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Excerpts from Gérard Huber book: Chapter 4: 181-211
Wednesday, 09 February 2005 00:00
ABSTRACT: Excerpts from Gérard Huber book : Chapter 4: 181-211, [translated from the French by Nidra Poller].

QUOTE: "Yes, it's fine for Charles Enderlin to say, "Nothing has been manipulated. There is no fabrication, there is no manipulation." And to clinch the declaration with, "anybody accusing Talal, me, or France 2 for manipulation or fabrication, for us it is enough to go to the Court."…. It's true, before accusing anyone of manipulation you have to prove that there is an original and an edited version, and then you have to compare them, precisely indicating all the modifications, erasures, and additions, everything that has been retouched. That's how we can prove that Stalin erased Trotsky from the cult images of the October Revolution. The erasures served a revisionist finality: to rewrite history by falsifying it. And it is easy to prove that the Israeli soldier you see aiming at the boy and his father in Palestinian propaganda films is not in the France 2 film; here too the addition serves a negationist finality—to invent a false reality. A Palestinian media official coldly explains that the soldier was added for artistic reasons and in the same breath proclaims the principle of 'the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.'"

KEYWORDS: al-Dura


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CHAPTER 4:

RIEN DU TOUT (NOTHING)

….

We won't have anything to say about Talal Abu Rahmé's rushes for the simple reason that we have never been able to see them. And what does the cameraman tell us about his rushes? We see him in Esther Schapira's film, smiling, blinking. When asked about the images he's still holding, he answers sarcastically, "France 2 has collected...we keep some secrets for ourselves you know, we can't give anything…" Then, catching himself, says, "yes, everything." Anything. Everything. Is it really the same thing?…. What is he telling us? Certainly not that he could give us everything, that would be absurd, but that he's going to give us nothing! And what might he show that he isn't showing? Is it the image he couldn't film because it was hidden by that cloud of dust he won't let us forget? Or the image that is easily seen despite the cloud of dust?
Yes, it's fine for Charles Enderlin to say, "Nothing has been manipulated. There is no fabrication, there is no manipulation." And to clinch the declaration with, "anybody accusing Talal, me, or France 2 for manipulation or fabrication, for us it is enough to go to the Court."….
It's true, before accusing anyone of manipulation you have to prove that there is an original and an edited version, and then you have to compare them, precisely indicating all the modifications, erasures, and additions, everything that has been retouched. That's how we can prove that Stalin erased Trotsky from the cult images of the October Revolution. The erasures served a revisionist finality: to rewrite history by falsifying it.
And it is easy to prove that the Israeli soldier you see aiming at the boy and his father in Palestinian propaganda films is not in the France 2 film; here too the addition serves a negationist finality—to invent a false reality. A Palestinian media official coldly explains that the soldier was added for artistic reasons and in the same breath proclaims the principle of "the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth."
To nip either one of these effects in the bud you have to reveal the trickery right away. That's what happened with the "Jenine corpse." Everyone saw the corpse fall off the stretcher, pick himself up, and lie down again.

But in the case we are studying Talal Abu Rahmé and Charles Enderlin themselves say that some images were cut out of the scene. So the case for manipulation could be proved simply by showing that the images they cut contradict the ones they included. However at this stage in our contre-expertise, we have no proof to sustain that claim. The most we can say is that they admit to cutting images which might have altered the dramatic message of the report. What exactly was altered?

Well, Talal Abu Rahmé says he filmed Mohamed's father Jamal AI Dura making a call on his cell phone just before a bullet hits him in the shoulder. What if we reinsert that footage into the 50-second report broadcast by France 2? We must admit it would have looked strange. Bullets are whistling, Mohamed's father is panic-stricken, caught in a situation of mortal danger and he pulls out his cell phone and makes a call. So be it. We can guess that viewers would have noticed the difference of expression: one minute his face is twisted in anguish as he pleads with whoever it is who is firing at them—he looks straight into the camera, not to the side in the direction of the Israeli outpost which is 110 meters away--to spare him and his child. And the next minute he calmly takes out his phone and dials a number. Are we to believe that these images were cut because they added nothing and, furthermore, distracted attention from the terrible tragedy unfolding before the viewer's eyes?

