Frenchman convicted of defamation in Mideast case
PARIS (AP) — A French media analyst was convicted Wednesday of defamation for accusing a state television network of staging a video that depicted a Palestinian boy being killed in a firefight between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces.
The footage more than a decade ago galvanized anti-Israeli sentiment, and shaped perspectives of the Mideast conflict during the second Palestinian uprising. The al-Dura case has long stirred emotions in Israel, tapping into a larger sense of the Jewish state being victimized in the media.
The footage by France-2 broadcast on Sept. 30, 2000, showed the terrified boy, Mohammed al-Dura, and his father amid a furious exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. It then cut to the motionless boy slumped in his father’s lap. The report blamed Israeli forces for the death.
In a report issued in 2004, Philippe Karsenty said the footage was orchestrated and there was no proof that the boy had been killed.
France-2 sued for defamation, and after a long legal battle, a Paris court fined Karsenty 7,000 euros Wednesday. He called the verdict “outrageous.”
Over the past decade Karsenty has amassed hours of video about the day of the shooting. At the heart of his claim is the fact that, according to the reporting by France-2, father and son received a total of 15 high-velocity bullets but in the video, neither appears to be bleeding. He says the firefight is real, but the shooting of the man and boy was staged for the camera.
“I am serene because I know the truth will come out,” Karsenty said. “Despite 15 bullets not one drop of blood was on their clothes, their bodies, the wall they were leaning against.”
Last month, the Israeli government issued a new report on the incident that said the report was misleading, provides no evidence and was part of a smear campaign against the Jewish state.
Benedicte Amblard, a lawyer for France-2, said the verdict would allow journalists to retain confidence in their work.
France-2 Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin said he and France-2 parent company France Televisions welcomed Wednesday’s decision.
“Today’s result is a relief,” he said, but added it did not put the matter to rest. Enderlin, a French-Israeli national, said conspiracy theorists continue to hound them over the incident. He said despite years of litigation and Israeli officials accusing him of fabrication, he welcomed an investigation.
“We are ready whenever Israel wants to go for a professional investigation following international standards,” he told The Associated Press.
Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said the ruling confirmed that Israel and their supporters lied about the military’s practices in the coastal territory.
“They deceive and cover their crimes in front of the media and the world,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he had no comment on a case that delved into the intricacy of French defamation law. He said, however, that the Israeli position on the al-Dura case remains unchanged.
“It is improbable, not to say impossible, that the bullets which hit Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura came from the Israeli position,” he said. “Where they did come from remains subject to many hypotheses, though none can be proven.”
Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza contributed to this report.