April 13, 2021

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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.
Derfner begins by listing all the anomalies/contradictions to the narrative that I and others have raised. In response to each I add the treatment of the topic in Esther Schapira’s third documentary on the subject. He then proceeds to accuse me of being impermeable to the evidence. His words in bold.
Larry Derfner
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?
(note the hole by father’s sleeve wd have turned the corner if it came from Israeli side.)
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”?
The site, photographed the next day. No blood in the black circle which marks the spot where Al Durah allegedly bled out for 20 minutes and where the ambulance man scooped up his guts from the ground. On the other hand what looks like fresh (bright red)  Note the red rag. Is it the one some think Muhammad was holding?
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.
 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 (not to mention, heartless.) As one of the members of the Goldstone Report commented, “It would be cruel not to believe their testimonies.”
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 who cited the massacre at Jenin as evidence that “this was the end of Israel.” When challenged on her sources (no journalists had yet entered), she responded to the suggestion that the Palestinians had lied, 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; hear no evil, speak no evil (of Palestinians… about Israelis, it’s fine). A recipe for suicide.

Larry DerfnerYou’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: a hermeneutics not of suspicion but of credulity. The ‘fact’: unarmed Palestinians are being shot. The ‘conclusion’: anyone, who doubts the veracity of the footage (the facts) 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? Evidence contradicts narrative.
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, blame Israel for the death of Palestinians Israel didn’t kill, or worse, that Palestinians did kill, 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 any side 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 lives. Anyone who questions this Palestinian voice participates in, or encourages, Arab-hatred, and kills the Jewish soul that pursues justice. You need Palestinian suffering to be as awful as possible, so you can whip the Jewish soul with regret for the criminal occupation. You are, if I am not mistaken, a priest of what Matti Friedman calls, the “Cult of the Occupation.”
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.
Just because we’re wrong sometimes, hardly means they’re right all the time.

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