A French-Israeli doctor accused of defamation by the father of Mohammed al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who became a symbol of the Second Intifada when he was allegedly killed in 2000, has won his appeal and has been cleared of all claims by the French Supreme Court.
At the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, a French television network broadcast a minute-long clip of the boy purpotedly being shot in an exchange of fire between Israelis and Palestinians in central Gaza. The voiceover indicated that the boy was killed by Israeli soldiers, but an investigation later suggested that Palestinian fire had killed him. Many others claimed the entire event was staged and the boy was never shot in the first place. In an effort to bolster his claim that Israelis had killed his son, Jamal al-Dura, the boy’s father, presented his own bullet scars, which he claimed were sustained during that same incident. But Dr. Yehuda David refuted al-Dura’s claim, saying he himself had operated on al-Dura in 1992, eight years before the incident, and al-Dura already had been scarred then (allegedly as a result of Hamas attacking him over suspicions he had cooperated with Israel).
Al-Dura sued David for defamation, and in 2011, a district court ordered the doctor to pay the Palestinian 13,000 euros in damages. This week, on appeal, France’s Supreme Court overturned that ruling and fully cleared David of all claims.
“I am very happy,” David said Wednesday, after years of fighting the French courts at his own personal expense in efforts to clear his name. “This is a clear victory, not just for me, but for all of Israel. A victory of the truth over Palestinian lies, over anti-Zionist Nazi propaganda.”
“This proves that you should always fight for the truth,” he said. “Israeli soldiers aren’t murderers, they are extremely moral, the most moral in the world. I hope that the world now learns that they can’t use lies to sue us. We will win in every courthouse.”
Deputy Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine Philippe Karsenty, a Jewish French media commentator currently in court for suggesting that the young al-Dura wasn’t killed at all and that the now famous scene was entirely staged, told Israel Hayom on Wednesday: “The decision of the court in Paris is a continuation of the process of uncovering all the lies in this story, and another step closer to discovering the truth in the affair.”
French-born David, a 58-year-old father of three, immigrated to Israel 30 years ago. On Wednesday, despite the elation, he recalled instances in which previous administrations had failed to provide him with assistance.
“I did not wage this battle for myself,” he said. “I conferred with the government of Israel, with Foreign Ministries, Health Ministries and Justice Ministries. The government said, ‘Go for it -- Israel will stand behind you,’ but there were times when I had to chase people down and didn’t always get reimbursed. I’ve spent a lot of money out of pocket -- a total of NIS 400,000.”
David said that he believed that the damage caused by those famous images of 12-year-old al-Dura supposedly being shot as his father holds him can be repaired, despite the global storm surrounding the incident. “There is always room for repair,” he said. “Someone once told me something that I think is true: The Dreyfus trial wouldn’t have been remembered if he had lost on appeal. It is remembered because he won. That’s how this will be. With this victory we have turned over a new leaf in public diplomacy with the Palestinians.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated David on Wednesday, saying, “You are a shining example of Israel’s battle for truth and of our nation’s confidence in our righteous path. You have done the people of Israel a great service.”
Netanyahu added that the government would support a bill requiring the state to reimburse David for his litigation expenses. The doctor thanked the prime minister, saying, “Today Israel’s integrity won.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogey) Ya’alon (Likud), Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) also welcomed the French court’s decision.
“This is an important victory not just for Dr. David, but also for the state of Israel in the face of the Palestinian lying machine which aims to make Israel look bad to the world,” said Ya’alon. “There is no doubt that today’s battle is waged in the public relations arena as well, against international attempts at delegitimizing Israel. Actions such as Dr. David’s are an enormous asset for the state.”
On Sunday, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman will put up for a vote a bill that, if approved, would facilitate the financing of legal costs incurred in cases like David’s.