Despite accusations that he is a conspiracy theorist and provocateur, Philippe Karsenty has pursued his cause for more than 11 years. His goal: to prove that heart-rending video footage supposedly showing a young Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza in 2000 was a hoax.
Karsenty, deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, is one of the most vocal proponents of the theory that, despite video showing Mohammed al-Dura and his father crouching under a hail of bullets, later footage shows the child alive, with no blood on him or his father, or in their vicinity.
An Israel inquiry asserted the same thing in May.
In a talk at the JCC of Central NJ in Scotch Plains on Tuesday, Aug. 13, Karsenty will outline the latest episodes in the drama. It is his second appearance there. He spoke in 2008, then — as now — as the guest of the Israel Support Committee of Central NJ.
In an interview on July 29, he told NJ Jewish News he also plans to describe his next project: “to create a think tank dedicated to fighting for the truth in the media in general.”
In June, in the third round of his legal battle, a 2006 defamation conviction against Karsenty – overturned in 2008 – was reinstated, and he now faces a $14,000 fine. He plans to appeal the verdict on “procedural and ethical” grounds.
The case hinges on an article by Karsenty alleging that a France 2 reporter was duped by his cameraman, and then sought to create the impression that Israeli soldiers intentionally killed the boy. The brief footage showed 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura crouching in terror alongside his father Jamal as Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinian fighters, and was followed by shots of a dead child. The story was widely broadcast, triggering anti-Israeli riots and condemnation from around the world.
As Karsenty has long insisted, the Israeli government review found that there was no evidence that Israeli soldiers or anybody else had fired at the al-Duras. Pictures of the body, Karsenty said, are of another child; the scars the father later showed reporters tally exactly with surgery he received years earlier — from Israeli doctors — for a health issue.
France 2 said the boy was shot dead by Israeli troops, and that the boy’s movements seen in later footage were death throes.
France 2’s attorneys threatened to sue the Israeli panel, saying they did not receive the opportunity to present their version of events.
Karsenty told NJJN that he is up against critics — Jews as well as non-Jews — “who are too locked into their positions to acknowledge the facts, and they are more concerned with protecting their political agendas or their business interests.”
Karsenty, who is Jewish, likens his plight to that of Alfred Dreyfus, the French-Jewish artillery officer falsely accused by the French military of treason in 1894. But he emphasizes that he is luckier than Dreyfus, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island before his complete exoneration in 1906.
“I’m not in jail; I’m here in the United States, giving talks,” he said. “That case in Paris, you could say, led to the founding of the State of Israel. Now, a century later, there is this case that threatens to unleash a beast dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It is the responsibility of this generation to prevent that.”
Conrad Nadell, who heads the Israel Support Committee, said he and Karsenty have remained in contact since his last talk at the JCC.
“It was a very eye-opening presentation, making it hard to believe anyone could rule the video was anything other than a hoax,” Nadell said. “The Mohammed al-Dura hoax is an example of classic anti-Semitism not unlike the infamous Dreyfus affair. It is shameful that the French judicial system refuses to acknowledge the obvious. One has only to review the ample evidence that the entire series of events was planned and staged to further the lies that the Israeli army soldiers are brutal murderers of children. We expect that from the Palestinians; we expect more from a Western democracy.”
JTA contributed to this report.