Anti-Semitism, Israel and the Olympics: What to take away

The original Olympics in Ancient Greece, the games that inspired the modern recreation that just ended in Rio, showcased the greatest Grecian athletes stretching from the Peloponnese to the Mediterranean colonies. In the Grecian Olympics, only those of pure Greek decent could participate, making the old games far more exclusive than the modern games that have come to celebrate international diversity. There are several differences between the original and the modern games; however, the similarities between two games are far more striking and relevant. Greek city-states agreed to an Olympic Truce during the celebration of the games to allow athletes safe travel to Olympia, which is now an implied aspect of the games. The Olympics in Ancient Greece also, like in modern times, developed into a political tool for city-states to claim dominance over rivals through athletics. The modern Olympics are meant to foster a sense of international unity and cooperation through the love of athletics, a passion shared universally across international borders and cultural boundaries. Comparable to the old games, The Olympic Games in Rio were not devoid of political opportunism and cultural discrimination. And Israel, expectedly yet baselessly, found itself at the center of the controversy.

Before the opening ceremonies could even begin, members of the Lebanese Olympic delegation barred Israeli athletes from boarding a bus headed to the ceremony. Salim al-Haj, head of the Lebanese delegation, told the Agency France-Presse (AFP) that he demanded the door be closed before the Israeli athletes could enter, but the Israelis “insisted on getting on.” What a potentially scarring experience for the Lebanese delegation: they were almost forced to participate in the Olympic spirit of international camaraderie. The Israelis eventually boarded a separate bus to “avoid an international and physical incident” but Udi Gal, an Israeli athlete, pondered on Facebook, “How could they let this happen on the eve of the Olympic Games? Isn't this the opposite of what the Olympics represents?” He is, of course, absolutely right; no intelligent individual would oppose this statement. Yet, predictably, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) only warned al-Haj that a similar situation would not be tolerated in the future. Apparently blatant anti-Semitism is passable as long as it is the first offense, according to the actions of the IOC.

This incident, of course, was just the start of the harassment Israeli athletes faced at the Rio Olympics. A female Saudi Arabian judo athlete allegedly forfeited her first-round match to avoid an Israeli competitor in the proceeding round. The Saudi Arabian Olympic delegation denied the claim and instead offered an injury as a legitimate excuse. Curiously, Saudi Arabia does not recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel; far more interesting, though, is why the Saudi athlete’s injury only became a limiting factor once the draw—and her potential Israeli competitor—was determined.

If you do not regularly keep up with Israeli news or watch Fox News, you likely haven’t heard about these detestable and flagrant acts of discrimination against Israeli athletes. For those who haven’t received news of these incidents, it is not due to your own inattentiveness, but rather the  main stream media’s (MSM) lack of interest with overt anti-Semitism at the Olympics. Neither CNN nor MSNBC published articles on either of the aforementioned discriminatory incidents. When I scoured Google for other articles and quotes regarding these episodes, nearly all the articles on the individual incidents were published by conservative news sources, such as Breitbart and Fox News, or Jewish newspapers, such as the Jewish Post and Haaretz. After I noticed the disparity between the attention conservative publications gave the incidents as opposed to liberal agencies, I deliberately searched the archives of CNN and MSNBC for articles on these two incidents and found nothing. I find it greatly unsettling that these liberal publications would refrain from posting pieces on anti-Semitic incidents at the Olympics at a time when the world—especially champions of equality on the left—seems devoted to ending discrimination. Some on the left enjoy attacking conservatives for their cultural insensitivity and lack of “political correctness,” but, in this case, CNN and MSNBC seem to miss the mark.

This is not to say, however, that CNN or MSNBC are not concerned with the equal treatment of all athletes at the Olympics. In 2014, after the Sochi Winter Games, MSNBC published an article titled “IOC Makes non-Olympian Sized Move on Gay Rights, Critics Say”. and, just a few weeks ago, CNN posted an article titled “In Testament to U.S. Sports Progress, Women Lead Rio Medal Count for Team USA”. As all Americans should be, I’m glad that our country has news agencies that object to social injustices and inequalities and praise the accomplishments of women. However, in my eyes, CNN and MSNBC lose all credibility in standing up for equality when they arbitrarily select which groups deserve their defense in the face of severe unequal treatment. If CNN and MSNBC, and other like news agencies, truly stood for equality and not for political pandering, they would have given equal coverage to the undisguised anti-Semitism practiced by the Lebanese delegation and the Saudi Judo competitor.

