April 2, 2020

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Larry Derfner on Al Durah, Pallywood and Conspiracy Theory

Recently a friend and colleague, Jeff Weintraub, who has written on the Al Durah case in the past, posted on his facebook page my article in the Tablet on Israel as the first victim of a massive attack of #FakeNews in the MSNM in the 21st Century. Larry Derfner joined in, heaping scorn on my “conspiracy theory.” Towards the end of what was a long and repetitive exchange, Derfner posted two comments that I think are quite revealing. I invite him to respond here if he wishes.
Larry Derfner Richard Landes Like the blood on al-Dura that you say was a red rag? Like the bullets fired into the wall that you say were put there by a Palestinian sharpshooter aiming to miss? Like the burial of the boy that you say wasn’t the boy? Like the medical reports on Jamal al-Dura that you say were all a lie? You ask, where was the blood on the ground where they were “shot”? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if there were film of copious blood on the ground, you would say it was fake, it was spilled there by the evil Arabs, it didn’t belong to the al-Duras. And if a Gazan hospital said it matched the al-Duras’ blood, you’d say they were lying. If they ever do exhume the boy’s body and do DNA tests and everything else, even with Israelis involved, and say, yeah, it’s Mohammed al-Dura, it won’t budge you. There will always be Arabs involved somewhere who you can point to and say, They’re lying, that explains everything.
Larry Derfner
 Of course these are all hypotheticals, because there are no films of copious blood, no hospital “match” of blood, no DNA tests. So here’s Derfner accusing me of being impermeable to evidence, even as, at least as far as the evidence we do have, he’s the one impermeable to evidence, ridiculing rather than addressing it. At the core of Derfner’s ‘reading’ of me is what strikes me as a PC dogma: you cannot suggest the Palestinians deliberately lie. That is demonizing, that’s making them ‘evil Arabs.’
It seems to me this is a big part of the problem (more to follow). We are somehow honor-bound to accept Palestinian claims (especially about Israel) as accurate. And anyone who suggests that even sometimes they lie, ends up getting accused of being a conspiracist and a racist.
This played out in two instances I treat in my book. First with Barak on Arafat lying constantly at Camp David, and then with Andrea Koppel responding to the suggestion that the Palestinians had lied about the (Jenin) Massacre she was just invoking to predict that “this was the end of Israel,” replied:

Oh, so now they’re all liars.”

And indeed they did lie, systematically. (My full passage on Koppel and Jenin is posted here.)

So by insisting that there’s something wrong (morally?) about suspecting the Palestinians of lying, even lying systematically, Derfner has essentially rendered us helpless. See no evil. A recipe for suicide.

Larry DerfnerRichard Landes You’ve done a great deal of damage. Now it’s become instinctive on the part of Arab-haters to look at film of unarmed Palestinians being shot and say, “Pallywood.”
This is interesting: hermeneutics not of suspicion but of credulity. The fact: unarmed Palestinians are being shot. The consequence, anyone, who doubts the veracity of the footage is an Arab-hater? What if sometimes it’s true, that the film is a fake, a Pallywood scene? Why not check.
Michael Oren did it on CNN with the killings of two Palestinian protesters on Nakba Day a few years ago.
Oren may have been wrong there – although there were plenty of suspicious claims involved. But that doesn’t mean it’s always like that. Remember the wheel-chaired activist who was going to be the next Al Durah?
A friend of mine, who isn’t even an Arab-hater, showed me one of the photos and he actually believed it had been doctored by Palestinians because one of the shadows seemed too long or too short or something. You’ve popularized this game.
Not, alas, among journalists. Larry, there’s extensive evidence that Palestinians fake stuff, doctor stuff, relabel stuff so children killed elsewhere get labeled “Killed by Israel,” and evidence that it dupes credulous journalists. I am very much in favor of journalists approaching any war zone with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” Every and any information, evidence, video, claim, made by all sides deserves to be tested for veracity, reliability. As they say in CSI, follow the evidence, not the narrative.
If Charles Enderlin, or any other journalist at the time, had approached the the al Durah footage from the angle of evidence rather than narrative, it wouldn’t have survived the most superficial examination.
You and your serial conspiracy theorist colleague Shahaf, among others, have served the cause of deranged Arab-hatred and Jewish moral deadness.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. For you, Palestinian suffering is a voice that Jews must hear and heed. If not we have lost our moral beings. Anyone who questions this Palestinian voice is, or encourages, Arab-hatred.
For me, Palestinian leaders have used the Palestinian suffering they often provoke, in order to make war on Israel. While we must, as Jews and Israelis, be attentive to the suffering we cause, we are not required to accept morally sadistic accusations as true, and certainly not, just in order to signal what morally concerned folks we are. Anyone who does not question Palestinian war propaganda – or worse, launders it as news – encourages Arabs and others to hate Israel.

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