Mona Charen

The image has achieved iconic status: 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura crouching behind a concrete barrier next to his father as (presumably) Israeli bullets ricochet around the pair. Moments later, the boy lies dead in his father's arms.
 
The video dates from September 2000, the start of the Second Intifada, and has become the world's favorite image of supposed Israeli brutality. France 2, the network that supplied the only footage of the shooting, reported that al-Dura had "died under a hail of Israeli bullets." Hussein Ibish, communications director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, declared that the boy's death was "one of the most damaging images in the history of Zionism." The New York Times called the incident "a potent new symbol of what angry Palestinians contend is their continued victimization." The street in Cairo that houses the Israeli consulate was renamed "the Boulevard of Muhammad al-Dura." A park bears his name in Morocco. Belgium put his face on a stamp.

 Al-Dura's image is also spliced into the video Daniel Pearl's killers made of his beheading. As Stephanie Gutmann recounts in her outstanding new book "The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Struggle for Media Supremacy," "After Pearl makes his final statement in the confession portion -- 'my father is a Jew; my mother is a Jew; I am a Jew' -- there is a cut to Mohammed and father huddling together. Seconds before Pearl is laid on the ground and hands begin to saw at his throat with long knives, a still shot of Jamal al-Dura clasping his dying son flashes on the screen."

 Every major media outlet in the world carried the al-Dura story. The narrative: Father and son wandered too close to an Israeli outpost protecting the village of Netzarim. When Israeli soldiers fired upon the pair, the father, Jamal al-Dura, waved to show that they were innocent civilians. They were "answered," as Time.com put it, "with a fusillade of bullets." When every major news organization in the world reports a story, it would be fair to assume that many reporters observed this event. In fact, as Gutmann and Nidra Poller in Commentary both document, every single reporter was relying on the same snippet of tape provided by France 2, though many shamefully phrased their reports as if they were eyewitnesses. The cameraman, Talal Abu Rahmeh, a Palestinian stringer for a number of news agencies, testified that after a five-minute exchange of gunfire between Palestinian police and the Israelis, the Israelis had fired upon the unarmed father and child for 45 minutes.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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