The Al-Dura Blood Libel Affair: an interview with Nidra Poller

by Jerry Gordon with Nidra Poller (July 2013)

 

Nidra Poller is a novelist by vocation and a journalist by necessity with a unique view of major developments in Europe, Israel and America. Her latest publication is Karimi Hotel and Other African Equations. She is a frequent contributor to the New English Review. Articles by her have appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe, Commentary, National Review On-line, and The American Thinker, among others. She is the Paris correspondent for Dispatch International. Her collected writings of the Mohammed Al-Dura affair will be forthcoming this fall. It is based on her 13 years of involvement with the unfolding drama behind the Al-Dura video hoax. 

The faked death of 12 year old Muhammad Al-Dura occurred on September 30, 2000, at the very beginning of the Second Intifada against Israel by Palestinian Arabs. It broke out two days earlier on September 28, 2000, supposedly sparked by the visit of former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon to the al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The iconic picture of Mohammed Al-Dura crouching behind his father, Jamal, captured on video by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman working for the France 2 TV news channel, functions as a  blood libel accusing Israeli soldiers of being child killers. The 55-second video was used as propaganda by Palestinians and even the late Osama bin Laden as a call to Jihad against Israel, Jews and the West.

The Al-Dura blood libel has been kept alive by the vigorous defense raised by France 2, the state-owned television news channel. France 2 producer Charles Enderlin has embroiled his critics in an unending series of legal hearings and appeals in French courts and published a self-serving book about the al-Dura affair. Enderlin’s defense has been rebutted in articles and news documentaries by Stephane Juffa and the late Gerard Huber of the French-Israeli Metulah news agency, Boston University professor Richard Landes and by German TV news investigative journalist Esther Shapira among others. French media expert, Philippe Karsenty, launched his own investigation buttressed by the research of forensic experts demonstrating that Mohammed Al-Dura could not have been shot by Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim checkpoint in Gaza and that the video was faked. 

The occasion of this interview with Poller was the publication on May 19, 2013 by the State of Israel of a definitive report from a Commission mandated by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2012.

The interview covers her observation of the depths of this fraud perpetrated on the world’s media by the Palestinians with the complicit involvement of Enderlin, France 2 and other mainstream media. She discusses Enderlin’s and the station's entrapment in ‘the body of lies’ behind the Al-Dura affair. A keen observer of all of the French legal proceedings in the Al-Dura Affair she reveals the manipulation of that system by Enderlin and his defenders. She shows how the French judicial system differs from the rigorous evidentiary and legal standards of the English and American legal systems. She discusses the relentless efforts of the international investigators in Israel, Germany, France and the United States seeking to expose the Al-Dura Blood Libel. She considers what occurred in the Al-Dura affair an example of the tactics and methods of the international Jihadist movement seeking to further its agenda of Islamization of the West and the destruction of Israel.

In mid-June we received this email response from Esther Schapira, noted German investigative journalist who has produced several powerful investigative reports on the fraudulent Al Dura video for Hessiche Rundfunk:

Two weeks ago, when I was in Israel, our film was shown on Israeli TV again and the case is still being discussed there. Únfortunately, I guess we’ll never know the whole truth and even if we did it wouldn’t change most people’s perception. However, it is worth fighting for the truth nevertheless as we don’t have another option. I do keep my fingers crossed for Philippe. He had to pay a much higher price for his “mission” and I still find it unbelievable that a TV station tries to silence a critical voice by putting it on trial. We as journalists have to be open to criticism more than anyone else. We have to justify our work and deal with every kind of criticism, no matter how hard or even unfair it may seem. He has done nothing else but gathering material and drawing his own conclusion and asking questions that France 2 has failed to answer until today.

On June 26, 2013 Philippe Karsenty was convicted of libel and fined 7000 Euros by what passes for a court of justice in France. He was convicted for the effrontery of revealing the fraud of the Al Dura affair attacking the lies of the producer of the infamous child killing fraudulent video Charles Enderlin and the state owned France 2 TV News channel. This is Kafkaesque. The stain of this calumny is on the honor of France. But then think of the Dreyfus affair. After three trials it was left for the President of France to ‘pardon’ Capt. Henri Dreyfus for the crime of being Jewish and set up by an anti-Semitic French General Staff. The irony in the Karsenty case is that both he and Enderlin are Jewish.

Watch this You Tube video interview of Karsenty by Michael Coren of Sun News in Canada discussing the Al Dura hoax and his trial.

