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Monday, May 20, 2013

Complete Text of Israel’s Report on the Muhammad al-Dura Video

A frame from a video shot in Gaza in September 2000 showed Jamal al-Dura attempting to shield his son Muhammad, 12, during a gun battle between Israelis and Palestinians.France 2/Agence France-Presse A frame from a video shot in Gaza in September 2000 showed Jamal al-Dura attempting to shield his son Muhammad, 12, during a gun battle between Israelis and Palestinians.

As my colleague Isabel Kershner reported, an Israeli government review panel asserted on Sunday that a French television report broadcast in 2000, which appeared to show the death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy named Muhammad al-Dura during clashes in Gaza, was so deeply flawed that it was possible that the boy had been neither shot nor killed during the incident.

The boy’s father, Jamal al-Dura, rejected the report as “propaganda” in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday. Mr. Dura said he was willing to “do anything to reveal the truth, including opening my son’s grave.” Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, he called for an impartial inquiry. “I am prepared for an international investigation in which people from the outside investigate and see who is right â€" the government and the soldiers or the al-Dura family,” he said. “Israel is afraid.”

Charles Enderlin, the French-Israeli journalist who narrated the original video report for France 2, a public television channel, also denounced the new Israeli investigation on Twitter, calling it the “report of a secret commission” that had failed to contact the boy’s father, the French channel and others who were present when the video was recorded.

A French television report first broadcast on Sept. 30, 2000, appeared to show the death of Muhammad al-Dura, 12, during a gun battle in Gaza.

Building on the conclusions of a previous investigation carried out on behalf of the Israeli military, the new report, which was posted online by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, also endorsed a theory popular with pro-Israel bloggers â€" that the whole event might have been staged by Palestinian militants and the local cameraman who recorded the incident in order to damage Israel’s standing and create a child martyr to advance their cause. (To read the report embedded below in full-screen mode, click on the icon at the bottom right of the Scribd document viewer.)

Kuperwasser Report

As the Canadian-Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman reported in 2010, Mr. Enderlin discussed the criticism of his report at length that year in an English-language interview with France 24, following the publication of his book “A Child Is Dead.”

As James Fallows observed a decade ago in The Atlantic, doubts about the authenticity of the Enderlin video report might appeal to some Israelis and their supporters abroad, but are deeply offensive to Palestinians and their supporters.

“The truth about this case will probably never be determined. Or, to put it more precisely, no version of truth that is considered believable by all sides will ever emerge,” Mr. Fallows wrote. “For most of the Arab world, the rights and wrongs of the case are beyond dispute: an innocent boy was murdered, and his blood is on Israel’s hands. Mention of contrary evidence or hypotheses only confirms the bottomless dishonesty of the guilty parties â€" much as Holocaust-denial theories do in the Western world. For the handful of people collecting evidence of a staged event, the truth is also clear, even if the proof is not in hand.”

While the Israeli government’s latest report was welcomed by the American academic Richard A. Landes, a leading proponent of the theory that the video was staged, the Haaretz journalist Barak Ravid argued that it was unlikely to change any minds:

The result of the committee’s work was a document for the extremely meticulous. It is doubtful whether even a hundred people in Israel or worldwide are sufficiently familiar with all the intricate details of the incident to be able to follow the convoluted arguments by the report’s authors. Furthermore, the document contains no new evidence that might significantly impact the accepted version. Even the new interpretation given to some of the old findings seems groundless. For example, Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of Israel’s National Forensic Institute, determined, based on viewing poor quality video footage, that Muhammad al-Dura wasn’t shot and killed in that incident.

The expert opinion attached to the report reads like an article 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.”

It seems as though the report was written for use within Israel alone. The evidence and arguments that were presented might convince the already convinced, but no more than that. The committee could not present any “smoking gun” evidence showing the 25-year-old al-Dura sunbathing on a Gaza beach. Not even close. Any thought of getting such a report to change the globally accepted narrative after 13 years is akin to trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.