What Fury Over Iconic Video of Palestinian Boy Says About Israel

Death in Gaza Caught on Tape 13 Years Ago — Or Was It?

Enduring Dispute: This iconic image shows a Palestinian boy identified as Mohammed al-Dura cowering on a Gaza street during an Israeli attack. But did he really die — and does it really matter?
youtube
Enduring Dispute: This iconic image shows a Palestinian boy identified as Mohammed al-Dura cowering on a Gaza street during an Israeli attack. But did he really die — and does it really matter?

By Gal Beckerman

Published June 11, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

But the really fascinating question is this: Why does Israel feel the need to return to this story, almost pathologically unable to quit the scene of this crime? Who was the intended audience of this report?

The appointed government committee was rightly criticized for not interviewing any of the individuals who might counter the Israeli narrative. They did not speak with Charles Enderlin, the France 2 reporter and Israeli citizen who has insisted on the truth of his initial report; the cameraman who shot the footage, or Mohammed’s father, Jamal al-Dura, who recently told Haaretz that he would be willing to “do anything to reveal the truth, including opening my son’s grave.”

But even if they had conducted a more thorough report, short of producing a 25-year-old Mohammed al-Dura alive and well in Gaza, it’s hard to see how it was meant to sway anyone who at this point is not already inclined to the Israeli perspective. As the reporter Barak Ravid succinctly put it, changing the narrative now is like “trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”

It must be aimed, then, at Israelis, a way to reinforce a story they need to hear about themselves. The report lends credence to this idea. It is formulated as a response to an incident that, the committee writes, “served as inspiration and justification for terror, anti-Semitism and Israel’s delegitimization.”

From this starting point, how could the panel come to any other conclusion but to absolve Israel from having brought these calamities down upon itself? All they had to do was remove one bullet from a 12-year-old’s abdomen. If the bullet never hit, then the whole newsreel that follows could be unspooled — all that follows, from boycott campaigns to cartoons depicting Israelis as bloodsuckers. None of it happens.

It’s from this place of magical thinking that Israel finds itself still riveted by al-Dura’s death, as the media event that first made the world so unanimously respond in disgust to the Jewish state. Behind this desperate desire to reveal his death as constructed, as an event made up for the media, is embedded Israel’s own distress at the pariah it has become in so much of the world. Erase al-Dura and you erase that.

On the left, news of yet another Israeli response to al-Dura’s death was met with bewilderment. As Open Zion put it, why would the Israelis decide again to stir up “this hornet’s nest?” But while it’s easy to write this off as another tone-deaf attempt at hasbara, Israel once again awkwardly trying to make its case, to me the report is sad. It’s a message directly from the Israeli psyche, raging against its own failure to present the face it wants to present to the world, one of essential goodness, one of righteous purpose, and not a country that kills small children.

Gal Beckerman is the Forward’s opinion editor and writes a monthly column about the media. Contact him at beckerman@forward.com or on Twitter, @galbeckerman.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.