But Karsenty had a fellow French Jew and veteran France 3 legal reporter, M. Clement Weill-Raynal, who blew the whistle on the absurd biases of French judges. In a Dispatch International article, republished in WatchDogWire, Poller chronicled how M. Weill-Raynal exposed these biases, the outrages against him by fellow journalists and support for his actions from the French Jewish community.

Poller had this comment on the Karsenty case and the al Dura blood libel in a July 1, 2013 American Thinker article:

Given this bizarre judicial logic, the Appellate Court reached its guilty verdict on June26th. Case closed? On the contrary, the accumulated evidence produced by the defense in the course of this stubborn litigation has visibly strengthened the case against the broadcaster. Elsewhere, Al Dura demythifiers have pursued and refined their investigations, reaching and convincing an ever wider public. Forces determined to erase the al Dura blood libel are emboldened, not intimidated. In the space of a few short days since the verdict was pronounced, new information has been made public, new voices are raised. Several books - in French and in English - are slated for publication this fall.

Against this background we interviewed New English Review contributor, Nidra Poller.

Gordon:  We are interviewing a frequent collaborator for the New English Review who has been widely published. She has a recent work of fiction, Karimi Hotel and Other African Equations. She has been published in such outlets as the Wall Street Journal Europe, The American Thinker, National Review On-Line and Commentary Magazine. She is currently the Paris correspondent for Dispatch International. Welcome, Nidra Poller.

Poller:  Good to be here.

Gordon:  You are about to publish a collection of your writings on probably one of the major blood libels that has been committed during the course of, the 21st Century. I am referring to the Al-Dura affair. You have covered this as a writer based in Paris since its occurrence 13 years ago. How did you get interested in this topic?  

Poller:  When this  happened …on September 30, 2000 following former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000 that was used as a pretext for starting a campaign of violence against Israel…  at that time I was writing fiction and I never considered myself a journalist. When it happened that day, I realized that there was a sea change. I had been living in Paris since 1972. I considered myself as well assimilated. I had a nice life. It was as if I was torn out of this community. Being a writer and having studied history, which was my undergraduate major, I took my writer’s notebook and I started writing about what was happening. Two days later came the Al-Dura affair. I didn't have television at the time, I just read about it in the print media and my immediate reaction as a writer was: the coincidence is too heavy. That can't be. Somehow a camera man was there on the spot when this terrible thing happened? So I never was drawn into it. I never had an emotional reaction to the image and, being writer of words and not a specialist of image, I have never been fascinated by the image. I have always seen that image as full sound and fury signifying nothing. So, I wrote about it immediately in a notebook. This also is going to come out, probably this winter, in Notes from a Simple Citizen, a chronicle that I started at that time. And that’s how I gradually started to do journalism. So, I wrote about it immediately and I sent a letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune and it was published. I wrote that Israelis are not child killers, Jews are not child killers… so I recognized it right away as blood libel.

Gordon:  When did you meet some of your colleagues in the course of your writings on the Al-Dura affair and begin to understand the enormity of this crime committed against Jews as well as the world?

Poller:  Well I think, without flattering myself, that I explained how it was being used; I said first they say we're child killers. Then they say the children are not in the front lines of these demonstrations. That meant that the Israelis were going out and finding the children right under their mothers skirts and killing them. Then they said—this was in the space of just a few days--yes the children are out there. They want to conquer and restore Jerusalem and there is no way we can stop them. I explained how the al Dura image worked… and I wrote about if off and on in the following years. I think that it was in 2002, 2003, that I started to meet people investigating it. My colleague Veronique Chemla introduced me to Stéphane Juffa of the Metullah News Agency In Israel. I also met the late Gérard Huber when he brought out his book, Contre-expertise d’une mise en scène. In France, this was the first exhaustive examination of the Al-Dura affair and I knew that it wouldn't get any attention in France. I translated excerpts and summaries, and gave them to David Kupelian at WorldNetDaily who published them. Later I met Richard Landes [of Boston University]. When he came to Paris, I introduced him to Gérard Huber and other people. I started to work with him as he was going back and forth between Paris, Boston and Israel trying to get more data, and information. I met Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf, I spent hours and hours viewing images at his home. I have worked with many people who have been active in this investigation. At the same time I always developed my own individual approach. I have learned much from them and their research has been very useful to me, however, I have developed my own approach based on the concept of Lethal Narratives: Weapon of Mass Destruction in the War Against the West.

Gordon:  Why has it taken the Israeli government 13 years to come out with an official report on the Al-Dura affair?

