Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A belated victory for justice

Yaakov Ahimeir

The publication of the government inquiry report into the Mohammed al-Dura incident, which shows that the Palestinian boy was not shot dead at Netzarim junction 13 years ago, absolves the Israel Defense Forces. The report, however, needs to spark deep introspection: Why has it taken 13 years to compile? Why has so much time passed since that image was broadcast across the globe until the inquiry commission's conclusions were finally released?
Thirteen years have come and gone since the Arab world (and other people too) "celebrated" the Israeli army's alleged cruelty as it unfolded on tens of millions of television screens: shooting at a little boy and his father.
The report's publication reminds me and many of my colleagues about our reports into the efforts of anonymous soldiers, who enlisted their services voluntarily and acted according to their own consciences, to prove that the IDF was not guilty of these accusations.
Through the years Mohammed al-Dura has become a symbol of the Palestinian uprising against Israel. The image of the boy cowering behind his father from the flying bullets fanned the flames of more and more terrorism and was immortalized by Palestinian propaganda. Streets and town squares were named after him and his picture was put on postage stamps. Many other forms of commemoration fanned hatred at Israel, whose soldiers aim their weapons at children.
But some people gathered to refute this plot. One of them is Philippe Karsenty, a Jewish politician, businessman and media analyst from France, the country whose France 2 TV station first produced the images of the father trying to protect his son. It was France 2 that first broadcast, on the day of the incident, the unequivocal conclusion that the IDF killed the boy. Karsenty, who closely follows reporting about Israel in his country, opened his own investigation and came to the conclusion years ago that the claim against the Israeli soldiers was a blood libel.
There were also the Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf and engineer Joseph Doriel, and also the German television station ARD, which ran an investigative report, produced by Esther Shapira, that refuted the accusations. Israeli doctor Yehuda David also joined these efforts.
I remember meeting with Karsenty, who was banging on doors in Israel trying to energize a propaganda war against France 2. After these attempts, I often saw him frustrated, but never in despair.
And now can we rest on our laurels? No, Israel must now examine its agencies and how they functioned these past 13 years since the shooting. Did they make haste in investigating whether Mohammed al-Dura was in fact shot by Israeli soldiers? Did they respond with a swift, fact-based media campaign to refute the accusation? Was there too much caution exhibited so as not to worsen the relationship with the French television channel, France 2, which ran the news piece by journalist Charles Enderlin about the incident at Netzarim junction?
We can only hope that the lessons have been learned if we are confronted with similar events in the future.

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