NewsBusters previously documented a claim made by NBC News correspondent Richard Engel on the June 22 Countdown show on MSNBC that the apparent murder of 27-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan during a crackdown by Iranian government forces, and the possibility that she will become the visual symbol for her country’s pro-democracy movement, was reminiscent of the Mohammed al-Dura video of September 2000 which, at the time, was claimed to show a Palestinian boy being shot and killed by Israeli troops. But, while evidence has mounted over the years that the al-Dura video was likely a hoax, Engel and host Keith Olbermann both spoke of the al-Dura "shooting" as if the event were not in dispute, and Engel recounted to viewers that Palestinians see the event as a "symbol of injustice" perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians. Engel: "I was thinking more, remember Mohammed al-Dura, the boy who was shot in Gaza in his father’s arms and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment."
The pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) recounts on its Web site that after the group's executive director, Andrea Levin, on June 25 sent a letter of complaint to Engel -- which was also copied to NBC News President Steve Capus -- requesting that NBC revisit and "clarify" Engel's assertions, Capus sent a letter of response accusing CAMERA of "taking a cheap shot" at Engel, even suggesting that the pro-Israel group was not "truly dedicated to advancing journalism," as the NBC News head did not revise Engel's claims about the al-Dura case. Capus, as quoted by CAMERA on its Web site: "If you were truly dedicated to advancing journalism, you would be going out of your way to praise Richard for his work – rather than taking a cheap shot." The NBC News head went on to praise Engel as "a non-biased, dedicated journalist. NBC News considers itself lucky to have him."
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-
ENGEL: -and who became a symbol of injustice? I think this is a similar moment.
It was eight years ago this week that France 2 TV introduced the world to Mohammed al-Dura, the Palestinian boy who was allegedly shot and killed during a gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen, in a video whose authenticity has increasingly been called into question years after it inspired anti-Semitic violence around the world. The American news media not only highlighted the story -- as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening and morning newscasts collectively aired the video at least 28 times between September 30, 2000, and June 30, 2003 -- but the networks also showed other clips depicting Palestinians involved in fighting, supposedly with Israelis, that have been challenged by some media analysts, calling into question how many of the scenes shown by American media during times of Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be faked video that were passed off to international media as genuine. ABC's Good Morning American notably seems to have ignored the al-Dura story.
Boston University Professor Richard Landes has been a leader in delving into the practice by some Palestinian cameramen of staging scenes of violence to be used as propaganda against Israel. Landes notably took on CBS’s 60 Minutes in the film Pallywood, the first in a series of short documentaries produced by the Boston University professor. On his Web site, theaugeanstables.com, Landes recounts his unsuccessful attempts to convince the American news media to help expose the Pallywood hoax video phenomenon. While he recounts that American journalists he spoke with did generally agree with him that the deceptive practice likely exists, they were reluctant to be perceived as breaking neutrality by siding with Israel over the Palestinians, as he encountered a view that it would not be “even-handed” to relay such unflattering activities by one side without finding similar examples from the other side. Professor Landes also cited an unnamed journalist at ABC as contending that there would be little “appetite” for the subject at his network. On his Web site, theaugeanstables.com, Landes recalls these conversations:
The famous picture of a terrified Mohammed al-Dura hiding behind his father enraged millions of Muslims and became such an iconic image of Palestinian martyrdom and Israeli occupation that it caused violent rioting, inspired some UK Muslims to commit to radical Islam and was even used in suicide bomber propaganda.
It took a defamation case to get France2 to fork over the raw footage, but Media Backspin reported portions are missing (bold mine throughout):