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Children in the crosshairs: Lessons from the al-Dura affair

The continued discussion of the almost 13-year-old Al-Dura affair reflects the current Israeli government’s inability to conduct serious and impartial investigations into violations of Palestinian rights.

By Brad Parker

Footage of the Muhammad al-Dura shooting (Screenshot: France 2)

On Wednesday, Philippe Karsenty, a French media analyst, was convicted of defamation for accusing a French television network of orchestrating video footage of the famous shooting of 12-year-old Mohammad al-Dura in Gaza during September 2000. Over the past 13 years, the shooting has been at the center of Israeli nationalist sentiments of victimization, whether by the media, the international community or anyone else that criticizes Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

While the verdict may do little to chip away at Israeli exceptionalism, the incident at least in part helped to intensify the continued discussion of the almost 13-year-old shooting highlights the indifference Israeli officials have toward the calculated destruction of life in Gaza.

Last month, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, received an Israeli government report that not only asserted there was no evidence to suggest that Israeli forces shot the boy, but also brazenly claimed the boy probably escaped unscathed. Netanyahu initiated the investigation last year because, in his opinion, the incident had been used repeatedly to slander Israel’s reputation.

Despite the fact that an Israeli general acknowledged that al-Dura had been hit by Israeli gunfire, Minister for International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz proclaimed the shooting “a modern-day blood libel against the State of Israel.” Speaking at the report’s release, Netanyahu declared that the al-Dura affair was an example of “the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel” and that “there is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth.” He then reiterated, “Only the truth can prevail over lies.” Mr. Netanyahu, let us consider the facts.

Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Israeli forces are responsible for the death of 1,397 children in the occupied territories, including 1,031 in Gaza, according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine. At the end of 2012, during the most recent offensive in Gaza, 33 children were killed. Between December 2008 and January 2009, Israeli forces killed at least 353 children, including 26 kids in or near schools.

Children walk by the ruins of the Ministry of Interior’s Civil Department building, completely destroyed that morning, in the Tal el Hawa neighbourhood, Gaza city, November 17, 2012. (Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Repeated military offensives on Gaza and a draconian six-year-old blockade have led to persistent allegations of collective punishment of the civilian population, a violation of international humanitarian law.

Nearly a generation of Palestinian children in Gaza have been shot, shelled and bombed since al-Dura’s death. Their homes and schools have been attacked and children have witnessed numerous horrific and tragic events. They have lost parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors, as well as their own legs, arms and other body parts.

These figures do not include the untold number of children that have died as a result of the dire humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade, including economic collapse and severe poverty, blackouts and power cuts, inadequate medical facilities and supplies and the inability to access clean water.

The al-Dura report shows that the current Israeli government is completely incapable of conducting serious and impartial investigations into violations of Palestinian rights. If nothing else, the report evidences the need for an independent investigatory mechanism like the International Criminal Court to address impunity in the occupied territories. Despite this, Mohammad’s father, Jamal al-Dura, is willing to exhume his own son’s body in order to respond to the claim by the Israeli government. “If Israel agrees, I am ready to open the grave,” he said following the release of the report in late May.

The report is a feeble attempt to squelch al-Dura’s symbolism by completely ignoring the reality of the past 13 years and the reality of the life and death of this child. It does nothing to improve the image of a government that has killed over 1,000 children since 2000. It does not take a “mendacious campaign” to be critical of Israeli policies; it simply requires a glimpse at the facts, and the facts are damning.

The only way for Mr. Netanyahu to address Israel’s “image problem” of a nation that kills children is to stop killing children.

Brad Parker is an attorney and international advocacy officer with Defence for Children International Palestinean independent child-rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the occupied Palestinian territories. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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    1. The Trespasser

      The main lessons from the al-Dura affair is that some of Palestinian Arabs would go unbelievable lengths to badmouth Israel.

