History and Mendacity
Anyone who believes Voltaire’s familiar adage that history never repeats itself invariably confronts Karl Marx’s challenge that history does exactly that: “first as tragedy, then as farce.” There can be no doubt where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his acolytes stand on this philosophical disagreement. They are true-believing Marxists who faithfully reiterate hoary lies about the imagined murder of innocent Palestinian boys by evil Israelis.
Fifteen years ago, a France 2 broadcast ostensibly revealed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy dying from Israeli gunfire in his father’s arms. Filmed in Gaza only days after Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to the Temple Mount had sparked Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem that launched the second intifada, the poignant image of terrified Muhammad al-Dura moments before his (presumed) death went viral. Israeli cruelty, vividly documented and endlessly transmitted, became a mantra that inspired, among others, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who slit the throat of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) and Osama bin Laden.
Months after the al-Dura incident, an IDF investigation concluded that if the boy was indeed killed it could not have been by Israeli bullets. By then, however, Muhmmad al-Dura’s martyrdom had become an inspirational mantra for the second intifada. But an Israeli government inquiry launched 12 years later revealed the mendacity of Palestinian allegations (and likely French complicity). In scenes not shown by France 2, al-Dura was seen alive raising his arm and turning his head toward the cameraman — after his presumed death.
The Israeli investigation revealed that no bullets, either from the boy or his father, were ever produced; the time of his admission to a Gaza hospital preceded the shooting; and the tragedy of his “death” went unnoticed by reporters or other cameramen on location at the time. In sum: If al-Dura was killed, it was not by Israeli soldiers — not then, and not there. Palestinian false accusations, declared Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz, constituted “a modern-day blood libel against the state of Israel.”
Fast forward 15 years to last week, when Abbas mendaciously accused Israel of “executing our boys in cold blood,” mentioning 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra as one of the innocent victims. This time, however, the invented lie of Israeli child-murder was quickly exposed. The next day, Israeli officials released footage showing Manasra, who had joined his cousin in stabbing an Israeli boy, very much alive and comfortably recuperating from his injuries in Hadassah Medical Center, while being spoon-fed by an Israeli nurse. Abbas continued to claim that the boy had been killed.
Manasra’s story was vastly more self-incriminating than Abbas had malevolently claimed. He and his older cousin, Hassan, were videoed stabbing a 13-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem. Both cousins were wielding knives as they chased their targeted victims, before critically wounding the Israeli boy. When Israeli police arrived, Hassan Manasra attacked them with his knife and was killed. Ahmed, taking flight, was hit by a car and immobilized until evacuated to the hospital.
The picture of Ahmad Manasra, “the Palestinian child who was left to bleed on the street,” claimed Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, “clearly shows Israel’s disregard for human life.” But, from his hospital bed, Manasra explained that he was motivated by reports that Israel – precisely as Abbas had falsely claimed — was preparing to attack the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. With the knife his cousin gave him, he admitted, “I went there to kill Jews.”
The New York Times, in yet another egregious example of its unremitting penchant for moral equivalency in its coverage of Israel, headlined the story: “Conflicting Accounts of Jerusalem Strife Surround a Wounded Arab Boy.” In translation: a lie had conflicted with the truth, but the Times declined to distinguish between them. The article referred to “conflicting versions of reality” before noting that Manasra was not dead, as Abbas had claimed. Only paragraphs later, after noting Palestinian falsehoods, did it quote Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blunt statement: “He’s not dead – he’s alive. He’s not innocent – he tried to kill, murder, knife to death an innocent Israeli youngster.” The concluding paragraphs, once again, focused on Palestinian denials and falsehoods as if they deserved credibility.
Now that President Obama has supported Israel’s right “to protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence in the streets,” perhaps the Times will finally feel more comfortable exposing Palestinian violence and mendacity without also blaming Israel. But given its history, don’t bet on it.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.