To claim that CNN directed no attention to anti-Semitic incidents at the Olympics would be unfair and false; apparently CNN was able to ignore the first two anti-Semitic incidents but just couldn’t bring itself to neglect the final and most flagrant incident. Egyptian Judo fighter El Shehaby was booed after he refused to shake the hand of his Israeli competitor, Or Sasson. After Sasson defeated Shehaby in the opening match, he extended his hand to the Egyptian, who refused and barely gave a nod as opposed to the traditional and compulsory bow after a Judo match is completed. CNN’s article is devoid of even a hint of disapproval towards Shehaby’s actions. At the end of the article, CNN attempts—and fails—to address the earlier bus incident with the Israeli and Lebanese athletes, stating “Reports have surfaced that Lebanese athletes refused to let Israel's competitors share a bus with them to the opening ceremonies.” At the latest, the story was confirmed by both the Lebanese and Israeli delegations by August 8th, yet the CNN article, dated August 18th, merely states that “reports have surfaced”, as if the incident is merely an illegitimate piece of gossip. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, MSNBC published no articles on any of the anti-Semitic incidents. Even more unbelievable was the response from the International Judo Federation, which absurdly claimed that it was “…already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to (fight) Israel”. Supposedly sportsmanship between athletes is just too much to ask for when one of them is a Jew.

The Israeli athletes, and Jews around the world, do not require the sympathies of CNN, MSNBC, or any other news agencies or organizations to succeed, at the Olympics or anywhere else. (CNN practically ran a propaganda war against Israel during the 2014 Gaza war, and Israel yet again prevailed.) The Jewish people have stood up to and beaten far greater injustices than what the Israeli athletes faced at the Olympics. That commendable fact does not justify the actions of the Muslim nations that treated Israeli athletes with inhuman disdain, nor does it excuse the laughable or absent responses from organizations globally. It does, however, point to the strength of the Israeli athletes, something that should not be forgotten or overlooked after the Muslim athletes’ failed attempts to beat down the morale of the Israelis.

This year at the Olympics, the United States Olympic delegation included its first Muslim athlete to wear a hijab during competition, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. CNN wrote three separate articles on the momentous occurrence, which points to the cultural acceptance practiced in the United States. CNN has posted multiple opinion pieces on Islamophobia, including one (offensively) titled, “America’s Islamophobia Problem”. By no means am I suggesting that unjust discrimination against Islam and Muslims should be tolerated: it should be defeated, as should all ignorant discrimination. But where is the CNN opinion piece entitled “Arab Countries’ Anti-Semitism Problem”? Although the actions of a few athletes from Arab countries do not represent the views of those countries (Egypt actually sent El Shehaby home after he refused to shake Sasson’s hand), CNN has no qualm posting an opinion piece insinuating all of America has a problem with Islamophobia. I can only wonder what CNN would have titled their article if it had been a Jewish athlete who had refused to shake a Muslim’s hand.

At face value, much has changed in regards to the original games’ homogenous nature. The International Olympic Committee has successfully transformed what was once known for is exclusivity into a celebration of athleticism and international inclusivity. A clear and foreboding lesson of Rio, though, is that the Olympics’ original prejudicial environment is far from defeated so long as our world refuses to universally condemn discrimination.

Ethan Katz is a first year political science student at the University of Florida. He is dedicated to exploring political and international issues through his writings from an analytical and impartial viewpoint.

Israel-Gaza cease-fire extended 24 hours as progress made on long-term truce

Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly have confirmed that the Gaza cease-fire will be extended by 24 hours.

The extension of the current five-day cease-fire, which is set to expire at midnight Monday, will allow the sides to continue to discuss a long-term truce.

The talks reportedly are being extended because of what has been characterized as significant progress in talks on an agreement.

A senior member of the Palestinian delegation told the French news agency AFP that there had been “progress,” with both sides demonstrating “a great degree” of flexibility.

Earlier Monday, following a security meeting at the Ashdod Navy Base, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the cease-fire talks.

“We are ready for any scenario – the Israeli team in Cairo has been instructed to insist on Israel’s security needs and the IDF is prepared for very action strong action if fire is resumed,” Netanyahu said.

He added, “It could yet take time and one must be patient and determined. The combination of persistence and strength will assist us in achieving the goal of this.”

The Qatari-based Al-Jazeera news channel reported late Monday night that the cease-fire agreement currently being considered favorably by both sides includes opening border crossings between Israel and Gaza, with building materials allowed into Gaza under international supervision and expanding the fishing area for Gaza boats. The discussion of building a Gaza seaport and releasing Palestinian prisoners is to be discussed within a month.