It happens that "cell phone" images can be seen in the rushes of other cameramen; young Palestinians calmly use their cell phones right in the middle of scenes of general agitation. This could lead us to believe that the cell phone incident was deliberately cut by France 2 so that no one could even imagine that the dramatic tension was interrupted by rather picturesque and definitely incongruous pauses for relaxation.
As we view those rushes we run into a wide variety of incongruous scenes. It is incredible how many people were calmly filming the battle of Netzarim on September 30th 2000. Not only professionals—some of them standing no more than ten meters away from the Al Dura incident--but amateurs as well.
You'd think they'd been sent an invitation and a laissez-passer ... Incredible too the number of cars, taxis, and bicycles (Enderlin himself admits this) driving around, right in the middle of the junction. This would have to mean that these scenes of everyday life occurred outside the forty-five minute time frame during which the Israelis were supposedly shooting at everything that moved!

Because we understand now that if the report had been presented within a context of all those ordinary scenes, viewers would have had the distinct impression that something was fishy. The death of the child at the sides of his seriously wounded father--if it had occurred--would be too serious to allow for even the slightest hint that the action was not sustained at the same level of intensity from beginning to end without uninterruption .
The rushes are full of surprising incongruities: Children smile as ambulances go by. A "wounded" Palestinian collapses and two seconds later an ambulance pulls up to take him to the hospital. It looks as if the driver had been cued in, knew in advance where the Palestinian was going to fall, or was waiting in the upper right hand corner just out of the photographic field ready to zoom in on signal (there is a scene like this in the France 2 report.)
In another rush we are startled to hear a Palestinian shouting: "It's a flop! We have to do the whole thing over again!"
We understand perfectly that Abu Rahmé and Enderlin are playing safe in threatening to sue for false accusation. Because it can't be claimed that the images of the boy's death came in place of other images that do exist in the France 2 rushes.
If there was a death of Mohamed and if this death was filmed, then it would have to be found as such in the France 2 rushes, even if the coverage is, as Enderlin admits, incomplete.
But what makes Talal Abu Rahmé smile? Is it because neither Esther Schapira nor anyone else will ever see his shots? Is he saying, "Wouldn't you just love to see those shots, hunh, but don't count on me!" Or was it, "I played a good trick on you but I won't even tell you what it was."

[The author and Stéphane Juffa, editorial director of Metula News Agency, go to see Shahaf's rushes]

Who is he? This "man from outer space" who never filmed anything himself, with good reason, but has a treasure of material from several television networks--Reuters, NHK, BBC Two...--footage from TV crews who filmed the events at Netzarim (but not the death of the child) as they occurred, and special broadcasts incorporating some of this footage.
My intuition tells me that Shahaf is "wounded to the quick." He invites us to doubt but he really can't bear to be doubted. As if it meant suspecting him of lying or, even worse, of bad faith. So we spend a not insignificant number of hours reassuring him that he, like the rest of us, will not be above suspicion but our suspicions do not make us doubt him, only his conclusions. We….are making casual comments as we watch images go by. We still haven't settled any precise details about the possibilities of a joint project, a film where we would show how the report of Mohamed Al Dura's death was a mise en scène. We're watching the BBC Two report "The day when peace died." Suddenly we notice that Shahaf is stunned.

The Palestinian lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah (12 October 2000) comes right after the scene of Mohamed's death. Shahaf rushes out of the room. Acting? Suffering?
From where I sit I can see him walking in the hallway, a handkerchief in his hand. He is crying silently. Overcome with emotion. It's not hard to understand that something knotted up in him in connection with that incident, something that leaves him speechless. It's not only the traumatism of the murder of those soldiers, it's also his outrage at the idea that the death of the Palestinian boy, which he believes to be a falsification, can be compared to that murder and, further, attenuate its effects if it doesn't actually justify it.

I share his emotion. And yet I wonder if the investigation he had piloted was essentially completed prior to the Ramallah lynching or afterward, and if the conclusions he reached--much later--have anything to do with what seems like an imperative inner need to delegitimate the image of the child as a real-false martyr the better to legitimate the Israeli soldiers as victims of a real-real lynching. And I realize that I will never know. Admitting that Shahaf had an insight the very first time the France 2 report was broadcast, and put together the elements of appreciation that led him, after his disagreement with Doriel, to formulate and elaborate the hypothesis of a mise en scène, his reaction to the Ramallah lynching must have tightened his resolve to explain his theory at all costs and demonstrate its validity.
And again I ask myself: what's the use of all this? Wouldn't it be better to just denounce the double ignominy and honor the memory of the victims instead of digging into the archeology of the France 2 report trying to prove that the child was not killed by Israeli gunfire. . . and not by Palestinian gunfire either. . . simply because the child we saw in the image is an actor playing the role of a martyr in a direct broadcast…a curtain raiser for the deflagration of the second Intifada?

