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Although the “sense of facts,” Theodore Dalrymple comments in The New Vichy Syndrome, “is not in the facts themselves, but in the mind that assesses them”—a perspectival truism if ever there was one—it endures as the intellectual and moral duty of the decent individual to separate what is a gross (mis)interpretation from a clear and absolute datum. A fact is not always or necessarily a function of parallax or desire or preference and Mohammad al-Dura is not Lazarus. No doubt some viewers, presented with the concluding portion of the tape, wanted so badly to see the youngster killed by the Israelis that they could not see the boy was quite alive, and could not arrive at the obvious conclusion that the entire episode was rehearsed and staged by the Palestinians with the compliance of French TV. As Karsenty points out, everyone involved in the scene, except the traduced Israeli soldiers, were “actors.”
Karsenty is a modern day Émile Zola, although without Zola’s international fame as one of France’s most prominent writers and without the support Zola could rely on from those who shared his moral outrage at the French military’s scapegoating of Alfred Dreyfus on false charges of treason. Undeterred, Karsenty launched his J’accuse at the French media juggernaut and its enablers in the corridors of power, the judiciary, the public and the massed intelligentsia which had rushed to convict Israel of a fictive crime on tainted evidence. Karsenty had to contend with President Jacques Chirac’s pressure on the court to acquit France 2, with the initial verdict of defamation pronounced against him, and with the fact that he was effectively on his own, abandoned even by those who might have been considered his natural allies. The Israeli government, for example, wished only to wash its hands of the entire affair and kept a frowning distance, apparently recommending that its ambassadors and consuls give Karsenty a wide berth. Even a sympathetic compatriot like Bernard Henri-Lévy, a member of the distinguished school of New Philosophers and an acclaimed author, was obviously reluctant to risk the prospect of public and professional ostracism and did not come to Karsenty’s assistance. “I am completely alone in France,” Karsenty said.
Despite his isolation and the manifold obstacles raised against his quest for justice, Karsenty persisted and in May 2008 the result of his first trial was overturned by the Paris Court of Appeals which declared he was not in defamation, but went no further into the case against France 2 and Enderlin. This remains something of a Pyrrhic victory and augurs further “trials” ahead. That, according to the Mena News Agency, there was only a “petite dizaine de journalistes” (a handful of ten journalists) in the courtroom illustrates the indifference to the truth demonstrated by the French media.
To add to his tribulations, he will once again have to confront and deconstruct the frankly despicable Charles Enderlin who has published a new book, Un Enfant Est Mort (A Child Is Dead), in which he announces his good faith and embarks upon an orgy of self-vindication, claiming that his enemies wish “to demolish an inconvenient journalist” (“abbatre un journaliste qui dérange”). Enderlin can expect reinforcement from the leftist French and Israeli press and probably, to some extent, from the Israeli diplomatic corps as well. As Karsenty says, “Charles Enderlin s’est érigé une muraille d’amis qui le protègent de la critique” (“Charles Enderlin has erected a wall of friends that protects him from criticism.”) The fact that the doctor who testified in support of Enderlin’s blood libel, Raphy Walden, is married to the daughter of Israeli president Shimon Peres can’t hurt either.
The brazen impropriety of defending the indefensible is as undeniable as it is disheartening. Karsenty, however, is undaunted and has now taken his show on the road, convinced he will ultimately prevail in bringing the incontestable facts to the attention of a jaded and skeptical world. “My goal,” Karsenty writes, “is to have France 2, the entire French society, and, finally, the whole world, admit that the al Dura story is a hoax” and “to identify an emblematic symbol of Jew-hatred and Israel bashing.” This will be a formidable job. As National Post columnist Barbara Kay ruefully acknowledges, “such myths can only be countered by truth-tellers, but the principal truth-teller in the case of the Muhammad Al Dura story, Philippe Karsenty, has found that where libels against Jews are concerned, truth-telling is an uphill slog.”
If we believe that the Palestinian dramatis personae and their media accomplices have been chastened by the exposure of their clandestine purposes, we should think again. The latest piece of theater in the Palestinian repertory involves a rock-throwing incident in Silwan in East Jerusalem, in which an Israeli vehicle with its two occupants (interestingly, a father and son) was ambushed by Palestinian youths, some of them hooded. In attempting to escape the barrage, the driver hit and lightly injured one of the rock throwers. (A second youth brushed by the swerving car was plainly unhurt and ran off.) Naturally, a gaggle of photographers was conveniently on stand-by to record its congenial narrative of an Israeli settler going on a violent rampage against Palestinian children protesting the “occupation.” Following the usual propaganda line, the French News Agency AFP informs us that “A Jewish settler leader runs over two stone-throwing Palestinian boys.” (The “settler leader,” incidentally, is David Be’eri, director of the ir David archeological foundation currently excavating biblical Jerusalem’s City of David.) Karsenty clearly has his work cut out for him, but there is no question that he is equal to the task.
Philippe Karsenty is a man who has put the timid and the calumnious, the liars and hypocrites and cringers among us, to shame and amply merits the title of “a hero of our time”—not because he personifies it but because, like far too few among us, he challenges its myths, evasions and mendacities. He has understood that the storm of antisemitism and anti-Israelism shaking the globe is only the other face of the growing drift toward the appeasement of Islam and the surrender to the advancing armies of an alien god, with Israel as the first burnt offering. And he has targeted the media—of which France 2 TV is only one exemplar—as the chief collaborators in the war against the Jewish state and, indeed, against the moral principles of integrity and rectitude that sustain professional responsibility. Karsenty has, in effect, taken the temper of the age to court. Israel needs more like him. And so does the truth.
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