SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: “Israel denies blame, queries boy’s death” 21May13 May 21, 2013

by Isabel Kershner (NYT)     -    The Sydney Morning Herald     -    21 May 2013

nw-wd-israel-620x349The images seen around the world were shocking: a young boy shot dead as he crouched behind his father in Gaza in September 2000. But the facts behind the images have been disputed almost from the start, and on Sunday, the Israeli government asserted there was no evidence the boy was hit by Israeli bullets – and it was even possible neither the boy nor his father had been struck by any bullets.

The report – filmed by public television channel France 2 at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada – had a powerful impact, galvanising the uprising and fuelling criticism of Israel.

Muhammad al-Durah, 12, became a symbol of the struggle; the image of him cowering behind his father has appeared on postage stamps across the region.

An Israeli general initially told a news conference the boy had apparently been hit by Israeli gunfire, as the TV report stated, but an investigation by the Israeli military a few weeks later found it was more likely he had been hit by bullets fired by Palestinians.

The new findings are the work of an Israeli government review committee, which said its task was to re-examine the event ”in light of the continued damage it has caused to Israel”. They add to years of debate over the veracity of the France 2 report, which was filmed by a Gaza correspondent, Talal Abu Rahma, and narrated by the station’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, who was not at the scene.

The Israeli government review suggested, as others have, that the footage might have been staged.

”Contrary to the report’s claim that the boy is killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive,” the review said. ”Based on the available evidence, it appears significantly more likely that Palestinian gunmen were the source of the shots” that hit near the boy and his father.

France 2 and Enderlin have pursued a libel case against Philippe Karsenty, who runs a French media watchdog and accused the network of broadcasting a staged scene as news. A court found against Mr Karsenty in 2006 but the verdict was overturned on appeal in 2008; France 2 appealed that decision to a higher court, which is expected to rule on Wednesday.

Enderlin described the Israeli report as a ”secret commission”. On Sunday, he said on Twitter the committee had not contacted France 2, the boy’s father, Jamal, or others who were at the scene.

New York Times

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