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Muhammad al-Durrah

On September 30, 2000, two days after the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy from Gaza, was returning home with his father from a shopping trip. As they were approaching an intersection near the Netzarim Junction, gunfire broke out between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers. Film showed the two pinned down and cowering behind a huge concrete barrel. Both were hit and it was reported that the boy died from his wounds.

The film clip was broadcast all over the world, over and over again. Muhammad al-Durrah became the symbol of the Palestinian "uprising" and alleged proof of Israeli brutality. His image united Arabs in hatred of Israel and brought out revivals of the blood-libel charge, that Jews intentionally spill the blood of non-Jewish children.

The conclusion that al-Durrah's wounds were caused by Israeli bullets was repeated so often that it came to be accepted as fact. Even the initial Israeli reaction was to grant, with much regret, that it could have happened that way. However, a more careful investigation later revealed that the shots that hit al-Durrah were not fired by Israelis.

In a lengthy report published in the Atlantic Monthly, correspondent James Fallows reviewed the evidence, taken from a careful study of the film as well as a close examination of the actual scene.(1) He concludes:

Soldiers in the Israeli outpost could not have fired the shots whose impact was shown on TV. The evidence was cumulative and reinforcing. It involved the angle, the barrel, the indentations, and the dust....

In short, the physical evidence of the shooting was in all ways inconsistent with shots coming from the IDF outpost-and in all ways consistent with shots coming from someplace behind the France 2 cameraman, roughly in the location of the Pita [the mound from which the Palestinian fighters were firing].

Even though Arab viewers refuse to accept the results of an "Israeli" investigation, the data can be independently verified, as Fallows adds:

Whatever happened to him, he was not shot by the Israeli soldiers who were known to be involved in the day's fighting-or so I am convinced, after spending a week in Israel talking with those examining the case. The exculpatory evidence comes not from government or military officials in Israel, who have an obvious interest in claiming that their soldiers weren't responsible, but from other sources. In fact, the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, seem to prefer to soft-pedal the findings rather than bring any more attention to this gruesome episode. The research has been done by a variety of academics, ex-soldiers, and Web-loggers who have become obsessed with the case, and the evidence can be cross-checked....

But its fundamental point - that the concrete barrel lay between the outpost and the boy, and no bullets had gone through the barrel - could be confirmed independently from news footage.

Not only did Israeli bullets not kill al-Durrah, there is even evidence suggesting that the entire event was staged.(2) While this conclusion is not widely accepted, what is clear is that Israel has been unjustly vilified, and this continues in spite of the evidence.

Palestinians seek to justify what they do - targeting civilians, intentionally killing children - by accusing Israel of doing the same. Because Israel does have a conscience, its first reaction was to consider that in this instance its soldiers might have been responsible for the child's death, however unintentionally. It turns out this was not the case, but it hardly matters to the Palestinians, to whom lies are truth when they confirm what people wish to believe. When one side has a conscience and the other does not, the battle is indeed asymmetric.

March 2005


1. James Fallows, "Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?," Atlantic Monthly, June 2003.

2. Alyssa A. Lappen, "The Israeli Crime That Wasn't,", December 28, 2004; Johnathan Mark, "Israel Fooled on Death of Al-Dura," Jewish Week, June 13, 2003. See also references to article "Muhammad al-Durrah, Wikipedia.

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