Yes…but. But the blood of the lynched soldiers is clearly visible on the lynchers' hands but the blood of the Al Duras is not. One of the lynchers went right up to the window of the ignoble celebration and held up his murderous hands, red with blood, to shouts of acclaim from the crowd but the other blood, the blood of the Al Duras doesn't show anywhere, not on the father's body and not at the points of impact of the high speed bullets that allegedly hit the son, not on the barrel, not on the wall, not on the ground. So where?

An a priori attempt to delegitimate the deconstruction of the mise en scène

Metula News Agency informed France 2 several weeks ago that it was publicly raising many questions about the report and they know that the interview with Nahum Shahaf will lead to a filmed report which the Agency is willing to show them in an exclusive projection. But ever since Enderlin and Mazerolle took an official position, France 2 has not said a word.
The public debate that I hoped for by writing to the journalist Charles Enderlin, the mediator Jean-Claude Allanic, the Chargé de mission Didier Epelbaum, and the Editor in Chief Olivier Mazerolle, did not interest any of them. The line has been disconnected. I realized that France 2 has decided to bury the "micro-debate" about the TV transmission of the death of Mohamed under a "macro-debate" on the rupture of the Oslo process as reconstructed by Charles Enderlin in a two part broadcast scheduled for the 3rd and 4th of November 2002.

This was preceded, eight days before, by an outright attack on any attempt to prove or deconstruct an alleged mise en scène of the child's death, coming not from France 2 but from a journalist at Le Monde. ….Sylvain Cypel says you can't call Nahum Shahaf an expert unless you put the word in quotation marks, because Shahaf is a "negationist." The journalist says that this is not Shahaf's first offense: he already claimed that Ygal Amir is not the murderer of Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin. The argument is fallacious as I showed above. At his conference on the assassination, Shahaf never questioned Amir's responsibility or guilt, he simply said it was impossible for him to determine whether Amir acted alone or had help. No matter! Cypel dismisses him with a "to everyone his Meyssan." Cypel claims that Charles Enderlin is the victim of a cabale aimed at discrediting him as a "manipulator of information."
….
And even if Metula News Agency rejects the theory of Palestinians deliberately firing at the child and his father the article reminds us, with photographic evidence, that Palestinians have been known to shoot at their own in cold blood. This refers to a photo taken from the rushes of Reuters cameramen shot on September 30 2000 a few meters from the position of Jamal A-Dura and the child. "The cameramen intercepted the path of a bullet shot in the direction of a group of Palestinian demonstrators at a time when the demonstrators were objectively and without a shadow of a reasonable doubt out of the shooting range and visual field of Israeli soldiers."

… Our project culminates in the realization of a film: "A-Dura: the investigation."

1. THE HEART OF THE SCENARIO

The theme of the Al Dura scenario as conveyed by the images that are shown is one of the most moving stories that can exist: the reactions of a father and son caught in mortal danger.

Plot
Simply, crudely, a question of life and death. The suspense is to find out if the father and son, mortally endangered by the enemy, will make it out of there alive. And this means watching the father do everything he can to save his son.

Characters
The child represents the innocence of a boy who is too young to have taken part in demonstrations against the enemy. The same does not hold true for the actor who plays the father, because we will learn later that he was wounded by gunfire during the first Intifada (we don't know if he was armed).

2. THE THREE UNITIES

The play respects the rule of the three unities: the unity of time, which strives to make the time of the action coincide with the time of the representation; the unity of place, which strictly limits blatant discrepancies; the unity of action, which interlaces the characters so that they share the same destiny. Given that the scenario respects the three unities, this analysis of its construction will treat the images according to the unities

Unity of time
The incident shown on the screen is not happening as at it is shown but the time lag is compensated by the coincidence between the death of the child and the fact that a camera was there to film it. Eight hours of street battles in the Gaza Strip are boiled down to 60 minutes of footage, including 45 minutes of heavy fire from which the cameraman chose 6 minutes and, finally, 50 seconds are extracted from those 6 minutes for a news report that has to fly around the world at lightning speed.
However the unity ensured by this coincidence is undermined by the fact that the incident of the boy's death was just one in a whole series of events that occurred throughout the autonomous Palestinian Territories on September 30th 2000.

