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The Scars Told the Truth

Yosef West

Prime Minister Netanyahu called him a hero. The Palestinian propaganda machine is furious. And Dr. Yehuda David, who’s spent the last decade fighting the big lie that became the icon of the Second Intifada, finally got his day in the limelight, after debunking one of the most powerful modern libels against the Jewish State

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

intifadaTwelve-year-old Mohammed al-Dura became the icon of the Second Intifada in September 2000 when internationally broadcast pictures showed him terrified and cowering in fear in his father’s embrace — and then slumped dead over his father’s knee, allegedly killed by IDF crossfire fire during a shootout with Palestinian terrorists at Gaza’s Netzarim Junction. Palestinians have long claimed that al-Dura was killed by the IDF, but independent investigations following the incident showed that the entire scene was staged for foreign television cameras and that al-Dura, if he was killed at all, was killed by Palestinian fire.

Over the past 11 years, the al-Dura case has found its way into the French courts with libel and counter-libel suits surrounding French 2 television, accused by German documentary producer Esther Schapira and independent media watchdog Philippe Karsenty of staging the shooting and then doctoring the film. Nine crucial minutes of the 27-minutes of al-Dura tape was excised and never shown to the public. France 2’s bureau chief in Israel, Charles Enderlin, had contended the missing minutes showed al-Dura in his death throes and were too grisly for the eye to take, but at the end of the complete footage, which was seen by the French courts and a select list of French journalists, one can see Al-Dura alive, with nary a bloodstain, as he raises his arm to the camera.

After Karsenty’s initial claims, France 2 sued him for libel and won in court in 2006, but that decision was overturned three years ago by a Paris Court of Appeals that determined Karsenty was within his rights to call the report a hoax.

A lesser-known aspect of this story is that the boy’s father, Jamal al-Dura, engaged in his own bit of media manipulation. Shortly after the incident, he held a press conference where he showed journalists the scars on his arm and hand as “proof” that Israeli soldiers had fired on him.

But when the France 2 reporter showed the photos of Jamal al-Dura’s injuries, Dr. Yehuda David, a micro-surgery specialist at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv, recognized those scars and knew they had nothing to do with any IDF shooting incident. In fact, the scars resulted from a rare surgery Dr. David had performed on al-Dura in 1994 to bring feeling back to his paralyzed hand after he was severely wounded by an ax-wielding Hamas operative who accused him of collaborating with Israel.

Jamal al-Dura had been treated unsuccessfully at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital and was subsequently sent to Dr. David, who performed a specialized procedure involving removing tendons from al-Dura’s leg and inserting them into his injured hand. The press images, according to Dr. David, were from the medical file he himself wrote.

Dr. David revealed details of that operation to a French Jewish magazine in 2007, leading al-Dura to sue for defamation. Al-Dura sued Dr. David for breaking the laws of doctor-patient confidentiality and slandering him in the interview. In April last year, the court convicted Dr. David — together with the reporter and editor of the French publication — of defamation of character and ordered him to pay al-Dura the equivalent of 30,000 shekels reparations. Dr. David appealed the verdict, and last week the French appeals court finally ruled in favor of the Israeli doctor.

Following last year’s ruling against Dr. David, a spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to comment on the case, but Israeli vice premier Moshe Yaalon and minister of public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs Yuli Edelstein came to his aid and said the government would pay for the doctor’s ongoing legal costs. Today, even the prime minister is celebrating. 


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