An exchange of letters concerning Philippe Karsenty and the Al-Dura hoax:
TO: National and Chapter Leadership
FROM: Jason Isaacson
RE: Response to recent email accusations against AJC
In recent days, a French media critic and blogger named Philippe Karsenty has circulated emails — intended for an American audience — accusing AJC of trying to interfere with his long-running effort to prove the falsehood of a French television channel’s report, in the early days of the “second intifada,” on the supposed killing in Gaza of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, by the Israel Defense Forces.
Far from interfering with this effort, AJC has sought diligently and consistently, through public and private actions, to help uncover the truth in the al-Dura case. Mr. Karsenty”s accusations are baseless. There is no sense in giving them wider circulation than he has already sought to gain. But if you should be asked about this matter, please respond with the following.
Thank you, and best wishes.
We deeply regret that Philippe Karsenty has chosen to attack AJC in a widely distributed email, and we completely reject his baseless charges.
AJC has consistently sought — through public and private channels, and in consultation with the French Jewish community as well as with Israeli officials — to help elicit the truth in the case of Mohammed al-Dura, the young Palestinian boy allegedly killed by the Israeli military.
We have urged France 2, the French television station in question, to reveal all relevant information and footage on the matter. We have met with top broadcast officials in Paris on at least three separate occasions to press the point. We have urged French government officials to pursue the matter.
Significantly, our Paris director, ValÃ©rie Hoffenberg, who is highly regarded for her efforts to enhance understanding of Israel in France, helped arrange for Mr. Karsenty to meet with a senior French official in the ElysÃ©e Palace to present his case. Mr. Karsenty, who alleges that AJC has somehow blocked him from the ElysÃ©e, in fact has had two high-level meetings there this year.
Notwithstanding his claims to the contrary, we have pursued a common objective — the truth about a widely reported incident that for years has been viciously exploited by Israel’s enemies and fanned hatred against Israel and the Jewish people. Indeed, we have issued several press releases in support of Mr. Karsenty”s ongoing judicial efforts.
As an organization with a long track record of seeking to build support for Israel in the international community, we continue to wish Mr. Karsenty well in the pursuit of truth and justice. We are only sorry that he has chosen to divert attention from his own laudable efforts for reasons that, frankly, escape us.
And a response from Philippe Karsenty:
June 8, 2008
During these past 6 years, since I began fighting the Al Dura hoax, in 2002–a 21st Century blood libel, based on a phony news report, broadcast on French television, on September 30, 2000–all of my efforts have been dedicated toward revealing the truth. I have enjoyed the support of numerous individuals and organizations that have motivated me to dedicate my life to exonerating the State of Israel and the Jewish people from the undeserved accusation that Israeli soldiers deliberately murder children. Unfortunately, however, there is one organization, the American Jewish Committee, that should have been a natural ally. Instead, it functioned as an obstacle to all my efforts.
In my previous letter, I had harsh words for the American Jewish Committee. In response, the organization is now attempting to refute my truthful claim that it obstructed and damaged efforts to expose the Al Dura hoax to the light of day. I am struck by the speed with which AJCommittee has risen to its own defense. But, in the past 7 years, since the incident occurred, the AJCommittee never once made haste to challenge the Al Dura hoax. Despite the unprecedented access that the AJCommittee enjoys among Europe’s heads of state, it dispatched no American representatives to Paris, sent no letters to Sarkozy, did not request discussions with Sarkozy about the hoax, and published no articles refuting the French media slander of Jews, and the State of Israel. But, in its own narrow interests, it has recently sent out a letter claiming to have been consistently involved in fighting on the side of the truth. AJCommittee issued three press releases seven years after the libel was broadcast, though it took less than seven days for the organization to publish a letter exonerating itself from my accusations. Nevertheless, I am grateful for those three English language press releases. However, it is hard to reckon with the organization’s steadfast refusal, since May 21, 2008, to issue a single comment on our astounding victory–in the French language, for a French audience, in France! When its Paris representative, Valerie Hoffenberg, was asked to issue a public statement about the case, in French, she refused. What are the people who risked everything in pursuit of the truth to glean from her silence?
Now, AJCommittee is attempting to destroy my credibility in order to protect its own. But, I ask you, why would the AJCommittee characterize me as a liar if it were truly dedicated to unmasking the egregious lie of Al Dura?
I have rebuked the AJ Committee because, even though the truth has enjoyed a recent landmark victory in court, with the ruling that was issued on May 21, 2008, the battle still continues. The victory, though hard-earned, remains fragile. The French government continues to remain silent. But, Sarkozy, as de facto CEO of France 2, has a duty to intervene and call for an internal investigation–especially now that the judge ruled that my criticisms of the Al Dura report are reasonable and that I am well within my rights to assert them as a journalist and media analyst. The AJ Committee should be advocating on the side of the truth. Instead, it intervenes against me in the political sphere while it refuses to make even a modest request of Sarkozy–with whom it enjoys a warm relationship–to look into my accusations against France 2.