Tehran Jewish leader asks Obama to reconcile with Iran

The head of the Jewish community of Tehran called on President Obama to reconcile U.S. relations with Iran while the Islamic Republic is ruled by a moderate president.

Homayoun Sameyah Najaf Abady sent the open letter to Obama and a copy to the French news agency AFP, which reported on its contents on Monday.

“If the US and the international community do not make the best of this golden and perhaps unrepeatable opportunity, then it will be in the benefit of those who are against the normalization of ties between Iran and the U.S.,” he wrote.

Abady also referred to the freedom enjoyed by the Jewish community in Iran.

“We, the Iranian Jews, as an Iranian religious minority, participated in the elections and elected our popular president freely,” he wrote.

The Iranian Jewish leader mocked a recent statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing what he said was a lack of freedom in Iran, writing that the Jewish community has freedom of choice in “wearing jeans and listening to music,” according to AFP.

The Iranian Jewish community in the United States declined an official invitation to meet with newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to New York to attend the opening of the new session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Rouhani is considered much more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has promised greater transparency in Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran is scheduled to meet with the United States and five other world powers beginning on Tuesday in Geneva to discuss its nuclear program.

Hamas shutters critical media in Gaza Strip

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip shuttered two news outlets that published reports tying Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood recently ousted from power in Egypt.

The French news agency AFP reported Thursday that the attorney general in Gaza’s Hamas-run government ordered the closure of the Gaza bureaus of the Palestinian Ma’an news agency and the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV news network.

A Hamas official told AFP that Al Arabiya’s office was shuttered “for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what’s happening in Egypt.”

Both agencies have reported that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president ousted earlier this month by the Egyptian military, may stand trial for spying for Hamas, among other charges.

“We received the closure notice and an official statement from Al Arabiya will be published to respond to this decision,” its Gaza correspondent, Islam Abd Al Kareem, told AFP.

Ma’an reported separately that Hamas officials accompanied by security forces on Thursday delivered a closure notice to the Gaza offices of Ma’an. The officials questioned Ma’an’s Gaza bureau chief in his office over a Ma’an report that quoted information translated from a Hebrew-language news site, the agency reported.

That report said that six Muslim Brotherhood officials had smuggled themselves into Gaza to plan an uprising against the military in Cairo. A ministry official told Ma’an’s bureau chief that the report was false.

The official accused Ma’an of “seeking to intensify the incitement in Egypt against the Strip,” Ma’an quoted the ministry official as saying.

“Ma’an deliberately publishes false news reports seeking to incite against Gaza. It has become complicit with Egyptian media outlets in incitement against the Strip,” the official said.

Ma’an’s editor-in-chief Nasser Lahham said Hamas “takes any possible occasion to wage tough attacks against Ma’an news agency for no reason.”

Hamas is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood chapter launched in Gaza during Egypt’s 1949-1967 control of the strip, which borders Israel and Egypt. Israel controlled Gaza from 1967-2005.

Mass Arab grave from 1948 war discovered in Jaffa

A mass grave holding the remains of dozens of Arabs killed during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence was unearthed at a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa.

The discovery of the mass grave — six underground rooms with the skeletons of adults and children — was made last week during renovations to the cemetery, the French news agency AFP reported.

The bodies were placed in the existing crypts of several families and were not buried in accordance with Muslim tradition, according to reports.

AFP reported that the bodies were of people killed in the south of Jaffa, now part of the Tel Aviv municipality, in the final months of the 1948 war.

Hamas forbids local journalists from working with Israeli media

The Hamas government in Gaza has forbidden local journalists from working with Israeli media outlets.

The weekly Cabinet meeting in Gaza decided to ban Palestinian journalists from working “with all Zionist media and journalists,” which it declared “hostile,” it announced in a statement, the French news agency AFP reported.

The Cabinet has forbidden the local journalists from working for Israeli media and television stations.

It is the first time the Hamas government has required such action, according to AFP.

There is no similar requirement in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2006.

In a Facebook post, The New York Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, reported that Gaza journalist Abeer Ayyoub confirmed the ban and said that Hamas also announced that permits for foreign journalists would now go through the internal security office.

Rudoren wrote that Israeli media outlets rely on local Palestinians for news from the coastal strip, since Israelis are forbidden from entering Gaza.

