NBC’s Engel Compares Iran Govt Murder of Woman to Dubious Israeli Shooting of Mohammed al-Dura

On Monday’s Countdown show on MSNBC, as host Keith Olbermann and NBC News correspondent Richard Engel discussed the apparent murder of 27-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan by Iranian government forces as part of the crackdown against pro-democracy protesters, and the possibility that she will become the visual symbol for her country’s pro-democracy movement because her death was recorded, Engel brought up the infamous Mohammed al-Dura video clip from September 2000 and claimed that the Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli troops – as if this story were not in dispute – even though many who have examined the case closely over the years believe not only that the boy was not hit by Israeli bullets, but that the video purporting to document his shooting and death was likely a hoax.

The exchange from Monday's Countdown show, in which both Engel and Olbermann assumed the al-Dura story to be undisputed:

KEITH OLBERMANN: To the point of Neda Soltan, I don’t know that there’s ever been a revolution, or even a near revolution, that did not have an identifiable face, a martyr, you think of everything from Tiananmen Square to Lexington and Concord-

RICHARD ENGEL: I was thinking more, remember Mohammed al-Dura, the boy who was shot in Gaza-

OLBERMANN: Yes, yes.

ENGEL: -in his father’s arms-

OLBERMANN: Yes.

ENGEL: -and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment.

But, as documented previously by NewsBusters, after initially accepting responsibility for the shooting and issuing an apology, the Israeli military conducted an investigation and concluded in November 2000 that Israeli bullets likely did not strike the boy. Additionally, other parties – including Boston University Professor Richard Landes and French media critic Phlippe Karsenty – have accused the Palestinian cameraman who filmed the footage and the French television station which employed him of perpetrating a hoax.

After ABC’s World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, CBS’s The Early Show, the NBC Nightly News, and NBC’s Today show all ran multiple stories on the incident in the fall of 2000, including video clips of the alleged shooting, according to a Nexis search, it appears that only CBS’s The Early Show reported on the Israeli military’s findings as it ran a full story in November 2000. CBS’s David Hawkins: "The 12-year-old boy whose televised death has come to symbolize Israel's severe reaction to Palestinian violence may not have been killed by an Israeli soldier, the Israeli army now says."

On November 25, 2005, FNC’s Greg Palkot informed FNC viewers during Special Report with Brit Hume that the infamous al-Dura video may have been a hoax:

GREG PALKOT: Philippe Karsenty runs a French media watchdog group. He and others claim the Israelis couldn't have done it, that the line of fire was all wrong, and keeping in mind the French government's alleged pro-Arab bias and that government's links to the France 2 network, the critic goes farther.

PHILIPPE KARSENTY, FRENCH MEDIA CRITIC: It's fake. It has been forged. And it has been broadcast all over the world to create a whole sentiment of hate against the western world.

PALKOT: He claims people at the scene were acting. The injured father's shirt is clean – it should be bloody. The actual death of the boy is never shown. And a French correspondent, who first reported the incident, wasn't even there at the time.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Monday, June 22, 2009 Countdown on MSNBC, the November 28, 2000, The Early Show on CBS, and the November 25, 2005, Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:

#From the Monday, June 22, Countdown show on MSNBC:

KEITH OLBERMANN: To the point of Neda Soltan, I don’t know that there’s ever been a revolution, or even a near revolution, that did not have an identifiable face, a martyr, you think of everything from Tiananmen Square to Lexington and Concord-

RICHARD ENGEL: I was thinking more, remember Mohammed al-Dura, the boy who was shot in Gaza-

OLBERMANN: Yes, yes.

ENGEL: -in his father’s arms-

OLBERMANN: Yes.

ENGEL: -and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment.

OLBERMANN: Does putting the human face on this equation change it even in Iran, even in such a tightly scripted culture as Iran?

ENGEL: It, in many ways, does change it because I spoke to an analyst tonight who had an interesting point. He said, thirty years ago, the face of the revolutionary in Iran was a bearded young man, and now it is of a dying, young educated woman wearing a veil, unarmed, who was standing near a protest, and may have been associated with protesters, but it would be hard to call her a terrorist, and that is what the government is doing, is labeling them provocateurs and rioters and terrorists. And nobody who’s seen that video would have that association.