      Yeah, by the way, no bullets were recovered from the body of either al-Dura, the father was not wounded in the gunfight and the kid would not be exhumed, apparently because he is not laying in a grave just yet.

      But since when “leftists” and “progressives” are concerned by facts?

      Reply to Comment
      • The point of this comment is to induce a response which can either be labeled “anti-Semetic” or provide fodder for similar comments. Don’t give it to him.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Prove that
          1 – bullets were recovered from the body of either al-Dura
          2 – the father was wounded in the gunfight
          3 – That the kid is buried.

          After you fail, ponder about the lack of rationale in your reasoning.

          Reply to Comment
          • SH

            Can you prove that they weren’t, dipshit?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Ok. Basically, thus you are admitting that you can’t prove that Muhammad al-Dura was shot by IDF in that day.

            Habeas corpus provides that burden of proof is on accuser, but habeas corpus in not applied in the region, obviously – there is no such thing in Islam or Judaism – ALL muslim countries have their laws based on Sharia at the very least, and laws in Israel are, obviously, based on Judaism. Which is the point of a Jewish state, by the way.

            An insightful video:
            Raw Footage Presented to French Court
            al-Dura incident is at 00:17:10, but I strongly suggest to watch it entrely.
            People giving commands to the crowd and lack of enthusiasm to many of youth are highly entertaining.

            And a bit of analysis here.


            So totally low of you.

            What am I not getting is why some (most?) “leftists”, so to say, are in complete denial of possibility of any guilt from Arab side.
            Is it some kind of an obsessive compulsive syndrome?

            Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          T, I have decided, is actually an antisemitic troll. His posts are meant to display Jews and supporters of Israel in the worst possible light, to generate revulsion.

          As with all trolls, he shouldn’t be fed, it only encourages him.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Please, do not feed my troll.

            Your silence is the best proof that I’m telling the truth.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “Nearly a generation of Palestinian children in Gaza have been shot, shelled and bombed since al-Dura’s death. Their homes and schools have been attacked and children have witnessed numerous horrific and tragic events. They have lost parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors, as well as their own legs, arms and other body parts.”

      In a corporate national/racial ontology, individuals are merely cells of a greater organism. Individual loss is immaterial; only the persistence of the full organism matters. Individuals are told that if this organism thrives, so too will they or their kin. This logic is deep within us–which is why human rights are often repulsed as unclean or at best ill considered.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        If an entity wages war, it is only natural that some of it members would be killed, maimed and dismembered. All they have to do to stop it is end the war. Too unthinkable, huh?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Laurent Szyster

      Jews were prejudiced as “a nation that kills children” long before Israel existed, long before Al-Dura’s death in unknown circumstance.

      That long held prejudice explains why the badly staged death of one of Jamal Al-Dura’s and the story it “reported” had so much success worldwide.

      Yes, children too die in war.

      Some die because they are child soldiers, groomed since kindergarden like the toddlers Hamas parade in suicide-bomb vests, then used as pawns, look outs and canon fodder.

      Some die because they are used as shield by unscrupulous militias.

      Some die because one third of all missile launched from Gaza fall back in Gaza.

      And some die because they are caught in cross fire.

      But Mohammed Al-Dura does not represent all those tragic deaths of innocent children.

      Thanks to Charles Enderlin and other “righteous” people like you, he is an icon of hatred, the modern video version of the old prejudice invoked to cloak the murder of Jews in the mantle of justice.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        The Jerusalem Post, which is no friend of the Palestinians, published a reasonably sensible article on the belated Al-Dura inquiry and the mess the IDF made of it by making unprovable accusations of its own instead of restricting itself to showing that a blurry video of that quality is unlikely to ever prove anything either way.

        But the title of this piece is “children in the crosshairs” and that cannot be disputed. Leaving aside other sources, B’tselem says 318 children were killed during Cast Lead and the IDF still admits to 89.

