Israeli official claims French TV staged famed intifada television footage
JERUSALEM (AFP) – A senior Israeli official on Tuesday claimed that famed television footage of a Palestinian child allegedly killed by Israeli fire in Gaza at the start of the second intifada in 2000 was staged.
In the images broadcast by France 2 public television in September 2000, Mohammed al-Dura and his father are seen crouching in fear on a Gaza street, caught in the cross-fire between Palestinians and the Israeli army.
The images then show the 12-year-old Mohammed lying dead on the ground, with France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin saying he was killed by Israeli fire.
The images raised a storm of controversy around the world and became one of the most potent symbols of the Palestinian intifada.
The army had initially accepted responsibility over the incident, but in an official letter Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) chief Daniel Seaman claimed that al-Dura could not have been shot by Israeli fire and that the France 2 cameraman staged the incident.
“It is impossible that the child was hit by Israeli troops. The wounds actually show that they were caused by shots that came from the Palestinian direction,” Seaman wrote in the letter.
The letter, obtained by AFP on Tuesday, was a written response to an Israeli group that had demanded that Israel yank France 2’s accreditation over the incident, something Seaman said his office could not do because it lacked the legal authority.
“This report became the blood libel of modern times that shows that Jewish soldiers kill children in cold blood. This fomented the Arab world and caused many casualties in Israel and the world,” Seaman wrote in the letter, first published by the popular Ynet news website.
An Israeli probe into the incident proved that “the events could not have taken place as described by the French reporter Charles Enderlin since they contradict the rules of physics,” Seaman wrote.
“The channel’s cameraman (Talal) Abu Rahma staged the entire incident that day,” the letter said.
Speaking to AFP, Seaman said that in his letter, he “only cited what journalists and experts have said… I can assure that no Israeli soldier commits this type of crime.”
Enderlin vigorously rejected the claims.
“This is not the first time Daniel Seaman voices these false accusations that interfere with a judicial process underway in Paris,” he said.
“There was no staging and I can vouch for the honesty and credibility of the Israeli and Palestinian teams working for France 2.”
A spokesman in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office, which oversees the GPO, took distance from the letter, saying “we were never shown Seaman’s letter, we are not familiar with its contents, and have not approved it.”