#From the Friday, November 25, 2005, Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:

JIM ANGLE: The pictures were heartbreaking and helped touch off the Palestinian intifada – or uprising – more than five years ago, but there are fresh questions tonight about those images of a man and his son being gunned down during a fire fight between Israeli troops and Palestinians. The story from Fox News correspondent Greg Palkot.

GREG PALKOT: It's been five years since this vivid scene – a Palestinian man, Jamal al-Dura, tries to shield his son, Mohammed, from a spray of bullets coming from what journalist Charles Enderlin of the French television network France 2 said was an Israeli army position in the Gaza Strip. It was a report picked up by journalists around the world, including me.

PALKOT CLIP: This Israeli military post at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip, 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura was shot and killed by the Israelis while he was crouched against the wall with his father.

PALKOT: The boy's death became an icon for the just-starting intifada, a symbol of Palestinian suffering. But some now have questions.

PHILIPPE KARSENTY, FRENCH MEDIA CRITIC: Yes, and here you see that they're pretending that the-

PALKOT: Philippe Karsenty runs a French media watchdog group. He and others claim the Israelis couldn't have done it, that the line of fire was all wrong, and keeping in mind the French government's alleged pro-Arab bias and that government's links to the France 2 network, the critic goes farther.

KARSENTY: It's fake. It has been forged. And it has been broadcast all over the world to create a whole sentiment of hate against the western world.

PALKOT: He claims people at the scene were acting. The injured father's shirt is clean – it should be bloody. The actual death of the boy is never shown. And a French correspondent, who first reported the incident, wasn't even there at the time. Management of the French television network France 2 no longer go on camera on the al-Dura controversy. They say they've had enough. But the assistant news director of the network, Antian Leonard, did talk to us. He defended his network's coverage of the incident. As for the charge that it was fake, "Nonsense," he told us, "complete nonsense." France 2 says it covered follow-up Israeli investigations. Interviews with the father and others dispel, in their view, any notion that the scene was faked. But France 2 has sued critics, effectively blocking any formal inquiry into its coverage, fueling theories by some that the network is towing an Arab line. "If media is independent," says French Parliament Member Roland Blum, "it is important for them to tell the truth." While the debate over the al-Dura incident refuses to die, the intifada it may have helped fuel is thankfully over, as the people of Gaza focus on a birth of a new state. In Paris, Greg Palkot, Fox News.

From the November 28, 2000, The Early Show, on CBS:

JULIE CHEN: You may remember the pictures of a Palestinian boy shot to death while crouching beside his father. The Israelis now say they may not be to blame. David Hawkins reports.

[CLIP IS SHOWN OF THE AL-DURA’S HIDING FROM GUNFIRE AND APPEARING TO BE SHOT]

DAVID HAWKINS: The 12-year-old boy whose televised death has come to symbolize Israel's severe reaction to Palestinian violence may not have been killed by an Israeli soldier, the Israeli army now says. The general in command of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip where the shooting took place nearly two months ago says an army investigation into the incident cast serious doubt that Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal, were hit by Israeli fire.

MAJOR GENERAL YOM-TOV SAMIA, ISRAELI ARMY: That there is quite possibility that the boy was hit by a Palestinian bullet in the course of the exchange of fire that took place in the area.

HAWKINS: But the cameraman who took the now famous picture says Palestinian gunmen had stopped shooting and run away at least 10 minutes before Mohammed al-Dura was killed.

TALAL ABU RAHMAH, PALESTINIAN CAMERMAN FOR FRANCE 2 TV: Look, the fire, it was from both sides maybe the first three minutes. Then, after that, all of the shooting was coming from behind.

HAWKINS: Investigators working for the army based their conclusions on tests performed at a reconstruction of the scene because Israeli forces destroyed most of the evidence shortly after the shooting. Dozens of Palestinian youths have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during the conflict, but the general said only the death of Mohammed al-Dura has been investigated. David Hawkins, CBS News, Tel Aviv.

#From the November 28, 2000, CNBC Early Today:

JENNIFER LEWIS-HALL: Israelis and Palestinians exchanged gunfire today, even as Muslims marked the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Meantime, the Israeli army now says a 12-year-old boy killed in the crossfire last month was shot by Palestinian, not Israeli gunfire. The image of the frightened boy and his father caught in a firefight galvanized world attention on the Israeli response to Palestinian protests.