Shimon Fogel

Al-Dura Redux

Recent footage of the alleged shooting of two unarmed Palestinians during Nakba Day clashes at Beitunia were quickly picked up by news outlets around the world, prompting UN and other officials to call for an “independent investigation.”

With the death toll in Syria surpassing 160,000, one cannot help but note the absurd irony of a UN official lecturing Israel about the need for responsible action. It would have been equally ridiculous for the UN to issue directives to Canada, for example, in the wake of alleged transgressions by police during the 2010 G-8 riots in Toronto. Liberal democracies – Israel and Canada alike – have long-established processes to investigate such incidents and hold security officials accountable.

Putting aside the clear double standard, those quick to express outrage should take a moment to consider the veracity of the video footage in question. Without prompting, several Canadian military experts contacted me privately this week to state – with considerable confidence – their belief that the incident is a hoax.

After reviewing the footage and accompanying coverage, they cite the way the victims fell, the absence of blood at the scene, and the lack of entry or exit wounds consistent with such a shooting. All of which would explain why the Palestinians are refusing to bring forward critical pieces of evidence, including the bullets and extended footage of the incident. Indeed, of the footage that has been released, the camera’s scope is narrow and omits any context of the surrounding situation.

This would not be the first time that the confusing events of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians have been cynically manipulated to trigger international censure of Israel. Palestinian activists have a long record of staging events for media (including faux funerals) or the “selective” editing of photo or video evidence so as to decontextualize events.

This has become a key component of the Palestinians’ attempt to “internationalize” the conflict, the fomenting of diplomatic pressure on Israel from third parties – whether Western states or organizations like the UN. From the Palestinian perspective, the goal seems to be the same as past campaigns of terrorism: to erode the will of Israelis and achieve greater leverage in bilateral relations, without the costs entailed by a renewal of orchestrated Palestinian terrorism.

What’s most concerning is that – as in the past – third parties have been all too eager to take the bait. The Al-Dura incident in 2000 did serious damage to Israel’s reputation in the early stages of the Second Intifada. The footage of the shooting of 12-year-old Mohammad Al-Dura and his father was immediately blamed on Israeli troops. It offered a simple, personal, and compelling image to the story of Israeli collateral damage, which in turn cast a shadow on the IDF’s subsequent actions to contain the explosion in terrorism.

The problem, of course, is that we now know that the Al-Dura incident was a hoax, and his death was almost certainly the result of Palestinian gunfire. Despite substantial analysis by independent European media and the Israeli government, the damage to Israel’s image was irrevocable.

Worse, the Al-Dura incident provided a template for future manipulation of the international community’s best intentions. This ranges from the petty, such as the miraculous revival of a “wounded” Palestinian on BBC during Operation Pillar of Defense, to the notorious. We should not forget that the Jenin “massacre” of 2002, the outright fabrication of the killing of 500 Palestinians by the IDF following the Passover Seder bombing in Netanya, was picked up by the media and international human rights agencies alike – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN itself.

Last week’s events in Beitunia represent the latest episode of the chronic manipulation of international sentiment. As the maxim goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If my military colleagues here in Canada are right – and we have every reason to accept their judgment – the UN has once again played its shameful role in the internationalization of the Palestinian conflict against Israel.

About the Author
Based in Ottawa, Shimon Koffler Fogel is President and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) - the advocacy agent of Canada's Jewish Federations.