Jerusalem committee approves new Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem

A Jerusalem municipal committee gave final approval for plans to build a new Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee on Wednesday approved more than 2,600 new housing units for the Givat Hamatos neighborhood. It would be the first new Jewish neighborhood build in eastern Jerusalem since Har Homa was established in 1997, according to the French news agency AFP. The final approval means tenders can be issued in about two weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended building new housing in eastern Jerusalem.

“We're going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents.This is something that has been done by all previous governments; this is something that my government will continue to do,” the Israeli prime minister said Wednesday during a meeting with Asian and Pacific ambassadors to Israel, reminding them that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.”

The Givat Hamatos announcement comes two days after another Jerusalem committee approved a plan to build some 1,500 apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, which stirred a furor when it was first approved during a 2010 visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Construction reportedly is still years away, as the project must pass through more stages of the planning process.

Also on Wednesday, Israel's Housing Ministry issued tenders for some 6,000 housing units, including 1,000 in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, according to reports.

Israel has come under fire from the international community for pushing ahead with plans to build in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, on land that the Palestinians claim for a future state,

Israel's recent building announcements “run counter to the cause of peace,” the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” she said at a reporters' briefing on Tuesday. “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk. So we again call on Israel and the Palestinians to cease any kinds of counterproductive unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations.”

Couple suspected of aiding Toulouse killer Merah taken into custody

A man and a woman in the Toulouse area were arrested on suspicion that they helped Mohammed Merah “commit crimes” that may have included the murder of four Jews.

According to L'Express, a French daily, French authorities arrested the two on Tuesday morning. Reports in the French media said there was no use of force.

The French news service AFP named one of the suspects as Charles Mencarelli and reported that he had been arrested in Albi, about 45 miles northeast of Toulouse. AFP described Mencarelli as not having a permanent address. His life partner was arrested at her home in Toulouse, according to the report.

The pair will be brought for arraignment within 96 hours of their arrest, according to  L’Express, during which time they will be interrogated about their links with Merah. They are not suspected of belonging to a jihadist network, an unnamed police source told L’Express.

Merah, a 23-year-old radical Muslim, killed a rabbi and three children in a pre-planned attack on the Otzar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19. The slayings came a few days after Merah gunned down three French soldiers in two drive-by shootings from a scooter near Toulouse. He was shot dead on March 22 by police as they stormed his home.

Tuesday's arrests were headed by France’s domestic intelligence service, DCRI, and the country’s top SWAT team, the anti-terrorist SDAT unit.

Swedish flotilla ship heading for Gaza sails from Italy

A Swedish ship carrying human rights activists attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza left from Italy.

The Estelle, carrying 17 activists from countries including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel  and the United States, sailed from the port at Naples on Saturday. The vessel, part of the Freedom Flotilla movement that included the ill-fated Mavi Marmara, reportedly is carrying humanitarian goods.

It will take about two weeks to reach Gaza's territorial waters, according to the French news agency AFP.

The Freedom Flotilla's first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel's naval blockade of the coastal strip.

A spokeswoman for the movement, Ann Ighe, told AFP that the Estelle “is a peaceful ship.”

The Estelle began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving last week in the Gulf of Naples.

Iraq cutting cooperation with U.S. over Jewish archives

Iraq said it is cutting archaeological cooperation with the United States because the U.S. has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives.

Iraqi Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim is pushing for the return of the archives that were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the French news agency AFP.

Iraq was home to a large Jewish community prior to 1948 before most Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel.

The archives, which were discovered in the flooded basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, include Torah scrolls, and Jewish law and children’s books.  Seventy percent of the collection consists of Hebrew-language documents and 25 percent is in Arabic. The rest of the documents are written in other languages.

Smaisim, a member of the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, told AFP that Iraq will “use all means” to retrieve the archives.

“One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American [archaeological] exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States,” Smaisim told AFP.

Asked for comment, U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael McClellan told AFP that the archives were in “the temporary custody of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for conservation, preservation and digitization” and that “all the material will return to Iraq at the conclusion of the project.”

Meeting fails to solve Palestinian unity plans

A meeting in Cairo between representatives of Hamas and Fatah did not bring a Palestinian national unity government any closer.

Khaled Mashaal, chief of Hamas, and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed concluded a meeting Wednesday night that “produced nothing new,” the French news agency AFP reported, citing an anonymous Palestinian official.

Egyptian officials also attended Wednesday’s meeting, which comes nearly three months after the two sides reached agreement in Doha to form an interim government headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The two sides have argued over who will serve in the new government. Presidential and legislative elections were supposed to be scheduled within a year.

