Despite Evidence, French TV Still Refuses Al-Dura Probe

French government-run TV continues to avoid an impartial investigation of the video it broadcast of the killing of 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Dura, during the first weeks of the Oslo War.

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, | updated: 20:29

The clip, of an Arab boy and his father cowering behind a barrel during a gun battle between Arab terrorists and IDF soldiers, became famous when Arab sources claimed it showed Israelis killing a scared boy. Al-Dura’s image became a symbol of the supposed brutality of Israel and the IDF. A scene from the Al-Dura video was even displayed prominently in the background as Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered by Muslim kidnappers in Pakistan.

Evidence shows, however, that he was not killed by Israeli fire. Following the broadcast of the video, the IDF, using drone and satellite photography, demonstrated the near-impossibility of Al-Dura having been hit by an IDF bullet. Independent media analysts in Israel, Germany and France claim to have conclusive evidence proving the entire incident was staged.

Calls for an investigation into the event, however, which are supported by at least one member of the French parliament, have been met with complete refusal to cooperate on the part of France’s Channel 2.

This is hardly the first time the veracity of the Al-Dura incident has been challenged. In 2002, an extensive German documentary produced by Esther Shapira concluded that in view of the positions of the child and the IDF posts, it was more probable that the boy was hit by an Arab bullet.

According to France's Channel 2 Television reporter Charles Enderlin, Al-Dura was killed and his father was severely wounded by Israeli bullets. Enderlin was not present during the incident; French television hired an Arab cameraman from the PA, Talal Abu Rahma, who was the only cameraman to record the shooting of Al-Dura

In a rare move, the state-run TV station decided to distribute the video clip as a 55-second story to TV stations worldwide at no cost. The station justified this by saying it did not want to make money on such a sad incident.

Philippe Karsenty, who heads Media-Ratings, a French media watchdog agency, has also examined the full 27-minute raw footage of the video and come to the conclusion that the entire report was fabricated. "The report is false. I've seen the elements of France 2's report and it is clear that it is a fake," said Karsenty. "It is clear that it was staged."

Karsenty told that among the elements he found proving the report a forgery was a director ordering retakes of scenes, a number of ambulances appearing within two seconds in an unedited shot after an Arab is said to be wounded, the child hoisting himself up on his elbows after he is said to be dead and no blood or bullet wounds on any of the victims.

Karsenty said he met with French officials and provided them with proof that the tape was a hoax, but has not yet received an official response.

Stephane Juffa, editor of the Israeli Metula News Agency, told that he and two other colleagues carried out a thorough investigation, including scores of interviews and scene-by-scene analyses of the video and other material filmed in 2000. "The child we see during the shooting is not the same child that we see in the morgue in other footage, who has bullet wounds and is identified as Mohammed Al-Dura by hospital staff," said Juffa. He added that though he had no information about how the child in the morgue was killed, doctors there said the boy arrived hours before the actual Netzarim gun battle described in the video took place.

Roland Blum, a member of the French Assembly, has asked France’s communications minister to investigate France 2's evidence that Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mohammed Al-Dura, but has not yet received a response. "This has become an important issue because of the emotions that France 2's very serious accusations against the Israeli army have aroused," said Blum. "This type of information, particularly when the reporter wasn't even at the scene, must be checked carefully before it is used as an affirmation and an accusation."

In 2000, when France 2 TV made international headlines with its exclusive video, Enderlin said he had 27 minutes of raw footage, most of which was withheld from the public because France 2 insisted it wanted to spare viewers the images of the dying child's agony.

Juffa claimed France 2 has recently, unofficially, admitted to three journalists that the cameraman, the sole eyewitness to the shooting despite the presence of many other cameramen, had changed his story. The cameraman, according to Juffa, retracted his sworn testimony about the child being killed by Israeli soldiers and about the raw footage showing the child in agony before death.

Juffa believes France 2 should immediately suspend the two journalists behind the report until a full and neutral investigation is completed. "We are not judges but journalists," he said, "but we believe that the people who staged this scene should be brought to justice because their pictures have caused many deaths by becoming a symbol of the intifada and the Israeli Army's violence. Many people have died in the name of Mohammed Al-Dura because of these pictures."

Juffa said he was surprised to find that instead of investigating the video, France 2 responded by attacking him. He said that France 2 has accused him of being a negationist, a revisionist, an extremist and a member of Israel's ultra right-wing.

"I am not part of the extreme right-wing, but that accusation does not answer or excuse the forgery," said Juffa.

Both Juffa and Karsenty said French media have united in refusing to publicize the evidence, by pressuring journalists who fear for their careers in a country where most television and radio journalism jobs are in the state media.

The only response to the mounting evidence against the infamous video has been the non-punitive reprimand of the French government's media regulatory council. The council published a mild statement in December asking French television to identify sources and exercise more caution in reporting on international conflicts in the future.