the court overturned the libel conviction and indicated that Karsenty's claims that the report was phony could not be lightly dismissed.
"The Al-Dura lie is an assault on our ability to think, to criticize, to evaluate, and finally to reject information," Karsenty said Wednesday, "especially the right to reject information on which we base our most cherished assumptions. One of Europe's most cherished assumptions is that Israel is a vicious Nazi-like entity that deliberately murders Palestinian Arab children. Moreover, polls conducted in Europe have identified Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, greater than Iran and North Korea, Pakistan and Syria. The Al-Dura hoax is one of the pillars on which these assumptions rely."
Will France-2 Continue to Report in Israel?
On May 12, the Israeli Supreme Court heard arguments in the petition of the Israel Law Center to revoke the media credentials of France-2 and of Charles Enderlin. The Government Press Office, responsible for issuing press credentials, told the Supreme Court it could only revoke them in cases involving risks to national security.
Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the Israel Law Center, said she will withdraw the petition if Enderlin and France-2 admit their error. Darshan-Leitner said the hearing was notable because the Israeli government acknowledged for the first time that the Al-Dura broadcast was fraudulent.