Israel strikes Gaza, retaliating for barrage

Israeli combat planes pounded the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the worst barrage of rocket attacks on southern Israel in two years.

The French news agency AFP and Israel Radio reported repeated strikes on the strip late Monday night.

Israel Radio said that there were reports from Palestinian sources of 17 wounded. The army was not responding to the reports, the radio said.

Israel had responded earlier Monday to Saturday’s barrage with airstrikes on suspected bomb smuggling tunnels. The latest attack seemed more comprehensive and sustained, according to the reports.

The armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam Brigades, had claimed responsibility for most of the explosives sent Saturday from Gaza.

Before Israel’s attack, a spokesman for Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, had sought a return to a fragile truce.

Poland shelving property compensation plans

Poland is shelving plans to compensate former property owners—among them Holocaust survivors—for assets confiscated during the communist period.

The announcement by Poland’s state treasury was met with “shock and dismay” by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, which represents survivors and their heirs.

“Given the current economic situation, work on this draft legislation cannot be continued,” a Polish official announced on March 9, the French news agency AFP reported.

Such a law could make Poland exceed the European Union’s public debt ceiling of 60 percent of the gross domestic product, the treasury said.

But Poland has one of the strongest economies in Europe today, said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, in a statement issued March 13.

“For us, this is an issue of justice and not money,” Lauder said.

The issues of restitution and compensation in Poland have been under discussion for almost two decades, according to Lauder. Legislation has been on the table since 2008.

Now, despite Poland’s relative economic security in Europe, its leaders are “telling many elderly prewar landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no foreseeable hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them,” Lauder said.

Poland’s property-owners’ association estimates Jewish claims to be about 17 percent of the total value of $22 billion to $24 billion in confiscated property that has yet to be returned, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, “Golden Harvest,” a new essay by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, suggests that the plundering and murder of Jews by Polish civilians was widespread under the Nazi occupation.

The essay, which hit bookstores this week, argues that Poles essentially profited from the Holocaust by robbing Jews in hiding or on the run or by plundering mass graves of Jews in search of gold.

Though more Jews were rescued by righteous gentiles in Poland than in any other country, Gross estimates that tens of thousands of Jews were either murdered by Poles or were handed over by them to Nazi authorities.

Gross’ 2001 book, “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” shook Polish society. Public protests against Gross’ latest essay include calls for a boycott of the Krakow publisher, ZNAK.

Tunisian synagogue attack disputed

A Tunisian synagogue was not the target of arsonists, a Jewish leader asserted, contradicting another leader.

Jewish community leader Perez Trabelsi on Tuesday told the French news agency AFP that the synagogue in the southern Gabes region was burned Monday night by arsonists; he said the Torah scrolls were damaged in the fire.

“I condemn this action and I believe those who did it want to create divisions between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia who have lived for decades in peace,” Trabelsi later told Reuters.

But late Tuesday, Roger Bismuth, the president of the Jewish community in Tunisia, told The Jerusalem Post that the fire was likely vandalism, and that the synagogue is actually a room used for worship that was unlocked at the time of the attack.

Trabelsi is the head of the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Al-Qaida terrorists bombed the synagogue in 2002, killing 21 people, including 16 tourists.

The Tunis-Afrique-Press news agency on Wednesday quoted Trabelsi as saying that he could not confirm that the synagogue room had been set on fire, denying his earlier statements to AFP.  He told the news agency that he would send volunteers to the scene to investigate what happened.

Ten Tunisian Jews made aliyah to Israel with the help of the Jewish Agency in late January amid political upheaval and violence in Tunisia that led to the overthrow of President Zein el-Abbadin Bin Ali.

About 1,500 Jews are living in Tunisia. Some 1,100 Tunisian Jews live in Djerba, with the rest in the capital city of Tunis.

Letter from France: An incendiary TV news report’s truthfulness is on trial

Something unusual happened in the small 11th Appeals courtroom of Paris on Nov. 14. The footage used for a September 2000 report by French TV on the death of
Mohammad al Dura in the Gaza Strip was screened and examined by a judge in a slander trial against an Internet site that had claimed the Al Dura report was forged.

Charles Enderlin, the veteran correspondent of French public television in the Middle East and author of the report, described to the judge every segment of the footage filmed by his cameraman at the Netzarim junction, while Enderlin was in Ramallah. The journalist maintained that his report was genuine and accused the Internet site, Media-Ratings, of slander, but, for the first time since the events of September 2000, the French news agency, AFP, concluded that something was wrong with Enderlin’s report.

