Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2005 / 12 Elul,
The lie heard round the world
The image has achieved iconic status: 12-year-old Muhammad
al-Dura crouching behind a concrete barrier next to his father as
(presumably) Israeli bullets ricochet around the pair. Moments later, the
boy lies dead in his father's arms.
The video dates from September 2000, the start of the Second
Intifada, and has become the world's favorite image of supposed Israeli
brutality. France 2, the network that supplied the only footage of the
shooting, reported that al-Dura had "died under a hail of Israeli bullets."
Hussein Ibish, communications director of the Arab-American
Anti-Discrimination Committee, declared that the boy's death was "one of the
most damaging images in the history of Zionism." The New York Times called
the incident "a potent new symbol of what angry Palestinians contend is
their continued victimization." The street in Cairo that houses the Israeli
consulate was renamed "the Boulevard of Muhammad al-Dura." A park bears his
name in Morocco. Belgium put his face on a stamp.
Al-Dura's image is also spliced into the video Daniel Pearl's killers made of his beheading. As Stephanie Gutmann recounts in her outstanding new book "The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Struggle for Media Supremacy," "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."
Only much later, after the story had blanketed the globe and
become a recruiting tool for suicide bombers in many countries, did
questions about the narrative begin to trickle out. The Israel Defense
Forces performed a series of re-creations of the scene (after initially
acknowledging that its soldiers might have accidentally shot the pair) and
concluded that the father and son simply could not have been hit from the
Israeli position. No autopsy was performed on the boy's body. No bullets
were ever retrieved. But other investigators have noted that the size and
shape of the bullet holes on the concrete wall behind the pair were
inconsistent with M-16s the Israelis used.
As both Gutmann and Poller document, the camera crews had set up
at Netzarim in the morning before a single shot was fired. Why? Poller has
viewed all of the footage she could obtain from the other news organizations
stationed at Netzarim that day and discovered that, in addition to actual
scenes, the cameras also captured a number of vignettes in which
"Palestinian stringers sporting prestigious logos on their vests and cameras
are seen filming battle scenes staged behind the abandoned factory, well out
of range of Israeli gunfire."
When Esther Schapira, a German documentary filmmaker, asked
France 2 to permit her to view the entire day's film from Netzarim, not the
just the 51 seconds that had so electrified the world, she was rebuffed.
Some have theorized that al-Dura was accidentally killed by
Palestinians and then immediately transformed into a martyr to cover up the
mistake. Others believe it is possible that he was intentionally sacrificed
because his father had been a little too friendly with Israelis. We will
probably never know. But one thing is certain the story of the deliberate
killing of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura by Israeli soldiers was a damnable
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.