Pure fiction, is what French media watchdog Philippe Karsenty called the ostensible news film aired eight years ago by a major French television station.
Actually, Karsenty was being kind.
Fiction exists to entertain, perhaps to enlighten. The film footage in question in which a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was depicted as dying from Israeli gunshots was intended purely to deceive.
It was a convincing ruse, to be sure. The footage was heart-wrenching in the way it grittily portrayed the youthful Mohammed al-Dura cowering in fear as his father sought to protect him, alleged Israeli bullets whizzing all around them. Finally, the boy appears to be struck, then slumps apparently dead in his fathers arms.
Hollywood couldnt have done it any better.
A French appeals court last week reviewing France 2 TVs libel lawsuit judgment against Karsenty agreed. It reversed a 2000 ruling which found Karsenty guilty of libel for calling into question the authenticity of the al-Dura video, and nullified some $7,000 in fines that had been leveled against him. A series of discoveries since the film was aired led to the refreshing ruling in the French court. Slowly but surely, evidence mounted that the seemingly traumatic footage was nothing more than a well-planned hoax.
After Israeli investigations revealed that there was no way that Israeli bullets could have struck al-Dura during the intifada-related fighting at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza, other evidence began to surface.
It has since been discovered, for example, that the film was not actually shot by France 2s reporter, Charles Enderlin, but was given to the station by Palestinians.
Other footage shot in the same area on the same day clearly showed Palestinians, apparently grievously injured, later emerging from ambulances with smiles and laughter.
Additional film footage has since appeared footage which never hit the airwaves in France or anywhere else until now which showed al-Dura lifting his head from his fathers lap and opening his eyes. France 2 did everything in its power to prevent that few moments of footage from being publicly seen.
Which is not surprising, of course, since that footage and the entire pathetic situation makes France 2 look like unwitting dupes at best and complicit propagandists at worst.
Our concern, obviously, is not for the reputation of a French television station, but for Israel, whose good name was internationally savaged by the video. The al-Dura clip, with its cleverly construed plot line an innocent youth slain by the brutal Israelis, a terrified father unable to save his son from such a terrible and unjust fate did more damage to Israel than a years worth inflammatory denunciations by politicians or activists.
Last weeks ruling in France provides vindication, at least for the abstract concept of truth, and perhaps for Karsenty, but much of the damage done to Israel is probably irreversible. A good many of those who saw the video, or the stills taken from it which were published before an even wider audience, came to conclusions about Israel that may never be reversed.
In that sense, the liars were victorious in spite of everything. The cursed specter of Josef Goebbels who preached the idiom that if a lie were repeated often enough it would eventually come to be believed must be smiling.
Postscript: We really hope that subsequent investigations into the al-Dura matter reveal that the boy who by now would be a young man is, after all, safe and sound, and that the manipulation of his image by professional swindlers hasnt blinded him to the difference between truth and falsity.