THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 16, 2007
Do you recall the name Muhammed al-Dura, the 12 year-old Palestinian boy
allegedly killed deliberately by Israeli soldiers on September 30, 2000,
the one whose death was a prime explanation for the second intifada? My
friend, the historian Richard Landes, did not believe the accusation from
the start, and he began to pursue France 2, which had publicized the
happening, to show not just the 55 seconds it aired and also gave, gratis,
to its competitors but to present the entire 27 minutes of film it had of
To Professor Landes--the son of the other Professor Landes, the great
economic historian David Landes--goes the credit for keeping the question
alive: does the "evidence" prove what France 2 says it does? Now the
younger Landes has seen the entire tape, and he believes fervently that it
does not. Fervency is the not the measure of his correctness but his
training as a historian, scrupulous and attentive to detail, does. If any
of you have been following this strand of the intifada you may have been
reading Landes's web site, Augean Stables or, for that matter,
material on TNR.com.
A French court had once before refused to liberate the suspect
evidence. But now there is another process in the courts brought by
respected Internet media-watcher Philippe Karsenty. He asks once again
that the materials on which the initial charge had been based be released.
The army in Israel also carried out its own investigation which it never
made public. Why, went the reasoning, focus attention on a lachrymose
image that put Israel in a terrible light? Even if it proved the opposite
of what France 2 claimed. Now, the IDF has apparently changed its mind and
demanded that the French television network release its sequestered film.
Landes has persuaded me that the French were playing tricks with
All of this is detailed in an article by Carolyn Glick in Monday's
Jerusalem Post: "IDF demands uncut al-Dura tape."
Isn't it smarmy of France 2 and Charles Enderlin, its chief newsman in
Israel and the person responsible for the tape, to have kept the raw
material of both news and history locked up in a safe, preventing the
evidence from seeing the light of day?