        In the first half of 2012 alone, 10 Palestinian children were killed and 300 injured but let’s be modest and restrict ourselves. Take a look at the figures and the names between the years 2000 to 2012, for Gaza alone, not for the West Bank.

        This is not blood libel, this is not myths about putting Christian blood in matzot, this is 21st century Israeli reality. Face it Mister Szyster, because the day will come when you will have to deal with it.

        Reply to Comment
        • Laurent Szyster

          Yes, children too die in war.

          Though, compared to others, less children died in the war that pits Jews against Arabs, both in absolute and relative numbers.

          Yet such fact will never prevent people like Brad Parker to accuse Israel of being “a nation that kills children”.

          And note that he did not say “a state”, “an army” or “a government” but “a nation”.

          That accusation of child murder against a whole nation constitute incitement in itself, regardless of who stands accused.

          So, here are two questions:

          1. How would you consider the same statement made against Alawites under the pretense that so many children were killed by Assad’s army and militia ?

          2. Why what would rightfully be considered vicious incitement suddenly becomes humanism when Jews stands accused of collective child murder ?

          PS: I would be glad to “deal” with that issue if I ever have the chance to meet Brad Parker. But I’m not sure he will be as content …

          Reply to Comment
          • sh

            We are not discussing blood libel, or Brad Parker’s terminology we are talking about children in the crosshairs. The evidence that Palestinian children are in the crosshairs is damning.

            And this “Though, compared to others, less children died in the war that pits Jews against Arabs, both in absolute and relative numbers.” you have failed to show evidence for, although you go on to call it a fact.

            As for Syria, the carnage is awful. But I can’t do anything about it. I am complaining about what is done in my name daily to Palestinian children.

            Why aren’t you?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >as their parents are currently doing in a non-violent manner

            You see? Non-violent manner.

            Now, it turns out that Palestinian Arabs are protesting violently only up to age of 18, after which they are all turning to non-violent protests.

            The question is why these kids are not capable of non-violent protests?

            Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        As opposed to cloaking the murder of Palestinian children in the mantle of antisemitism?

        The posters here illustrate the point of the article perfectly. Israelis and their supporters simply can’t admit to their ongoing war on Palestinian children. Classic guilty reactions.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          If there was a “war on Palestinian Arab children” there would be no such children at all.

          Given that their numbers are constantly growing, the mentioned war exists only in minds of mentally-unhealthy antisemites.

          Reply to Comment
    4. rsgengland

      The writer says an Israeli general acknowledged the shooting of al-Dura.
      Initially Israel admitted it may have been responsible for the death, but very shortly thereafter retracted this, after further investigation.
      This whole article exposes the writers bias against Israel, without offering any proof to substantiate his opinions, other than generalized accusations and allegations.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Proof like body counts?

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Are you concerned by the high number of killed Palestinian Arabs or by the low number of killed Israeli Jews, Arabs and Russians?

          Reply to Comment
    5. Piotr Berman

      Privately, I think that there is too much emphasis on the deaths of children. Humans are equal, and slaughter is slaughter. Even if the victims are males between ages of 20 and 45.

      I remember a big stink made by Zionists about a “doctored photograph” of Beirut under Israeli bombardment. The photograph showed to plumes of smoke, and the “doctoring” claim was an argument that there was actually only one plume which was copied, because the two plumes were too similar. IDF was actually proud of the massive destruction in the residential quarters of Beirut where humanely, to avoid innocent victims, Shia quarters were selected, so who cares if at some moment there were two plumes or one?

      Investigations by IDF have zero credibility. Whatever IDF “discovered” about al-Dura death, the record of verified lies is such that only accidentally IDF version could be true.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Investigations by IDF have zero credibility.

        Testimony by a Palestinian Arab journalist have much less than zero credibility, yet for some it is enough to blame Israel.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Mary Edwards

      They, the Israeli government, lie about the truth and then they lie again to say that their lies are the truth….they are “people of the lie”.

      Reply to Comment
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