In a potentially ground-breaking decision for the way the modern television news media operates, a French court today ruled against the state-owned “France 2” TV network in the long-running libel case surrounding the alleged shooting death of a Palestinian child, Mohammed al-Dura, in the Gaza Strip in 2000. (Reports from AP, in French, here; and here from The Jerusalem Post.)
The death-footage of al-Dura – the veracity of which has been repeatedly questioned by media watchdogs, one of whom defeated France 2 in court today – became a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden referred to al-Dura in a post-9/11 video; the killers of the Wall St. Journal reporter Daniel Pearl placed a picture of him in their beheading video; streets, squares and academies have been named after al-Dura.
Today’s ruling shows there are serious doubts about France 2’s version of events, and that the entire world press – including the American TV networks – were irresponsible in being so quick to take at face value the claims of a local Palestinian cameraman working for France 2, a cameraman who has admitted his partisanship.
If it hadn’t been for the way the al-Dura video was then repeatedly played on Arab and international networks, the second Palestinian intifada may never have developed the way it did, thousands of lives might have been saved and there might even possibly have been a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel by now.