French media analyst convicted of defamation, fined in Mohammed al-Dura case 27Jun13 June 27, 2013

Haaretz     -     26 June 2013

2349077637A French media analyst was convicted of defamation on Wednesday for accusing a French television network of staging a video that depicted a young boy being killed in a firefight between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in Gaza.

The Paris Court of Appeals fined Philippe Karsenty 7,000 euros in the defamation case filed by state television news network France-2. Karsenty called the verdict “outrageous.”

The footage, first broadcast on September 30, 2000, showed a terrified 12-year-old 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 the Israeli army for the child’s death, which Israel vehemently denies.

The footage galvanized anti-Israeli sentiment more than a decade ago, and shaped perspectives of the Mideast conflict during the second Palestinian intifada. The al-Dura case has long stirred emotions in Israel, tapping into a larger sense of the Jewish state being victimized in the media.

On November 22, 2004, Karsenty, a French Jewish media analyst, wrote on his website Media Ratings that al-Dura’s death was staged and that France-2′s conduct “disgraces France and its public broadcasting system.”

A few weeks later, France-2 and its Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, who filed the report, sued Karsenty for defamation. Two years later he was found guilty and was ordered to pay 1,000 euros in compensation, in addition to 3,000 euros for trial expenses. That same day, Karsenty filed an appeal, which resulted in a 2008 ruling overturning his conviction.

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.”

In February 2012, the French Supreme Court quashed the appeals court’s decision to overturn the conviction and sent the case back to the appeals court, which on Wednesday upheld the original conviction.

Palestinian militant group Hamas welcomed the verdict, saying it proved that Israel’s military lied about its actions in Gaza. A lawyer for France-2 hailed the decision as a victory for journalists.

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 Israel.

Benedicte Amblard, 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 Television 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.”


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