The French Supreme Court acquitted on Wednesday the Israeli doctor accused of slandering a Palestinian man who claimed he was injured by the IDF during the second intifada. The court declared the doctor's claims were truthful, but left the main controversy of al-Dura's death unresolved.
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Israel denies responsibility for death of al-Dura in 2000
The Palestinian man, Jamal al-Dura, and his 12-year-old son Mohammed, became the symbol of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, when the two were caught in a fire exchange in the Netzarim Junction. But while the Palestinians accused Israel for the boy's death, Israeli officials claimed he was hit by Palestinian fire.
Dr. Yehuda David, an Israeli physician, was sued after he claimed that scars al-Dura's father showed the media were the result of an attack by Hamas operatives, who suspected him of collaborating with Israel. The father, Jamal, claimed he incurred the scars during the incident in which his son was killed.
The father is furious about the French ruling and said that the court may have declared that the doctor did not lie, but did not acquit him of slander. The Israeli doctor was thrilled, saying "It proves that I spoke the truth."
12 years of controversy still unresolved (Photo: APF)
In an interview with a French-Jewish newspaper in 2008, Dr. David of Tel Hashomer Hospital revealed that the father fabricated his claims, showing scars that were in fact the result of a surgery the father had performed in 1994.
Dr. David was convicted of slander by a French court in April 2011. He appealed the decision, and last week the French Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Dr. David and his supporters viewed the decision as further proof that the IDF did not kill Mohammed Al-Dura, as they claim. However, as the court did not discuss the question of the boy's death, the controversy continues.
This is not the only slander trial surrounding the al-Dura case. A series of trials revealed an abundance of contradicting testimonies, and evidence trying to ascertain whether al-Dura was killed by IDF fire or Hamas cross fire. However, rulings are always limited to the question of slander, living the mystery of al-Dura open for debate.
Remebering Al-Dura (Photo: Dani Salomon)
Who killed Muhammad al-Dura?
The controversy was reignited in 2007 by a France 2 television report, featuring footage of the shooting by a Palestinian photographer, which suggested that the IDF was responsible for the boy's death. The French court ordered the network to screen the complete footage in court which then ruled against the slander charges.
However, France 2 reporter Charles Enderlin insisted nonetheless that the court did not rule regarding the authenticity of the video, or the conclusions it raises, but rather on the fact that the father's scars predated the 2000 injuries. He also maintained that there is no evidence suggesting the father participated in fabricating the event. According to Enderlin, it is important not to draw conclusions on the case from the slander trials.
The French journalist also wrote a book about the al-Dura incident, and declared he will be willing to cooperate with any unbiased inquiry to reveal the truth. "We stand by our report, we showed the truth," he said, but mentioned the fact that he was not allowed to speak with IDF soldiers or to exhume the body of al-Dura for examination. However, Enderlin stated that he will only cooperate under certain conditions, and not with any anonymous inquirer.
One of the main targets for Enderlin's allegations of unsubstantiated investigations is Nahum Shahaf, a physicist and award winning journalist. Shahaf concluded that the Palestinian boy was not shot by IDF soldiers, and that the entire scene was fabricated by a Palestinian crew of the French TV network.
Conforming to Dr. David's claimes, Shahaf allegedly proved that the footage shows the father's arm to be injured before being hit, and that his son moved and changed positions after the IDF shooting, suggesting he was not hit at all at this point. Shahaf also revealed how the photographer allegedly motioned "take 2" with his hand to direct the scene.
Shahaf also played recordings of many of the witnesses that restated their unequivocal position expressing doubts regarding IDF responsibility for al-Dura's death. Referring to the French Supreme Court's ruling, Shahaf said that although it did not declare the incident a fabrication, it is significant in establishing the claim of a plot.
Another slander case involving the France 2 report is still pending the court's ruling. Businessman Philippe Karsenty accused the French TV network of fabricating the footage, and was convicted of slander in 2007. The court rejected his claim that the video was doctored, but one year later, after viewing the complete video, the court overturned its decision, declaring there was no slander in Karsenty's position.
During the trial, an expert on criminal recognition concluded that if Jamal and Mohammed were in fact hit by gunshots, it could not have originated from IDF posts, but only from Palestinian crossfire.
This testimony helped exonorate Karsenty, but did not lead to a final decision on whether the video was a fake or not, keeping the controversy alive. In the meantime, Jamal al-Dura is planning to appeal the Dr. David ruling, determined to prove that the original verdict was in fact the truth.
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