Unity of place
The action is concentrated in one single location: behind a barrel covered with a stone slab.
The shooting angle is calculated so that we can only see the main characters: the victims.
And yet at one point the camera suddenly moves as if the cameraman were jolted by something that happened behind his back. The visual field widens and reveals a strangely incongruous object--a camera tripod. But the eye quickly refocuses on the child and his father.

Unity of action
The suspense is entirely focused on the fate of the father and son: will they come out of this ordeal alive and if not, how will they die.

Dramatic event
Even more dramatic than the boy's death is the idea that the Israelis might have killed him.
Seeing the child killed before our eyes is an abjection that satisfies the morbid taste for cruelty that TV viewers can indulge in spite of themselves during prime time news. But the idea that he could be intentionally killed in cold blood by a Jewish soldier whose people brought to the world the commandment: "Thou shalt not kill!" is a moral theological TV scoop.

Deconstruction of the mise en scène
A. The "time witness"
The chronological reconstitution of the decisive images is guaranteed by the presence of a witness in spite of himself, a bearded man who, strangely enough, is standing in a corner.

B. Sequences
The Metula News Agency report A Dura the investigation, based on the Reuters rushes, breaks down the mise en scène of the event filmed by Talal Abu Rhamé with commentary by Charles Enderlin, as follows:

1. A jeep goes by, passing in front of the barrel where the father and child are already crouching. They are alone.
2. The second time the jeep goes by there is a cameraman with the father and child. Several demonstrators run away. The others could run away too, but they don't.
3. A short time later there is no one behind the barrel: neither the father nor the son.
4. Then we see them again, back in the same position as (1). 5. Shots ring out. According to the father his son died instantly at the first shot. But that is not how it happens in the France 2 film. First the child has his knees bent and tucked under the father's thighs. Then we see him lying on his side, then with his elbow raised, then on his stomach with his hand over his eyes.
6. These movements do not correspond to those of a boy who is dying. In fact, the supposedly dead boy lifts his elbow and glances at the camera.
7. Other strange signs for films of a war scene: the tripod of a cameraman who had been right next to the scene of the child's death and then ran away, and fingers making a "V" sign in front of the lens of the camera filming the scene. For professionals this "V" or "2" sign may indicate that it's the second take.
8. There is not the slightest trace of blood on the ground near the barrel where Jamal and the boy were hiding. And yet the doctor at the Gaza hospital who received the body says Mohamed was killed by high-speed bullets. No trace of blood on the wall either.
Further, we note that between the beginning and the end of the scene of the boy's death only one additional bullet hole appears on the wall, and not several as stated by Talal Abu Rahmé and claimed in the Amnesty International Report (Amnesty, incidentally, is not the least bit surprised that there is no blood on the wall; see Appendix).
9. When Palestinians took journalists to the site several hours after the alleged death of the child, traces of blood are clearly distinguished. The blood, which has been added after the fact, is red and not almost black as it should be by that time. Still no blood on the wall.
10. But the Metula News Agency report doesn't stop there. It raises other disturbing questions with regard to discrepancies in the journalists' statements. Charles Enderlin told Israeli army investigators (in Hebrew): "I was interviewed by seven Arab stations. They asked me how the soldiers had killed the child and I told them that, first of all, we never claimed that the soldiers killed him."
11. Testifying before the same investigation commission, cameraman Talal Abu Rahmé declared that the Palestinians never claimed that it was the Israelis who killed the child.
12. Nahum Shahaf replied: "No, the Palestinians say you are sure it was Israeli soldiers who killed the child."
13. Talal Abu Rahmé: "I didn't say that Israeli soldiers killed the child."
14. How did he get the "scoop"? Talal Abu Rahmé was awarded many international prizes for this report. How come he was the only one to film the incident, when there were at least ten other professionals at Netzarim junction that day, some of them within a meter from the barrel?
15. To this day there are still discrepancies concerning the rushes that France 2 gave to—or withheld from--the investigating commission. Why, despite repeated requests, did France 2 refuse to show the full 27 minutes of rushes shot that day of the Mohamed A Dura incident alone? According to editorial director, Olivier Mazerolle, France 2 would have shown the rushes if there were any serious doubts about Enderlin's version. Talal Abu Rahmé's explanation is different: "We're keeping some secrets for ourselves. We can't give anything... euh... everything."
. 16. As the images show there were many ambulances and cameras at the junction that day. Yet no one filmed or even witnessed the evacuation of the father and son.
17. Interviewed once more on what became of his son after the incident, Jamal Al Dura leaves no room for doubt: he affirms that his son is alive.
18. Other questions are left in suspense. The investigators have not yet published formal proof but in fact there are serious doubts about the real filiation between Jamal Al Dura and the child filmed at Netzarim, and doubts about the identity of the child who was buried as Mohamed Al Dura.
19. But this is matter for another investigation.

