Subscribe To our E-Newsletter
Damage Has Been Done, but There's Still Time to Correct the Record
Former prisoner of Zion and Israeli Cabinet member Natan Sharansky writes in The Wall Street Journal (www.opinionjournal.com) on Oct. 2 that a judge in France has a chance to hold the media accountable:
"Last month, a French court heard an appeals case whose forthcoming verdict will have far-reaching ramifications for all who value truth and accuracy in Middle East news reporting. The case involves Philippe Karsenty, a French journalist and media commentator, who was found guilty of defamation after he called for the firing of two France 2 Television journalists responsible for the Sept. 30, 2000, news report on the alleged killing of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, by the Israel Defense Force.
"It has been seven years since France 2 Television broadcast the excruciating footage of Mohammed and his father, Jamal, crouching in terror behind a barrel in Gaza's Netzarim Junction while, according to the report, under relentless fire from the IDF. The 59-second clip, which ends with the boy apparently shot dead, was presented around the world as an unambiguous case of Israeli savagery.
"The tape fanned the flames of what became known as the second intifada. The boy Mohammed was the iconic martyr, his name and face gracing streets, parks and postage stamps across the Arab world.
"Shortly following the al-Dura incident, however, a series of inquiries cast grave doubt on the accuracy of the original France 2 report. And yet France 2 refused to release Abu Rahmeh's full 27 minutes of raw footage. It did, however, agree to let three prominent French journalists view the footage. All three concluded that it comprised blatantly staged scenes of Palestinians being shot by Israeli forces, and that France 2's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin had lied to conceal that fact.
"Subsequently, alleging gross malfeasance, Mr. Karsenty called for the firings of Mr. Enderlin and France 2 news director Arlette Chabot. But France 2 stood defiant, suing Mr. Karsenty for defamation.
"Israel's decision to stay on the sidelines was unfortunate because the truth always matters. The al-Dura incident wasn't the only media report to inflame passions against Israel in recent years, but it was the one with the highest profile. Moreover, if, as Mr. Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources (recall the Jenin 'massacre' that never was, or the doctored Reuters photos from Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006), then France 2 must be held accountable.
"It is important to note that the al-Dura news report profoundly influenced Western public opinion. When I served in the Israeli government, I traveled frequently to North American college campuses. I heard firsthand how Mohammed al-Dura had shaped the perceptions of young people just beginning to follow events in the Middle East. For many Jewish students, the incident was a stain of dishonor that called into question their support for Israel. For anti-Israel students, the story reaffirmed their sense of Zionism's innately 'racist' nature and became a tool for recruiting campus peers to the cause.
"Tragically, there is no way to repair the damage inflicted on Israel's international image by the France 2 report, much less restore the Israeli and Jewish victims whose lives were exacted as vengeance. It is possible, however, to deter slanderous news reporting -- and the violence that often accompanies it -- by setting a precedent for media accountability via the handover of Talal Abu Rahmeh's full 27 minutes of raw footage.
"Encouragingly, the judge presiding over Mr. Karsenty's appeal has now requested the tapes. France 2 must make a full public disclosure. If there is nothing to hide, why should it refuse?"
Academic and Atheist Commonality: Dis Israel and Anyone Jewish
D aniel Johnson writes in The New York Sun (www.nysun.com) on Oct. 4 that the growth of anti-Semitism is having a major impact on British academia:
"Who said this on a visit to America last week? 'When you think how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been ... they more or less monopolize American foreign policy, as far as many people can see.' Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
"No: It was Professor Richard Dawkins, speaking at the Atheist Alliance convention in Crystal City, Va.
"Mr. Dawkins has embarked on a campaign to give atheists a louder voice in the American public square. He appears to be unaware of the irony involved in his chosen method of attracting attention -- which is to repeat the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the Islamic fundamentalists.
"As holder of the chair of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, Mr. Dawkins has even less excuse for holding such opinions than the Islamofascists. After all, Oxford academics, known as 'dons,' are exposed to a wide range of views, aren't they? They devote their lives to the disinterested pursuit of truth, distinguish between fact and fiction, tolerate dissent, defend freedom of speech and thought, don't they?
"Well, no, actually. A Jewish friend of mine who taught at Oxford told me that he found the atmosphere there to be oppressive for anybody who did not buy the Palestinian narrative. His colleagues weren't interested in hearing the truth. They were tolerant, yes, but only of rabid anti-Semites such as the poet Tom Paulin, who called for 'Brooklyn-born settlers' in Israel to be 'shot dead.' They were intolerant of those whose scholarship treated Zionism objectively. So, sadly, my friend left the university.
"This is the context in which the British University and College Union voted to boycott Israeli academics -- though the union just backed off, after legal advice warning its leaders that such a boycott would infringe anti-discrimination laws. But why did the academics require one of the most expensive lawyers in Britain, Anthony Lester, to tell them what their consciences ought to have told them instinctively?
"Part of the explanation is that these academics are, like the rest of Europe, busily appeasing the Islamists. It matters hugely, of course, when the free circulation of scholarship is stopped by the scholars themselves engaging in a deliberate act of sabotage.
"Amazingly, American and European authorities have completely failed to take cognizance of the anti-Semitic nature of the ideology that led to Sept. 11, despite the wealth of evidence that has emerged since. Yet some of us were warning people about this elephant in the room at the time.
"Why did the American authors of the '9/11 Commission Report' fail to notice any of this? Why has the British academic establishment shunned the minority of scholars, such as David Pryce-Jones, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Matthias Küntzel and Efraim Karsh, who have consistently warned against this dangerous Islamofascist nexus?
"The answer is that anti-Semitism has quietly insinuated itself into British social and cultural life again.
"On Sept. 29, the chairman of Chelsea Football Club, one of the most famous soccer teams in the world, publicly protested about anti-Semitic abuse by the fans of the new manager and coach, Avram Grant. Mr. Grant had been in the job for just one week. His crime? To be an Israeli and a distinguished former coach of the national team."