Chris McGreal is back on the Guardian’s pages already and with a vengeance, in more ways than one. In his May 31st article he provides readers with a list of Israeli “‘errors of judgment’ and civilian deaths “ in which, presumably as a result of being unable to contain his anti-Israeli sentiments in a shockingly unprofessional manner, he crosses the very dangerous line of invoking the Al Dura case.
“One of the greatest PR disasters was in 2000, on the second day of the second intifada (Palestinian uprising), when Muhammad al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, was caught in Israeli fire and killed as he cowered in terror against a wall. The shooting and the child’s evident distress were filmed and broadcast around the world. At the end, Dura is seen slumped over his father’s legs.
The Arab world hailed the boy as a martyr. His image appeared on stamps and streets were named after him. The Israeli army initially apologised for the killing, but then backtracked after conducting a controversial investigation in which it cleared itself.
Despite a campaign by some pro-Israel groups to claim that the child is still alive and the incident was staged by the Palestinians, Dura’s death remains an abiding symbol in the Arab world and beyond.”
The fact that the French legal system is apparently a ‘pro-Israel group’ is certainly news to me. As we know, the Al Dura hoax was exposed for all its cynical propaganda over two years ago. It is worth reminding oneself of the details of the case as set out here in an interview with Phillipe Karsenty and of the court’s verdict as documented here by Richard Landes.
McGreal, however, manages to willfully ignore all these court hours because he is a man on a mission. His point seems to be to raise the recent events aboard the Mavi Marmara to the status of yet another iconic hoax to be used against Israel, just as the Al Dura one was and still is. The sad fact is that it is this style of dishonest and irresponsible reporting which brings sales and hits to the Guardian with its following of the chronically Israel-obsessed.
That in itself is bad enough, but McGreal’s irresponsibility and dishonesty is also dangerous. Had he, or whoever approved this piece for publication, paused for a minute before surrendering to their apparently uncontrollable urge to play to their baying crowd they would have remembered that the Al Dura affair had far-reaching results way beyond the revelation that a lazy Western journalist co-operated with the dissemination of terrorist propaganda. As Phillipe Karsenty points out above, it not only stoked the preparatory fires of 9/11, but was cited by the murderers of Daniel Pearl as the motive for their horrific crime. The Al Dura hoax also added considerable amounts of flammable material to the newly-lit second Intifada which had just commenced and as a result of which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives. Like many another blood-libel the Al Dura hoax resulted in mobs seeking medieval-style vengeance for a non-existent crime.
By resurrecting the old Al Dura hoax as though it were fact and by implying that is somehow indicative of an Israeli policy which is based on disregard for civilian deaths in the theatre of war which supposedly also applies in the case of the recent unfortunate deaths of those aboard the Mavi Marmara, McGreal is deliberately engaging in the whipping up of anti-Israeli fervor. This choice of action carries a responsibility far beyond the journalistic type. It more importantly carries a basic human responsibility for the incitement to violence, hatred and terrorism. Just as Charles Enderlin no doubt did not waste a moment’s thought on the possible repercussions of his fictional report -it was just another job for him – so McGreal obviously cares nothing for the potential consequences of the resurrection of an old lie and the propagation of a new one.
There are many elements at work in the Middle East which would like nothing more than to see the eruption of a third Intifada. They need little or no reason to set such a process in motion, but they are in need of financial and ideological support from gullible Westerners for their nihilistic agenda. If Chris McGreal and the Guardian’s editors have even a smattering of concern for human life within them they need to urgently learn from Enderlin’s mistake, not emulate it. But in order to do that, they need to first tame their vengeance.