Poller:  I go back and forth to Israel as often as possible and I've been witness directly or indirectly to a lot of this discussion in the government. I understand perfectly why they hesitated. When the report came out it provoked an outburst of hatred toward Israel, in the media. Wherever the report got any attention there were these terrible readers’ comments. The idea was—What? Israelis dare to think that they can say they are not guilty because their government did a report. That’s one aspect. Another is that all through the years many government officials said there is nothing to be gained from bringing this up. The image is going to go around again. The people are going to say the same thing they said the first time.  And we’ll just lose. There was a lot of hope that the thing would just die down. There were so many other lies about Israel that were told in the meantime. I can see the Israeli point of view. They're out there trying to protect not only the Israeli population but Jews all over the world. Their kids go into the army. Everybody has people that were killed or maimed either in terrorist attacks or in military actions. Honestly, if I were the Israelis I would say look, you guys in France take care of this. It is your French television that did it. The Israelis are very careful about not suppressing press freedom. Anyway what could they do? Throw all the journalists out?Then you have the ways of government bureaucracies. If one person thinks they should… that it is a good thing to do a report, someone else will think it isn't and it gets pushed aside. When it was placed in the hands of [IDF Generals] Bogie Ya'alon and Yossi Kuperwasser, nothing could stop them. We have to give credit to all of the people who worked on the Israeli Al-Dura affair report, all the input the government has had over the years. We should give credit to Danny Seaman [former head of the Government Press Office, currently at the Ministry of Public diplomacy] who stood up right from the beginning. Many times Charles Enderlin [the France 2 Jerusalem correspondent] threatened to sue him. Danny said, Go ahead and sue me.

Gordon:  One of the central figures in this drama is Charles Enderlin, the Producer who carries both an Israeli and a French passport and was also friendly with some of the Israeli leaders at the time. I am referring specifically to Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres, the current President of Israel. Did that have an effect on how Israel reacted at the time?

Poller:  Yes. When we read now about what happened at the time… people respected Enderlin and didn't dream that he would do such a thing. You see, on the one hand, we have the evidence that the video is a fake. (There’ll be more than two hands). On the second hand we have the evidence that Enderlin continues to defend the video 13 years later. He does it by lying and distorting and counting on help from his friends who are not very ethical. Now on the third hand we have the Barack government thinking they could stop the violence by diplomacy without aggravating the situation. However, when Enderlin called the spokesman [dover tsahal] to say that he had this video, what he said was I have some very damaging video and you better admit your guilt because otherwise it's going to be even worse. There is a chain of events and at every stage you could see that somebody made a mistake and once the mistake was made it was very hard to go back. They tried. General Yom Tov Samia who was, I believe, head of the Southern Command of the IDF at the time, did an investigation and said, I don't see any way that it could be Israeli gunfire. Enderlin, when he reported that on French television, he brushed it off: They think they are going to get out of it. He called it a whitewash. 

Gordon:  The forensic evidence even from the beginning indicated that it was virtually impossible for the snipers at the Netzarim crossing to even hit Mohammed al-Dura and his father Jamal who were secreted behind this concrete object. In fact there was a Palestinian military official who scouted the area after this film was done and started picking up "spent cartridges." Was that an indication of something being played out?

Poller:  The story of the spent cartridges I think is one of the most comical. I tell about it in my article about Enderlin's book, A child is dead. He explained: “Oh, Esther Shapira, she thought she caught Talal in a lie and she was so proud. Well she didn't bother to ask. We could have told her the general picked up the spent cartridges and he told Talal not to say anything.”

