On September 30 2000, two days after Ariel Sharon, then the leader of Israel's opposition Likud Party, went for a walk on Temple Mount, Palestinians mounted a demonstration at Gaza's Netzarim Junction. A 55-second piece of video footage of that demonstration, transmitted that day by the French TV station France 2, was to cause unprecedented violence in the Middle East and throughout the world.
The footage, with a voice-over by France 2's Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, showed what was said to be the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura by Israeli marksmen. Viewers saw the child crouching in terror behind his father, Jamal, as they sheltered next to a barrel under what Enderlin said was Israeli gunfire, and then slumping to the ground as Enderlin pronounced that he was dead.
That image of the boy screaming in terror before being killed was uniquely incendiary. It portrayed the Israelis as diabolically gunning down a child in cold blood, even as he cowered for his life. It ignited the Arab and Muslim world with apparent proof that the Israelis were deliberately killing their children, inciting a murderous frenzy.
Al-Dura became a poster boy for the Palestinian and Islamist war against Israel and the West. The day after the France 2 broadcast, the second intifada erupted in its full fury; according to the 2001 Mitchell report, the two events were directly connected. Twelve days later, a mob of Palestinians shouting, “Revenge for the blood of Mohammed al-Dura” lynched two Israeli army reservists and dragged their mutilated bodies through the streets of Ramallah.
When al-Qaeda decapitated the journalist Daniel Pearl, the video of this atrocity was punctuated with references to al-Dura. After -September 11 2001, Osama bin Laden said: “Bush must not forget the -image of Mohammed al-Dura.” Several Arab countries issued postage stamps with his picture. On Palestinian Authority TV and in its school books, al-Dura’s example is used to encourage other children to emulate his spirit of “sacrifice”.
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