“The [edited] TV report ends with an image of the boy laying still, leading the viewer to believe that the boy was killed in the shooting, but in the unreleased footage screened in court, we could see in the following seconds the boy moving his arm,” read the AFP story, adding that this did not exclude the possibility that the boy died later.

AFP added that Enderlin refused to answer its questions after the hearing.

The trial, attended by no major French media except for the AFP correspondent, might shed new light on the Al Dura affair and on media coverage in general.

During the first few years, French television succeeded in avoiding major criticism regarding the Al Dura report and Enderlin’s firm statement accusing Israeli soldiers of killing the young boy, but in 2004 the course of events changed when two renowned journalists began investigating the case.

Senior French editors Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte were alerted by former Le Monde journalist Luc Rosenzweig on possible misreporting by Enderlin, and they requested to view the footage. Jeambar and Leconte published a story criticizing Enderlin’s work in January 2005. It pointed out some troubling details, such as the staged battle scenes filmed by Talal Abu Rahma in the first part of the footage, the lack of evidence proving Enderlin’s claim that the bullets were shot from the Israeli position and other major details, such as the lack of blood on the victims, although Enderlin said the Al Duras had been hit by bullets.

Enderlin declared that he had edited the images to avoid showing the boy’s last minutes of agony. But in the footage, there was no trace of these images. However, Enderlin’s theory stood as unquestionable reality, and Abu Rahma’s images weren’t questioned or analyzed.

Jeambar and Leconte called on French TV to launch its own internal inquiry, citing a lack of journalistic standards, but did not share the theory of a possible staging of Al Dura’s death.

Five years after the incident, Arlette Chabot, French public TV’s new head news editor, told Jewish radio and the Paris Herald Tribune that “no one knew who shot at Muhammad al Dura,” but she maintained that accusing Enderlin of forgery was pure slander and confirmed the case against Media-Ratings’ owner Philippe Karsenty.

Was public French TV trying to shake off growing criticism from senior journalists by suing a small Internet site for defamation?

The hearing was probably not the result it was aiming for.

The trial against Karsenty, which French TV expected to win easily, turned unexpectedly into a first public re-examination of the TV report, when the judge demanded to view the footage before ruling whether the accused was guilty of slander.

This strategy might pull Enderlin even farther down. Jeambar and Leconte criticized a possible lack of journalist deontology, but Karsenty’s charges denouncing an alleged forged report pushes Enderlin to a rougher spot.

Furthermore, only 18 minutes were provided by Enderlin, when Abu Rahma claimed originally to have filmed 27.

For Karsenty and others, this has become a far-reaching battle.

“The Al Dura report has had terrible consequences, causing hatred against Israel, Jews and the West,” Karsenty told me. “It generated violence and terror when it became a symbol throughout the world and was invoked in the killing of Daniel Pearl, among other tragedies. This fabricated symbol, represented on stamps, graffiti and even monuments, could sink in and generate profound hatred for several generations. We have to repair the damage now, before it’s too late.”

The trial will resume on Feb. 27.

Soldiers in the Park

The mayor of Paris surprised me today.

Let’s face it, like every other resident of our capital, I’ve gotten used to complaining over just about every little detail that could annoy our beautiful and privileged life. A Parisian cannot visualize life without his five-week yearly vacation, without his regular three-day weekends, etc., and the more he gets used to his privileges, the more he gets annoyed by anything that could disturb his quiet life.

In the very same way, we all desire that our city hall would understand and endorse our political views, even when they don’t concern the city or even our country.

It seems that our mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, has become a true gymnast in the diplomatic sport of pleasing various lobbies based in our district.

Delanoe is a communications pro who knows how to address crowds and who would love to become the next resident of the Elysee presidential palace.

Although I have no intention of campaigning for the mayor, I cannot reasonably ignore the way he managed the campaign for the liberation of the three abducted Israeli soldiers these past few months.

The mayor launched in the summer of 2006 a solidarity campaign in favor of civilians in Lebanon and in Israel. When he received the families of the three abducted soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, he promised to hang their pictures in the city and call for their quick liberation, just as he did for French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and for various journalists detained in Iraq.

All of those who heard Delanoe smiled and thought that the pictures would never see the light of day, and that if they were hung, it would be in some dark corner of an abandoned neighborhood in the outskirts of Paris. However, Delanoe instructed that the poster be placed in the beautiful Bercy Park, more specifically in the Yitzhak Rabin Garden, which is a leisure area for thousands of Parisians.