Charles Enderlin, the France 2 journalist who initially publicized and gave false credibility to the Muhammad al-Dura1 incident, has released a new book entitled A Child is Dead (original French title: Un enfant est mort), an effort to further promulgate the al-Dura narrative. In the book, Enderlin rejects Israeli military investigations as “non-credible,” and claims that advocates resort to “conspiracy theories” in their defenses of Israel. In an attempt to bolster his allegations, Enderlin references the 2006 “Gaza Beach Incident” and the commentary of former Human Rights Watch (HRW) “senior military analyst” Marc Garlasco. But close analysis demonstrates that Enderlin chose the worst possible example, the worst possible individual, and the worst possible organization to illustrate his point.
- Garlasco’s initial “analysis,” which was weakly based on “forensic evidence” provided by Palestinian “security officers” and technical claims beyond his expertise, was publicized prematurely in a press conference aimed at increasing HRW’s exposure and embarrassing the IDF. Garlasco’s account was contradictory and changed several times over the course of a week (for more details, see “Experts or Ideologues? The Gaza Beach Incident 2006“).
- After reviewing more reliable evidence, Garlasco reportedly “praised the IDF’s professional investigation into the blast” and concluded that “We do not believe the Israelis were targeting civilians.” The Palestinian narrative of the incident, which Enderlin was advancing, was rejected by HRW.
- Garlasco’s account then reversed, yet again. HRW issued a press release ignoring Garlasco’s prior comments and quoting him as saying: “An investigation that refuses to look at contradictory evidence can hardly be considered credible…The IDF’s partisan approach highlights the need for an independent, international investigation.”
- It is also unclear why Enderlin chose such a controversial figure to make his case. Garlasco’s military “expertise” is highly questionable, and he was forced to resign from HRW following the revelation of his obsessive collection of Nazi memorabilia. HRW also imposed a gag order when Garlasco was forced out.
- HRW reports on Israel have no credibility. The “Gaza Beach Incident,” like HRW’s promotion of the al-Dura narrative, demonstrates the ideological and political bias that permeates its Middle East and North Africa division.
The contradictions of Garlasco and HRW’s statements reflect the confusion surrounding the Gaza Beach incident, and the manner in which simplistic approaches from NGOs and journalists are incapable of achieving clarity or truth. Perhaps, though, it is not surprising that Enderlin, whose own credibility and integrity have been challenged, would turn to his colleagues with the same problem.
**On June 9, 2006, seven or eight civilians, including a number of children, were killed in an explosion on a Gaza beach. Palestinian officials accused the Israeli army of targeting the civilians with artillery fire. NGOs, including HRW, adopted the Palestinian claims and used the opportunity to attack Israel politically. Media reports repeated the unverified allegations, without examining the credibility or plausibility of the sources.
- On September 30, 2000, France 2 reported that Israeli soldiers shot and killed Muhammad al-Dura, a 12-year old Palestinian. Iconic images of al-Dura’s death, filmed by France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahmeh who was also the only witness, were shown worldwide, inflaming the Palestinian violence, and this was used to justify further attacks. Based entirely on this single source, major news organizations repeated the accusation and blamed Israel for “deliberately target[ing]” the child, and did not consider the evidence that this incident had been staged. An Israeli investigation showed that al-Dura could not have been killed by the IDF (based in part on the angles made by the bullet holes) and France 2 refused to release the unedited video footage. This incident came to be known as the “al-Dura myth.”