[UPDATE: an excellent article questioning the point of the report on Al-Dura released by the Israeli government. What is the use regurgitating this 13-year old case? What is more, the evidence presented in the report appears not particularly striking or new. As the article describes:
‘Even the new interpretation given to some of the old findings seems groundless. For example, Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of the Israel’s National Forensic Institute, determined, based on viewing poor quality video footage, that Mohammed al-Dura wasn’t shot and killed in that incident.
The expert opinion which was attached to the report reads like a report by a movie critic and not by a pathologist. “The final scenes, in which the boy is seen raising his head and arms, bringing his hand to his face and looking into the distance, are not compatible with death throes but seem like voluntary movements”, wrote Nachman. “One doesn’t need to be an expert to see that”.’]
The picture of Mohammad Al-Dura shielding with his father behind a barrel is one of the most prominent icons of the Second Intifidah. Originally brought by France 2 journalist Charles Enderlin, the story alleges that Mohammad and his father Jamal were caught under IDF fire in Netzarim Juncture in the Gaza Strip, which ultimately killed the former and seriously wounded the latter.
This rendering of the story has long been contested. For example, an IDF report of the early 2000’s found it highly unlikely that IDF bullets could have hit Al-Dura. Similarly, a report by ballistics expert Jean-Claude Schlinger commissioned for a French Court found that “If Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura were indeed struck by shots, then they could not have come from the Israeli position, from a technical point of view, but only from the direction of the Palestinian position.” Part of the debate on this incident has been a series of French court cases, among others one filed by France 2 and Enderlin in 2007 which presses libel charges against French citizen Philippe Karsenty. The ultimate verdict in this case is due in the coming days.
Now an Israeli commission investigating the incident has gone beyond rejecting IDF responsibility for Al-Dura’s death, and concludes that the boy does not die in the footage on which Enderlin based the report (below). In his report, Enderlin cuts off the footage before Al Dura moves his arm and appears to sneak a peek in the direction of the camera (0.55). Indeed the Israeli report concludes that “there is no evidence that Jamal or the boy were wounded in the manner claimed in the report, and that the footage does not depict Jamal as having been badly injured. In contrast, there are numerous indications that the two were not struck by bullets at all.”
What is the relevance of this report? For the debate surrounding the Intifadah, the answer is clearly: none. Even if Al-Dura was not hit by Israeli bullets (or not at all), other Palestinian children were. But on an individual level the case matters. If it is true, as some of the evidence suggests, that the Al-Dura case was a fabrication, it says serious and cynical things about the Palestinian cameraman and French journalists involved.