NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, October 3rd 2007
BY MATTHEW KALMAN
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
JERUSALEM - A senior Israeli official is accusing a French TV station of staging news footage to make it look like the Israeli Army was to blame for the shooting death of a Palestinian boy.
Images of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura bleeding to death in his father's arms in Gaza in September 2000 swept the world and became a central image of the Palestinian intifadeh.
The army at first apologized for Mohammed's death, but a subsequent investigation by the Israeli Defense Forces said it was more likely he was killed in crossfire by Palestinian bullets than by the Israelis.
The boy's family rejected Israeli requests at the time to examine the boy's body to determine which side killed him.
Until now, Israeli officials have kept a low profile on the case. But last week, Daniel Seaman, director of the Israel government press office, openly accused the correspondent who aired the footage, Charles Enderlin, and the Palestinian cameraman who captured it, Talal AbuRahma, of a "blood libel" against Israel.
"Israel was accused of murdering a small child after the event by the world press, and his image has been burned into the collective Arab memory as a symbol of the brutality of the Zionist state," Seaman wrote in a letter to the Israel Law Center Shurat Hadin, which had demanded he rescind the press credentials of the network that aired the film, state-owned France 2.
"The events of that day were essentially staged by the network's cameraman in Gaza," wrote Seaman, but he said he would not withdraw the network's press passes.
Israel has asked France 2 to release the full 27 minutes of footage filmed that day in Gaza, but the network has so far refused.
Earlier this year, Enderlin and France 2 won a libel suit in a French court against media watchdog Philippe Karsenty, who accused them of staging the incident. Karsenty is appealing the verdict.
Enderlin told the Daily News he stood by the original broadcast. "The video is authentic and we will continue filing libel suits against people who say contrary," said Enderlin. "The story was not staged."
He said France 2 had refused to release the full footage on principle, "just as any newspaper will refuse to show the private notes of journalists." But he said he welcomed a decision by the French appeals court to screen the 27 minutes of film to a judge next month.
In Gaza, Jamal al-Dura, Mohammed's father, said there was no question an Israeli soldier had fired the fatal bullets.
"The Israelis killed my son. Now they are trying to deny responsibility. They want to erase the case of my son," he said.