Sadly, Jason Isaacson’s letter refuting my criticisms indicates that AJCommittee has chosen to circle the wagons rather than own up to its mistakes. Evidently, its most cherished ideal is self-preservation. Exonerating the State of Israel and world Jewry from the blood libel of Al Dura does not yet appear to be a priority.
I was and still remain a lonely voice struggling against the entire French establishment. Le Nouvel Observateur, an important French journal, just published a damaging article and petition concerning the court ruling which has already been signed by some eighty important French writers and intellectuals. The article ridicules the accusation of fraud and the notion that the incident was a staged scene. It portrays France 2 and Charles Enderlin as defenseless victims of a stubborn campaign of hatred perpetrated by me!
AJCommittee could perform a valuable service for the truth by publishing supportive articles in French to let the media and government know that it is now on my side. So far, it has done no such thing. In France, the media are tightly controlled by the government but the government is very concerned about what American Jews think. Where is AJCommittee’s French voice? The French media continue to ignore our victory. Therefore, it is no surprise that the charge that Israeli soldiers deliberately murder children, just as the Nazis murdered Jewish children, is widely believed in France (as well as in Europe as a whole). AJCommittee’s continuing inaction–and what is worse, its obstruction–in the face of this 21st Century blood libel, endangers French and world Jewry.
Of course, the Israeli government has remained silent as well, even now, when it could use our recent victory to vindicate the state from the false accusation that its soldiers are cold-blooded killers. Read the disgraceful disclosures of Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor.
The AJ Committee has no credibility among French Jews. It is common knowledge that ValÃ©rie Hoffenberg uses her influence with the government to thwart my efforts. Because of Hoffenberg’s close connections to Sarkozy, she is actually feared by Jewish leaders. In France, access is everything. Never is the old cliche that “It is not what you know, but whom you know” more apt than in France! In France, people do not risk offending the State. For those who do, retribution is swift and unforgiving. Those with something to lose take no chances. That is the reality of France.
It is understandable, therefore, that on June 5, 2008, Richard Prasquier, President of the CRIF, the French Jewish umbrella organization that interfaces with the government on matters of concern to its constituents, wrote a letter to David Harris, executive director of the AJCommittee, apologizing for my supposed untoward criticism of the organization. Prasquier states that he is sure that Harris “wants the truth revealed as much as we do.” I commend Prasquier for his vote of confidence in David Harris, but I notice that Prasquier is silent with regard to Hoffenberg. Consequently, I respectfully suggest that David Harris read Prasquier’s letter between the lines and take my concerns to heart””particularly those pertaining to Hoffenberg–in order to insure that his organization measures up to Prasquier’s vote of confidence! I further suggest that David Harris investigate the malfeasance of his representative in France in order to facilitate the airing of the truth that Prasquier so dearly cherishes. Please read the article Richard Prasquier wrote about the Al Dura case in French.
David Harris was awarded the Legion of Honor by President Jacques Chirac””France’s most anti-Israel president of recent decades. The al Dura hoax exploded during Chirac’s tenure and unleashed a continuing stream of uninhibited anti-Semitic and anti-Israel invective in the media. Moreover, it inaugurated a new wave of anti-Semitic violence, unprecedented since the Nazi era, that eventually terrorized non-Jewish France as well, culminating in the riots of October 2005. My defeat in the lower court was probably due largely to the intervention of Jacques Chirac. Now David Harris can wear his Legion of Honor pin with pride. Now, he no longer needs to operate under the cloud of Chirac.
Although Hoffenberg’s role in France is destructive to the interests of French Jews, I can understand why David Harris might consider her to be a valuable asset. She thrills and flatters his donors with good photo opportunities with French dignitaries.
ValÃ©rie Hoffenberg claimed that she had seen the raw footage that France 2 was withholding from the public prior to its release in court on November 14, 2007. She insisted that the raw footage contained nothing to support the charge that the Al Dura incident was a staged hoax. Hoffenberg also claimed that French Jewish leaders had already seen the raw footage and agreed that it contained nothing helpful to my defense. With these contentions, she attempted to persuade Jewish leaders not to support me in the defamation case France 2 and Charles Enderlin had brought against me.
But Hoffenberg’s claims are false. In fact, the raw footage clearly demonstrates that the “dead” child was very much alive after he was pronounced “dead” by Charles Enderlin. Please, watch this 10 second clip from the raw footage if you want to see how the “dead” boy raises his head, elbow and leg, looks directly at the camera, then puts his head down, but leaves his leg suspended in the air. It is an amazing performance, for a corpse. But, no one attributed it to the paranormal.