Think about it. A State owned French television station… their Jerusalem correspondent with a great reputation writes in a book that his stringer was told to keep quiet about withholding evidence. He [Enderlin] writes this in his book. The book is supposedly read and reviewed by several critics in France and, without bragging, I have to say I think I'm the only person who picked up that item. That’s the sloppiness of it all. Going back to the forensic evidence… of course Nahum Shahaf was the first to investigate that. He is a physicist and he did it from that point of view. He did us a great service, not only in investigating and explaining, but  also because he got the raw footage that was shot that day and without it we would  have had a much more difficult time to explain what was happening. When you look at the video… it is six thin slices of film… it lasts about 55 seconds if you include the last bit where the child looks up at the camera and goes down. There is no raw footage of that scene. There is no other image. Even if there were no forensic evidence it is clear that nothing happened. That is just exactly what you saw. I describe it as a poster. It is not news. It is not journalism. It is like advertising. It doesn't have the same configuration. Nobody would shoot a scene that way if it were journalism. It's a close up and it's a poster. So that is why my investigation s goes in that direction. It is clear that Israeli soldiers did not fire for 45 minutes at that wall trying to kill this child. Talal [the Palestinian cameraman] one or two days after the incident went to the Palestine Center for Human Rights and made a sworn statement about the incident. In the sworn statement he said the Israelis did it in cold blood, deliberately, they saw the man and the boy… I'm a war reporter and I know that is the only place the bullets could have come from. A cameraman shoots a scene and then runs over to some Palestinian NGO and makes a sworn affidavit saying that that is what he saw? The thing is ridiculous from the very beginning. I have talked with so many people and  presented it to so many people. If you say to them, Talal says that the Israeli soldiers fired for 45 minutes, it wasn't crossfire. If he is the witness, people are inventing the crossfire. There was no crossfire. He said five minutes of crossfire then 45 minutes only from the Israeli position. Talal said “I filmed 27 minutes of it” and he has only 55 seconds. Now if someone lies to that extent…  Then Jamal, says the same thing. “They fired for 45 minutes. They saw me. I tried to get them to stop. I saw my son. I looked at my son I saw the bullet and I saw he was dead.” Well then look at that video. He never looked at his son in the video and there is no other footage. When did he look at his son? Every detail is that way. I don't know how any honest, sensible person can hear that and believe that this is journalism. I make a distinction between what is journalism and what happened. We don't know what happened and we don't know who that young man is. Journalism is telling things that happened that you can corroborate and verify. Look at Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the hotel room in New York. All kinds of lawyers, all kinds of lawsuits, the police, every kind of investigation… We don't know exactly what happened and there is no way to know. No one saw it, so you can't build a case on what happened. You can only build a case on what you know and that's journalism. So there is nothing. Al-Dura is not journalism. It is not a news report and in any other situation it would have been off the air. 

Gordon:  Because the Al-Dura affair has persisted, it has involved a series of legal matters in the French courts. One of the principle accusers of the fraud is Philippe Karsenty. He appears to be a minor hero for taking on this myth that Mr. Enderlin and others including the Palestinian camera man have perpetuated in this regard.  What can you tell us about that and more importantly how peculiar is the French juridical system?

Poller:  I attended almost every hearing in this case. I know Philippe. I have known him since he started working on the case. I covered the whole trial. In the first trial I was sitting very close to Maître Amblard who is the lawyer for France2 and Enderlin. I write about her head of thick, white hair and all of her gestures. I especially wrote about a pile of folders and documents that she had. I was thinking “My goodness, she must have all of this evidence and here I am stupid and thinking I'm a journalist and writing about this.” When the trial started, I don't know what was in the stack of files. They didn't have anything! And all of the years they've never produced a bit of evidence. They don't cross-examine. What happens in the court resembles nothing you could imagine in an American court where people are put on the spot. So there was not any kind of cross-examination and over the years, I have seen Philippe improve his presentation and his manner of dealing with this situation. He made a three dimensional mock-up of the Netzarim Junction. At first, when he showed it to the three judge panel, they looked like they were thinking “What is this excited guy doing?” At the latest appeal I watched them start out very hostile to Karsenty. The attitude was: Calm down, we’re the judges. And then they started to really look at the evidence. Talking as a writer, not a journalist, I think they were saying, “Oh my goodness, how are we going to convict this guy? It is a fake.” So they have postponed their verdict twice. They can't settle this issue in court. You can't settle this issue if you only stay on the Al-Dura affair. That is why I moved on to Lethal Narratives. You have to examine how the Al-Dura affair fits in, for one thing, to Enderlin's vision of the Mid-East conflict. All of these mechanisms for making war against Israel by way of a peace process. That is where the al-Dura affair fits in. I think that by climbing further, all the way up to the whole reality of Islamic jihad… Now we understand the so-called Intifada and what is called the legitimate demands for territory. We understand today that they are fighting jihad against Israel… and now the West is drawn in. I think we can see that when just a short while ago a British soldier was hacked to death in South London. This is happening all of the time in Israel … Because of Al-Dura, because of the blood libel, instead of the world is seeing that as an atrocity, the reaction was, “You have to understand, you are killing their children and they have no other way to hit back… So, first they made a fake child-killing. Then they sent the children to be killed. They've been doing it ever since… and they have committed atrocities and killed Israeli children… with grandmothers at the ice cream parlor. They killed survivors of the Shoah at the Park Hotel in Netanya. The world did not react as it should have. That is why this movement continues to spread…  And it is beyond Israel and beyond the Jews…  and it's the same mechanism. I think that the more we can help to explain this then we can come back to al-Dura affair and unravel it. It is a lynchpin for this whole affair. And when you look at the video with open eyes, you see that it is totally fake. Even people who are quite aware of the nature of Palestinian propaganda  were taken in by the video. Blood libel works that way because blood libel speaks to the others who think the Jews are Christ killers, child killers. It's the same thing. But blood libel also speaks to Jews who haven't gotten over Jewish guilt feelings. Once you touch that… we see that Jews feel that they could be guilty. There are nations, activists, groups that think killing children is great. Look at Samir Kuntar who was received as a hero in Lebanon for brutally murdering an Israeli child. They can justify it. Jews can’t. The reaction for some people, instead of  "We didn't do it” was "Oh my, that's so terrible. How could we do such a thing?” Once the person reacts that way it's something… it's so deep-seated that you can't get out of it by any superficial technique. That is why I never give up working on the Al-Dura affair. Because it is one of the deepest problems that has confronted us in my lifetime.