The strange images of the death of Mohamed Al Dura

Charles Enderlin claims that France 2 holds images of the child's death throes, which he took out of his report for ethical reasons. . Were those images cut out of the fifty-two seconds of footage broadcast by France 2? Were there any other cuts? Only he can tell us. Whatever the case may be the deleted footage allows us to see the device by which the boy's wounds seem to bleed copiously.
According to the Palestinian Authority one of the bullets went through the boy's body, entering through the left breast and coming out the back, and another hit him in the stomach. We have seen that the father testified that one bullet hit the boy in the back, the other in the knee. But this discrepancy doesn't matter for the moment. Since these were high-speed bullets, the images should have shown massacred bodies lying in a pool of blood.
Furthermore, according to Jean Tzadik, images from the France 2 report isolated by Nahum Shahaf clearly show that the "directors of the Al Dura fiction put a sort of red cloth on the boy's body…this red spot was supposed to represent the blood spurting out from the hole made by one of the Israeli bullets. The cloth didn't stay in place; it shifts as the boy changes position."
In saying that France 2 did not want to use the boy's death for financial gain, Enderlin seems to confirm that the station does have images of Mohamed's slow agony.
Just as the doctors at Gaza's Shifa hospital confirmed the boy's death from outside his body, we have to speak of the France 2 rushes in terms of the viewer's position which is, there too, on the outside. But this does not make it any more difficult to understand that there is a huge gap between the boy's agony, the wounds seen on the body at the hospital, and the images in the France 2 report.
The truth is that a living being fighting against the death that catches him by surprise when he is hit by high-speed bullets is a blood-soaked struggle.
The tortured body of a child identified by the forensic physician as the young Mohamed bears horrible wounds. One of the wounds is on his head and there is no way of knowing if it is connected with the boy's murder; others are on the chest and abdomen.
And you shudder with horror at the sight of a long swath of blood that runs the whole length of one of the wounds, as if the boy had been stabbed. Even before asking if this is in fact the body of the boy in the film one cannot help asking why the bullets that went through his body didn't leave any trace of blood. No blood on his forehead (if he was in fact wounded in the head…the declarations are contradictory), no blood on his t-shirt.
Of course we saw this large patch of red immobilized under his body as the boy lies inert on the ground with his hand over his face. But when the frame is frozen you can see that this surface creeps gradually forward in a movement inconsistent with the flow of a huge pool of blood, and leaves no traces on the ground as blood would do. All these elements lead us to believe that what we are seeing is the red cloth or a similar device that moves little by little following the body's slow fall.

Special effects

These comments by a psychoanalyst--who takes himself for a specialist in deciphering images--speaking about what he takes to be a child's dead body, testify to the success of the special effects.
Instead of noticing that what he thinks to be a boy assassinated by gunfire is a false corpse because it is not covered in blood, the analyst says that the force of the image "comes paradoxically from the open eyes of the survivor." Here again, the absence of blood escapes the observer's attention). And Dr. Tisseron goes on to talk about "that fragile garbage can"—which, as we saw, is a cement barrel--and the father who looks dead . . ."a sight all the more overwhelming because it seems that he was refused a sepulcher.... This image could move us to say 'but is there no one to close his eyes for him?' And it makes that death absolutely unbearable."
What follows is even more edifying: "This image in lateral photography is composed exactly like a painting, with a rising line, a falling line, a composition in triangle with the head at the summit." And the psychoanalyst, possibly unaware of the illustration of the Al Ahram article I mentioned at the beginning of this book, doesn't hesitate to write: "If Goya had painted the 30 September massacre at Netzarim, that is surely the way he would have composed it."
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