It’s the old tried and true method pioneered by Richard Nixon and his trusty secretary Rose Mary Woods: if there’s incriminating evidence, erase the tape and hope for the best.
Richard Landes reports that Charles Enderlin has cut several minutes of the videotape that purports to show what happened to Mohammed al Durah on the fateful day in September of 2000 at the Netzarim junction.
In fact, only one minute of the tape as shown has any footage of al Durah at all, according to Nidra Poller, despite cameraman Talal’s original assertion that he shot a full 27 minutes of the boy and his father.
When I was in France last year for an earlier trial, I was exceedingly underwhelmed by the rules of evidence that seemed to prevail in that country. It remains to be seen how the court will react to the discrepancy here, but Landes reports the following extraordinary exchange:
Before the viewing of the rushes, there was some discussion of why there were only 18 minutes. Charles Enderlin….explained that the cassette they had saved had 27 minutes of footage, but some did not concern that day (how?), and that he had eliminated the irrelevant material. (At this point I expected the judge to say, “let us be the judge of what’s irrelevant,” but she didn’t.)
I guess Charles Enderlin, who earned the coveted title “grand reporter” in 1988, is a “grand editor” as well. At least, the court must think so, if they end up allowing him to get away with this act of “editing.”
So as far as I can make out Enderlin has made a major gamble: tamper with the evidence, show people inconclusive material (the woman next to me said, “I came without making up my mind, and nothing’s clear), and hope the court doesn’t catch him.
But in so doing, he’s rendered himself extremely vulnerable. As Esther Schapira pointed out: “The time code is not the original. We have been shown secondary material.” As far as I know, it’s virtually impossible to edit this material without leaving marks of your activity.
Melanie Phillips, also at the trial, has weighed in with this incisive report. She describes some of the discrepancies in the film regarding al Durah—the suspicious missing footage, no evidence of the boy being hit, his moving an arm after supposedly being dead. She then adds the following chilling information:
But this scandal goes far beyond France 2. Soon after it transmitted the 55 seconds which showed the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah, it helpfully sent various news agencies three minutes of the footage of this incident – including the frames in which the ‘dead’ child is seen moving, but which of course it had not broadcast. For reasons which invite speculation, not one of these agencies broadcast it either.
So why did no other news agency pick up on the discrepancy? Is it a question of blind trust of another journalist? Whatever happened to the skepticism newspeople are supposed to be known for? Does it evaporate when the “evidence” is of Israeli crimes? Is it just sloppiness, shockingly widespread (hard to believe, but possible)? Or a conspiracy of silence to protect a fellow reporter of high repute?
The sad thing is that, even today, this trial is not getting much publicity, except in the blogosphere—which, though noisy and lively, reaches only a small fraction of the public. And strangely enough, even this amount of exposure wouldn’t be occuring without the tireless efforts of a few people such as Richard Landes, who’s been working for years to publicize the facts—and even more strangely enough, without the remarkable cooperation of Charles Enderlin, who lauched the current trial by instituting a lawsuit against Karsenty and others who had criticized him and France2 for their exceedingly flawed reportage of the al Durah affair. If Enderlin had not thought he could get away with—if not murder, then false accusations/evidence of murder—he would not have sued, and the court would not have had the opportunity to study the evidence contained in the videotape.
I sincerely hope the French court will not have the same attitude as those members of the press Melanie Phillips referred to, and that the judge will look at the tape offered by Enderlin, and regard it and its strange editings with the coldly analytic eye they both deserve.