October 01, 2007

al-Dura Denied

The televised death of Muhammad al-Dura on Sept. 30, 2000 at the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada was replayed over and over again as propaganda by Palestinians, in a conflict that eventually claimed thousands of lives.

Seven years later, the footage has been denounced as fauxtography by the Israeli government:

Seven years after the death of the Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza, the Prime Minister's Office speaks out against the "myth of the murder".

An official document from Jerusalem denied – for the first time – that Israel was responsible for the death of al-Dura at the start of the second intifada.

The document argued that the images, which showed al-Dura being shot beside his father and have become a symbol of the second intifada, were staged.

"The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead," said Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman.

The arguments were based on investigations that showed that the angles of the IDF troops' fire could not have hit the child or his father, that part of the filmed material, mainly the moment of the boy's alleged death, is missing, and the fact that the cameraman can be heard saying the boy is dead while the boy is still seen moving.

In The Atlantic in 2005, James Fallows explained why the story matters:

Al-Dura was the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy shot and killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators on September 30, 2000. The final few seconds of his life, when he crouched in terror behind his father, Jamal, and then slumped to the ground after bullets ripped through his torso, were captured by a television camera and broadcast around the world. Through repetition they have become as familiar and significant to Arab and Islamic viewers as photographs of bombed-out Hiroshima are to the people of Japan—or as footage of the crumbling World Trade Center is to Americans. Several Arab countries have issued postage stamps carrying a picture of the terrified boy. One of Baghdad's main streets was renamed The Martyr Mohammed Aldura Street. Morocco has an al-Dura Park. In one of the messages Osama bin Laden released after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he began a list of indictments against "American arrogance and Israeli violence" by saying, "In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of 'enduring freedom,' Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing."

It is quite possible that this defining moment in the Palestinian intifada cited even by Osama bin Laden was not the death of an innocent at the hands of callous Israeli soldiers, but the deliberate murder of a child for propaganda purposes in which the Palestinian cameraman may have been a willing actor.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 1, 2007 10:49 PM

It seems that the release of the French footage will allow us the proof to what we already know, that the boy was downed by Arab bullets. The very exploitation of this and Jenin and the apartments of Lebanon should make everyone take a minute and not allow Arab propaganda from taking hold.

Posted by: Jweaver at October 2, 2007 09:30 AM

According to R. Landes, who has seen the film already, the film doesn't show the boy being killed. Just set ups and takes, etc.

So it is also a possibility that the boy didn't die at all - because, as I recall, there was some difficulty the Palestinians claimed at the time with producing his body - but that he played dead for the cameras. Or that he had been killed in the Palestinian crossfire.

I find it hard to believe, at this point, that he was killed on demand.

Posted by: Alcibiades at October 2, 2007 09:47 AM

Pity all the fact checkers and editors at the AFP didn't sniff this out at the time. One would almost suspect that there aren't any.

Posted by: corvan at October 2, 2007 10:11 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/02/2007
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Posted by: David M at October 2, 2007 10:26 AM

When the entire video is released the truth will be known one way or another.

Until then everything is just premature speculation and guesswork.

Posted by: r4d20 at October 2, 2007 12:55 PM
Until then everything is just premature speculation and guesswork.

Not at all.

I'm not CSI, but I know my way around firearms, and I can tell you with a great degree of certainty that the bullet holes in the wall behind the al Dura's could not have come from the Israeli position.

Any shot from the Israeli position would have been at consideable distance and at a relatively shallow angle. The bullets would have gouged the wall and probably fragmented, leaving a mark somewhat similar to this, but with probably even less depth as the bullet sideswiped the wall. Nor would the shot be as tightly grouped or in that particular pattern if fired from the Israeli position from an automatic as the shots actually were.

No, the shape of the bullet holes indicates a near right-angle shot, and the spread of the holes tells us they were fired at reasonably close range. It is impossible to pin it down precisely, but I doubt to many experts would argue with an estimate of the shots pictured being fired from much beyond 30 meters, and possibily inside that depending on the weapon used and the skill of the shooter.

This was a broadside murder, in my opinion, but the Israeli's had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at October 2, 2007 03:23 PM

Another example of "fake but accurate."

Posted by: C-C-G at October 2, 2007 07:17 PM

What exactly were the French filmmaker's reasons for withholding footage? If nothing fishy was going on he certainly could have cleared up a lot of questions. It stinks and he stinks. Pallywood, where everyone's dreams come true.

Posted by: daleyrocks at October 3, 2007 09:29 AM