What the persecution of hero Philippe Karsenty says about the future of European free speech.
On June 26th, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled against Philippe Karsenty, deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the France 2 vs. Karsenty case. According to the court’s decision, Mr. Karsenty received a fine of €10 0001 for his involvement in the Al Dura affair and his statements in regard to Charles Enderlin. The verdict emerged as a major setback in Mr. Karsenty’s drive to expose the misinformation resulting from the accident that took place on September 30th 2000 in the Gaza strip and involved Mohammed Al Dura.
In the French socio-political climate, the drive to expose the truth concerning the Al Dura affair represents a critical point in unveiling a major obstacle to the citizens’ right to information. While single media outlets may have their specific tendencies and private agendas, the Al Dura issue highlights the fact that the French political class as a whole is ready to abandon the requirements of transparency and objectivity for the purpose of serving a certain set of interests. Since the beginning of the Al Dura affair, few in France or Europe have fully grasped the true nature of Mr. Karsenty’s fight to expose the hoax that falsely portrayed Mohammed Al Dura as the victim of Israeli aggression.
The relative indifference with which the June 26th ruling was met by the general public is instrumental in highlighting how the French political system has successfully imposed the official version of the story within the country’s borders. According to the great majority, Philippe Karsenty’s arguments and the Israeli report on the incident issued on May 13th are irrelevant even though they embody rational proofs contradicting France 2 and the government’s position. Sound arguments no longer appeal to those who have already been conditioned by a gradual demonization of the State of Israel.
In this sense, the Al Dura affair represents a case study helping to understand the way French and European societies lost their critical thinking in regard to events involving Israeli interests. This reality has been made possible by a wave of media bias spreading throughout the Old Continent and successfully limiting the local populations’ ability to rationally analyze the situation in the Middle East. These obstacles can be defined by the three following issues.
The first point underpins the inability or unwillingness of European mainstream media to present an event in a way which does not portray Israel in a negative light, regardless of the situation. The confusing syntax permeating written pieces and the images used in video reports, such as the Al Dura one, serve as tools enabling such a distorted representation of the reality on the ground.
The second point emphasizes the fact that the European socio-academic sphere is successfully marginalizing all discourses pertaining to Israel. The intellectual reactions to events happening in Israel are depicted as fields of thought confined to Jewish communities. For this, Mr. Karsenty’s drive to expose the truth about the Al Dura affair is viewed by many as a confessional fight, which deprives it of its essential democratic nature.
The third point involves the influence of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli organizations. May it be on university campuses or in the media, activists belonging to such groups repeatedly diffuse their irrational messages based on propaganda rather than objective information. The Al Dura affair has become a dogma for those openly opposing Israel and benefitting from a preferred position in television shows and newspaper interviews. As it was in the case during the time of the inquisition, it is difficult to question the official version of the Al Dura affair not simply because of the first two points but also because it means opposing a generally accepted dogma.
This situation is highly dangerous as it represents a major threat to the freedom of speech in Europe and the protection of rational thinking. While the June 26th court decision has unveiled the shortcomings of the French legal system in the fight for preserving the democratic values on which the country is built, it also gave much needed impetus to international actors, motivating them to enter the debate. On September 30th, Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum effectively took side with Philippe Karsenty in the Al Dura affair. The Middle East Forum issued a statement evoking the global risks posed by France’s inability and unwillingness to protect the integrity of public information and to counter pro-Palestinian propaganda. The Philadelphia based think-tank offered to pay the entirety of Mr. Karsenty’s fine and to further support him in his fight for the truth.
This decision made by an American institution represents an essential turning point in the affair, as it finally confirmed that the French and the European media bias against Israel can no longer be safeguarded against within the Old Continent’s borders. The Middle East Forum’s stance highlights the global nature of the question. Al Qaeda terrorists used the images recorded by France 2 to justify their terrorist attacks, which means that the Al Dura affair cannot be considered as a French or Jewish question only. The Arab and Muslim nations have used Mohammed Al Dura as a martyr image in their fight against Israel. That is why Philippe Karsenty’s strife for truth should not only be seen as a dispute between a man and a television channel but as a battle between democratic values and irrational hate. The fact that the Middle East Forum took a position in such a strong and direct way in the Al Dura affair embodies an essential step forward for all those concerned with the gradual degradation of free speech in Europe and its possible impacts on peace and security in the Old Continent, Israel and the whole Middle Eastern region.
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