Seven years after the death of the Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza, the Prime Minister's Office speaks out against the "myth of the murder".
An official document from Jerusalem denied – for the first time – that Israel was responsible for the death of al-Dura at the start of the second intifada.
The document argued that the images, which showed al-Dura being shot beside his father and have become a symbol of the second intifada, were staged.
"The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead," said Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman.
The arguments were based on investigations that showed that the angles of the IDF troops' fire could not have hit the child or his father, that part of the filmed material, mainly the moment of the boy's alleged death, is missing, and the fact that the cameraman can be heard saying the boy is dead while the boy is still seen moving.
On September 30, 2000, on the second day of the intifada, then 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was going with his father to buy a car. The two got caught between heavy fire clashes between Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian gunmen.
The incident lasted some 45 minutes, 27 of which were filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who was working for the France 2 television network.
Charles Enderlin, Jerusalem bureau chief of France 2, who was not present at the incident, broadcasted the report. The report accused the IDF soldiers who were involved in the incident of causing the child's death and the father's injury.
The report has been investigated by various bodies over the years, and four intensive journalistic inquiries examining the incident said there was no evidence that the boy was shot by the soldiers. Some of the inquiries stated that according to calculations of the angle in which the boy and his father were hit, they were most likely shot by the Palestinians.
During the past seven years, Israel has preferred not to confront the most popular television station in France, but following repeated requests by Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center, the first official document from the Prime Minister's Office, signed by the GPO director, was issued last week.
The document argued that based on investigations that were carried out, the boy's death was staged by the French network's cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma.
France 2 reporter calls allegations 'nonesense'In a letter to Shurat HaDin, Seaman wrote, "It turns out that the events could not have occurred as they were described by the network's reporter Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the laws of physics… Furthermore, it was not even possible to hit them (the boy and his father) in the place they were hiding according to the report."
Nonetheless, following consultation with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, the GPO director decided that Israel should not take criminal steps against France 2's reporters or revoke the government journalist certificates that were given to them in Jerusalem.
In his letter to Shurat HaDin, Seaman said he was instructed by the attorney general the treat the matter "on the public-media plane and not on the criminal plane".
Shurat HaDin Chairwoman Nitzana Darshan-Leitner said she did not accept the GPO's position. "Shurat HaDin plans to continue to act in order to bring the truth to light," the chairwoman said.
"Among other things, we plan to petition the High Court of Justice and demand the journalist certificates and other GPO certificates are revoked from all France 2 crew members in Israel – reporters, cameramen, produces, etc – as long as the network does not publicly announce that the al-Dura report was staged and was biased.
"In addition, Shurat HaDin is considering filing a damages claim for the accumulated damage the report has caused, and specifically for the line of attacks and riots it has led to. This modern-day blood libel has led to the death of hundreds of Arabs and Jews and has ignited hatred solely for the purpose of ratings and poor journalism. We will demand that those responsible for this crime pay for their deeds."
Charles Enderlin, the France 2 reporter who is still working in Israel, said in response to this report, "This is not the first time that Seaman makes such allegations against me – it is nonsense. It is pure slander. The video that we filmed is authentic and I stand behind it.
"We plan to show the film in court in France, and I am certain it will end the repeated mudslinging," the French reporter said.