World News


Revisiting the Killing of Muhammad al-Dura

On September 30, 2000, a Palestinian 12-year-old child, Muhammad al-Dura, was killed in the arms of his father. A film of him crying beside his father was recorded as a gun battle raged around them in Gaza.

The incident has been challenged by an official Israeli report that suggests that the entire event may have been staged to change the narrative but not the fact that the child has been killed. Today, Dura should be about 29-years-old, may be studying, working, getting married or having children.

Benjamin Netanyahu formed a committee to investigate the killing of Muhammad al-Dura and rejected the claim that the IDF had inadvertently killed the boy.

That was the preliminary finding of a special committee formed several years ago by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and headed by Brig.- Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the former head of the Research and Analysis Division of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, and the current director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

France 2 footage showing Muhammad al-Dura crying beside his father in Gaza in September 2000: the IDF initially claimed it was responsible but later changed its account.

The images, which became a symbol of the second intifada, contain no evidence that the child was injured or killed by Israeli fire, a committee of inquiry into television coverage of the death of Muhammad al-Dura concluded.

The Jewish Virtual Library published an analysis on the case explaining how the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) internal investigation provides the findings that al-Dura was “likely killed by a Palestinian policeman and not IDF fire,” though as reported by The Guardian, The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) initially admitted it had killed Muhammad by accident, but within weeks it changed its narrative, saying the boy had died as a result of Palestinian gunfire. Claims even were made the boy was not injured.

The Israeli report, commissioned by Benjamin Netanyahu, who endorsed its conclusions, suggested that the entire event may have been staged as a propaganda exercise and that Muhammad was not killed or even injured. This was fiercely dismissed by Jamal, Talal Abu Rahma, the cameraman who filmed the incident, and by France 2, the television station whose broadcast ricocheted around the world.

The committee’s conclusions were rejected by France 2, the father even declared his willingness for his son’s body to be exhumed to prove the circumstances of his death, and also called for an international investigation. The eyewitness cameraman, the ambulance assistants, and other local reporters witnessed to the guardian how the “child was intentionally and in cold blood shot dead and his father injured by the Israeli army.”

Muhammad al-Dura’s father, Jamal al-Dura, rebukes the Israeli report on his son’s death. “Israel says my son isn’t dead. Can you imagine how this feels for a father who has lost his child? They have all the technology tools in the world. He’s not dead? Then bring him to me,” he said.

The father shared how he was trying to protect his son during the incident. “I was only thinking about one thing: how to protect my son. He was scared. When he was shot by the first bullet, I was telling him, don’t be afraid, the ambulance will come. He said, I’m not afraid, you don’t be afraid. When he fell across my lap, I realized he was dead. These seconds felt like hours, days,” Jamal told The Guardian.

Jamal narrated what happened that day and confirmed that his son is dead. “I tried to protect him from the continued shooting by putting him behind a cylindrical cement block on the sidewalk, which we used as refuge from the beginning. But I failed…I tried very hard to point to the watchtower, from where the shooting was coming. But the shooting continued for a long time. When Muhammad’s head fell on my lap, I knew that he was martyred. I was hit in my right arm and in my lower body. I didn’t know that journalists were videotaping me,” Jamal told Al-Monitor.

The longtime Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi dismissed the Israeli report on the topic as a “falsified version of reality [that] blames the victims.”

I recalled Einstein’s words to Margot Einstein on his decision to turn down the presidency of Israel. “If I were to be president, sometimes I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear.”

Finding out who killed Muhammad al-Dura will probably go unanswered, but the fact remains that the Arab-Israeli conflict continues to kill young boys like Muhammad and that is the larger tragedy.