Thursday, February 10, 2005

Child murder canard?

One of the images that has driven the Palestinian intifada against Israeli is that of a father shielding his 12 year old son during a battle between the IDF and Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2000. The father's effort was in vain and the boy died. Streets have been named in the boy's honor and Egypt and Tunisia have issued stamps with the boy's image.

The NYTimes reported Monday in a story oddly buried in the business section that some bothersome questions have arisen around the entire story:

1. Did the boy, in fact, die?
2. If so, were the bullets Palestinian or Israeli?
3. Was this artfully staged 'Pallywood' theatre?

According to the NYT report, 1. is uncertain, 2. probably unknowable if the answer to 1. is yes and 3. quite possible.


Last week, the debate gained fresh momentum after a prominent French editor and an independent television producer broke ranks in the country's media circles and wrote a cautious article in the newspaper Le Figaro, expressing some doubt about the photo's authenticity.

"That image has had great influence," said Daniel Leconte, a former correspondent for France 2. "If this image does not mean what we were told, it is necessary to find the truth."

Mr. Leconte wrote the article in Figaro with Denis Jeambar, editor in chief of the newsmagazine L'Express, weeks after station executives at France 2 allowed the two men in October to see all 27 minutes of the footage shot.
Richard Landes, a Boston University professor specializing in medieval cultures, studied full footage from other Western news outlets that day, including the pictures of the boy.

"We could argue about every frame," he said. But after watching the scenes involving Muhammad al-Dura three times, he concluded that it had probably been faked, along with footage on the same tape of separate street clashes and ambulance rescues.

"I came to the realization that Palestinian cameramen, especially when there are no Westerners around, engage in the systematic staging of action scenes," he said, calling the footage Pallywood cinema.


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