Detecting the Al Dura hoax is not rocket science. However, it took a presentation from me to convince ElysÃ©e officials that France 2″s report was a fraud. With Hoffenberg working on the inside, she could have educated her friends about the case, given them access to the evidence, and, at the very least, let them know that I and others had raised legitimate questions about France 2″s version of the incident. The evidence is simple and direct. But, Hoffenberg, for three and a half years, had blocked her colleagues” access to the evidence and promoted her belief that the hoax was actually an authentic news report.
Jason Isaacson, in his letter, implies that AJCommittee secured my two meetings at the Elysee Palace that occurred between February 27, 2008 and May 21, 2008. In fact, my entry was firmly blocked. Only dogged persistence on my part secured those meetings after many fruitless entreaties. The meetings, however, were successful, and I easily convinced the officials with whom I met that France 2 and Charles Enderlin had perpetrated a hoax.
Lynda Asmani is a French politician of Arab Muslim descent. She is a friend of Israel and a friend of the Jews and supports me in the case against France 2. She currently works in the Ministry of Finance.
Last fall, she visited the Elysee Palace. She specifically asked about the government’s position on the Al Dura case. She said that I am fighting for the truth; that everyone knows the Al Dura incident is a hoax; therefore, why is the government not speaking out?
The government’s position is extremely significant. As President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy has the power, ability, and legal authority to call for a forensic analysis of the footage of the incident. He can order the release to the general public of the entire 27 minutes of raw footage France 2 claims to have filmed of the incident””and not merely the 18 minutes it released to the court in defiance of the court order of September 19, 2007. Moreover, he can issue an apology from the government-controlled television station for broadcasting a staged “killing” and, therefore, an apology for being the party to a colossal hoax in violation of French law (it is a crime to publish false information on French airwaves). He can also acknowledge that France 2 needlessly incited and unleashed murder, mayhem and terror worldwide with its endless repetition of a false and defamatory news report that was also broadcast repeatedly by virtually every news outlet in the world after France 2 made the initial decision to legitimize it. And finally, he can acknowledge the defamatory and anti-Semitic content of the fraud.
In her meeting at the Elysee, Lynda Asmani was told that the Palace had received many letters and faxes supporting me and that everyone in the government was aware of the case and of the support that I was getting. She was told that despite this support, I did not have the support of American Jewish organizations and that the American Jewish community was, in fact, against me. She was further told that a major American Jewish organization was actually advising Sarkozy to “keep his hands off the stinking case.” Lynda demanded to know, specifically, who was working against me. The answer came as a shock. It was the American Jewish Committee.
But, what’s done is done. Let’s talk about now. French Jews believe it is important that AJ Committee reverse its position on the case. They want a letter or declaration of support, signed by David Harris and leaders of other major American Jewish organizations, delivered to the Elysee Palace without further delay. A copy should be addressed to Sarkozy as well as Jean David Levitte. Sarkozy needs to know that Harris is convinced that the al Dura report is a hoax and that he demands that the truth finally be revealed by the government.
Since Richard Prasquier believes that David Harris wants “the truth revealed as we all do”, I must place my trust in David Harris as well””my trust that he will work tirelessly to bring our hopes of revealing the truth about the al Dura hoax to fruition.
If he does so, he will not find himself alone. There are other organizations on which the AJCommittee can rely. First and foremost, the Zionist Organization of America stands out as a fearless and relentless advocate for the truth, not only with regard to al Dura. In addition, much credit is owed to American Freedom Alliance, StandWithUs, the American Jewish Congress, CAMERA, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations who did not hesitate to pursue any and all means to dispel the big lie of al Dura.
For their invaluable intellectual support, I thank Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum, Cliff May and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the Hudson Institute.
I also want to commend some international media outlets for their dedication to the truth, namely, The Wall Street Journal, Infolive.tv which broadcasts in French, English, Spanish and Arabic; Honest Reporting; CAMERA; SecondDraft.org; The Medialine, and Makor Rishon and its visionary chief editor, Amnon Lord as well as Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post for her excellent columns on the Al Dura hoax. I would also like to acknowledge three French-language media: Radio J and Guysen.com, and Causeur.fr whose reporting on the al Dura affair, in good times and bad, was consistently thorough, informative, and honest.
The fight for the truth in the al Dura case is of historical importance. AJCommittee can offer immediate support to our efforts by publishing a full page advertisement in any well-known French newspaper, highlighting the main elements of the court’s landmark ruling of May 21, 2008. Furthermore, while the three press releases published, in English, by AJCommittee since September 19, 2008, are appreciated, it would be of even greater value if AJCommittee published a congratulatory press release in France, in French, for a French audience.
This is a battle we must win. And we will win–with or without AJCommittee. Nevertheless, there is still time for AJCommittee to do an about-face and be counted among the growing chorus that is clamoring for the truth.