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Charles Enderlin: "The Death of Mohammed Al Dura Was Not Staged for the Camera"

Translated Sunday 9 January 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The reporter for France 2 Television has been the victim of a campaign of defamation for ten years now, since the death, in Gaza, of the little Mohammed Al Dura.

On the 30th of September, 2000, Mohammed Al Dura, a Palestinian child, died in his father’s arms opposite the Israeli position in Netzarim, in the Gaza Strip. A cameraman from France 2 filmed the scene; Charles Enderlin, reporter for the television network, broadcast the images, which circled the globe.
Immediately a campaign developed, mainly in France, against our colleague, accusing him of pro-Palestinian propaganda. According to his detractors, the Israeli army would be incapable of such an act.

Tha campaign was fed by Alain Finkielkraut, Luc Rosenzweig, and of course by the CRIF [1] More seriously, certain persons, such as Philippe Karsenty, heading the combat against Enderlin, were invited to develop the thesis of "staged photography" before groups of high-school students during Press Week, as was the case some years ago in the Academy of Nice. This affair is before the courts. Charles Enderlin, who has received the support of the majority of his colleagues, has just published a book [2].

Huma: Did the campaign being waged against you, and which continues, even more virulent in France than in Israel, surprise you?

Charles Enderlin: At one point, indeed, it was surprising because, in this rumor campaign, in this conspiracy theory, there were absolutely incomprehensible, unbelievable elements. I had trouble admitting that sensible people could believe that all that was other than pure fiction: that hundreds of young Palestinians could participate in a staging of events in front of an Israeli military position, under live fire from Israeli soldiers; that the Gaza hospital would then put tomato sauce on the bandages of the father and of the little injured Mohammed, the Jordanian ambassador who brings the man, and the King Abdallah II of Jordan who pays him a visit — that all these people had supposedly participated in a conspiracy worthy of Hollywood, and that people would believe this, yes, that surprised me.

Huma: There is a veritable fury in this attack on you. The affair was placed before the courts. A certain number of personalities, in France, have upheld the accusations made against you. How can you explain this?

Charles Enderlin: I can’t explain it. That someone who really doesn’t know the region in question lets himself be impressed, and ends up swallowing these lies, OK. But that professional journalists would start accusing me, for example, of having broadcast images that were filmed in my absence, that’s going a bit far. Because the bosses of the press, the chief editors, the journalists, everyone works with these correspondents. The cameraman who filmed the tragedy of Mohammed Al Dura is a perfectly believable employee of France 2, who worked, and is still working, for French public television. The Israeli security services have never accused him of any subversive activity. So, that important personalities, from the press, from French journalism, enter into this, this has left me deeply disappointed.

Huma: Essentially, what bothered them in these images? Wasn’t it what they revealed about the attitude of the Israeli army?

Charles Enderlin: It’s the combat. Everyone knew at that time that there were people killed, that there were injured people on both sides. Palestinian children, Israeli children, proportionally in greater number, of course, on the Palestinian side. The Israeli army reflects the Israeli society, with units that conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion; others, on the contrary, in a fashion very far indeed from exemplary. One can not imagine that there have not been big mistakes, that there have not been horrors committed.

Huma: What was the attitude of the Israeli press?

Charles Enderlin: Concerning the affair Al Dura, we were dished up a certain number of television reports picking up on the conspiracy theory. I decided not to take action in the Israei courts, but instead went before the National Press Council. We managed to have an Israeli television network condemned, a network that had broadcast a scandalous and totally unbalanced report on the event.

Huma: Isn’t it a question of pressures exerted to keep us from doing our work - in this case against you - who serve as example of what can be done to provide journalistic coverage of the conflict?

Charles Enderlin: That isn’t so in Israel. I can work normally in Jerusalem. I have my accreditation, based on the decision of the High Court of Justice, since the lawyers for the colonies entered an appeal, which was rejected, that my press card be taken away. I have my contacts, my sources. You can do your work because you still find within the security system, in the ranks of Israeli politicians, even in the highest ranks of the army, people who come to you to say that they are not in agreement with what is happening.

Huma: Concerning the political situation in the Near East, are you optimistic?

Charles Enderlin: I don’t know if we should be optimistic. In any case, we should hope that there will be some swift progress, because very soon, within a year or two, by reason of the development of colonization and the balkanization of Palestinian territory, the West Bank and East-Jerusalem, the window of opportunity will be closed. It will be practically impossible to create an independent and viable Palestinian state. So we must hope that the international community will push the parties to negociate, and to negociate rapidly. Today, the Palestinian Authority just about manages to hold on to its territory. There is no violence. I’m not sure that the Palestinian Authority can hold on for more than another year. Will the Palestinian Authority dissolve itself, and tell the Israelis that they have only to reoccupy the lands? That would be a move toward a solution of a single nation, but with two communities. In the end, that would be the end of Zionism as I conceive of it.

[1Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF)

[2A Child is Dead (Un enfant est mort). Netzarim, 30  septembre 2000, by Charles Enderlin. Éditions Don Quichotte, 200 pages, 18 euros