Gordon:  Nidra, how would you compare the Al-Dura affair to another French travesty, The Dreyfus Affair in Fin de Siècle France ?

Poller:  You know, when I published my first article for Commentary -- it was called, Betrayed by Europe: An Expatriate’s Lament—I told about what happened when this sea change occurred in France and Jews were confronted with antisemitism, and what it felt like to me, having left the United States to live in France. There were two letters to the editor, one was from the French Ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte and the other was from  Alain Besançon. They said France is not antisemitic, they mentioned the Dreyfus Affair as an example of how good France is to the Jews. In other words, we kicked him into the ground, sent him into exile, disgraced him, led him practically to his death and then we said no, as a matter of fact he wasn't guilty. If you compare Al-Dura to the Dreyfus Affair, I would say that French intellectuals have been distinctly absent including, in the early stages, high powered Jewish French intellectuals. I met with many of them with Richard Landes and others, and showed them the evidence. Very few wanted to hear about it and none of them wanted to talk about it. They didn't mobilize. The non-Jewish intellectuals didn't mobilize. They mobilized, yes, for Enderlin. Every time there was the slightest danger that there would be recognition that this was a hoax they would sign petitions, write articles. It has been 13 years and they still haven't admitted that it is a hoax. The blood libel is far more dangerous than this kind of antisemitic harassment. And the reaction has been very slow in coming, which is all the more disgraceful because it is after the Shoah and we are in the 21st Century.

Gordon:  Were there any American groups that were complicit in covering up the blood libel of the Al-Dura affair? What can you tell us about that and what effect did it have?

Poller:  It was general, so I wouldn't like to get involved in one particular explosive case because there is too much conflict. Much too much conflict among people who should be working together on this and I don't want to pinpoint any individual or any group. For years many of us have presented the evidence to American Jewish groups. They have so much more money than our French organizations. The Jewish umbrella organization, the CRIF, didn't want to talk about it at all. When Richard Prasquier became CRIF president, he took it on… and he paid dearly for it because he was criticized very strongly by the general French public and officials. It's the same thing when you talk about jihad or Islamization. The mechanism is like a kind of flashing light that is suddenly pinned on our lapel. It says, “this is bad” and then it is associated with the bad things of the past: the Shoah, Nazis, Hitler, discrimination, killing people for their ideas and beliefs. Every time somebody tries to explain why it is a danger.. I could mention our friends… Bat Ye’or, Andy Bostom, yourself… I don’t want to leave anyone out… You know that I respect everybody who is working on this. When they put the spotlight on Philippe Karsenty, the Israeli Ambassador, or the heads  of this or that Jewish organization, they have to… they always have to balance things out. They have to keep good relations with our friends, our enemies. They have to raise money. They always have to keep their reputation clean and once that light is put on a person they say, “Oh no don’t go near him. Maybe the child was killed in crossfire, we don't know. We don't know who it is and so we're not going to get involved. Karsenty goes too far. He says it's a hoax.” And another thing, you know, they don't read all the material. They don't speak French and that's what happened. And it was all up and down the line.

Gordon:  Nidra, you have been keeping an important watching brief on this blood libel of the 21st Century and for that we have to commend you. We  appreciate this time you have spent with us and we look forward to the publication of your chronicle hopefully this coming fall.

Poller:  Thank you, Jerry.

Watch our interview with Nidra Poller:

The Al-Dura Affair Blood Libel: an interview with Nidra Poller from Jerry Gordon on Vimeo.

 

Also see Jerry Gordon's collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

 

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