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French court of appeal rejects claim that TV invented al-Dura incident

After the Ha’aretz report there is a statement from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which took evidence and compiled its own report at the time.

Philippe Karsenty, founder of the French online media watchdog Media Ratings, addresses reporters at Paris court house, May 22, 2013. Five weeks later, he was fined for defamation by the Court of Appeals. Photo by AP

French media analyst convicted of defamation, fined in Mohammed al-Dura case

Philippe Karsenty fined 7,000 euros for accusing France-2 of staging Palestinian boy’s death by Israeli fire in Gaza.

By the Associated Press and Haaretz
June 26, 2013

A French media analyst was convicted of defamation on Wednesday for accusing a French television network of staging the death of a Palestinian boy.

Philippe Karsenty was fined 7,000 euros for accusing state television news network France-2 of staging the death of Mohammed al-Dura in a firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Following the conviction, Karsenty decried the Paris Court of Appeals’ verdict as “outrageous.”

The footage of al-Dura, which was first broadcast on September 30, 2000, showed the terrified 12-year-old boy and his father, amid a furious exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. It then cut to the motionless boy slumped in his father’s lap. The report blamed the Israeli army for the child’s death, which Israel vehemently denies.

The footage galvanized anti-Israeli sentiment more than a decade ago, and shaped perspectives of the Mideast conflict during the second Palestinian intifada. The al-Dura case has long stirred emotions in Israel, tapping into a larger sense of the Jewish state being victimized in the media.

Just last month, the Israeli government issued a new report on the incident, saying France-2’s report was misleading, provides no evidence and was part of a smear campaign against Israel.

On November 22, 2004, Karsenty, a French Jewish media analyst, wrote on his website Media Ratings that al-Dura’s death was staged and that France-2’s conduct “disgraces France and its public broadcasting system.”

A few weeks later, France-2 and its Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, who filed the report, sued Karsenty for defamation. Two years later he was found guilty and was ordered to pay 1,000 euros in compensation, in addition to 3,000 euros for trial expenses. That same day, Karsenty filed an appeal, which resulted in a 2008 ruling overturning his conviction.

Over the past decade, Karsenty has amassed hours of video footage on the day of the shooting. At the heart of his claim is that France-2 reported that the father and son received a total of 15 high-velocity bullets, but in the video neither appears to be bleeding. He says the firefight is real, but the shooting of the man and boy was staged for the camera.

“I am serene because I know the truth will come out,” Karsenty said. “Despite 15 bullets, not one drop of blood was on their clothes, their bodies, the wall they were leaning against.”

In February 2012, the French Supreme Court quashed the appeals court’s decision to overturn the conviction and sent the case back to the appeals court, which on Wednesday upheld the original conviction of Karsently.

Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said Wednesday’s verdict confirmed that Israel and their supporters lied about the military’s practices in the coastal territory. “They deceive and cover their crimes in front of the media and the world,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

France-2’s lawyer Benedicte Amblard hailed the decision as a victory for journalists, allowing them to retain confidence in their work.

Charles Enderlin, France-2 Jerusalem correspondent, said he and France Television welcomed Wednesday’s decision.

“Today’s result is a relief,” he said, but added that it did not put the matter to rest. Enderlin, a French-Israeli national, said conspiracy theorists continue to hound them over the incident. He said that despite years of litigation and Israeli officials accusing him of fabrication, he welcomed an investigation.

“We are ready whenever Israel wants to go for a professional investigation following international standards,” he told The Associated Press.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he had no comment on a case that delved into the intricacy of French defamation law. He said, however, that the Israeli position on the al-Dura case remains unchanged.

“It is improbable, not to say impossible, that the bullets which hit Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura came from the Israeli position,” he said. “Where they did come from remains subject to many hypotheses, though none can be proven.”

PCHR Welcomes the Decision of the Paris Court of Appeal on al-Dura after 10 Years of Deliberations

Media release, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ref: 69/2013
June 27, 2013

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) greatly welcomes the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal, issued on Wednesday 26 June 2013, which convicted Philippe Karsenty, a French journalist, of defamation of the French national television channel France 2, and fined him €7,000 Euros. PCHR asserts that this ruling is a moral, legal and humanitarian victory, especially after Israel and its allies tried to deny its responsibility by all means and methods of manipulation, including the targeting of France 2 and its correspondent in Gaza. PCHR also asserts that the court’s decision is a victory for truth and Palestinian victims in the face of the continued attempts to discredit and forge the facts, and mislead the public opinion by Israel.

Karsenty had issued a report in 2004 accusing France 2 of falsely depicting the death of Mohammed al-Dura in 2000. This report completely denied the killing of al-Dura and claimied that there is no evidence that such an incident took place. These allegations were supported by official government bodies in Israel and Israeli and international media in a vulgar and despicable manner in order to deny the killing of Mohammed al-Dura, which was one of the prime motives for the outbreak of al-Aqsa Intifada.

The Court’s decision on the killing of al-Dura restores the faith and trust in the French judiciary and its role as guardian of justice, the rule of law and redress for victims, particularly in such cases which have been in the center of legal and media conflicts in relation to the Palestinian cause in the past 10 years. For the past decade, PCHR has closely followed the updates and course of the case, especially since PCHR compiled the complete legal documentation related to the case, including the affidavit of Talal Abu-Rahma, photographer for France 2, who witnessed and filmed the incident.

Furthermore, PCHR notes that even though it has the complete legal file on the incident of the Mohammed al-Dura killing, the organisation has not been called to appear before the court to display the facts related to the case, for example, but not limited to, the killing of the ambulance driver, Bassam al-Belbeysy, who tried to rescue al-Dura, and the affidavits of two other media workers who were present at the scene and witnessed the killing of al-Dura.

The attempts to deny the killing of Mohammed al-Dura by Israeli forces, in spite of local and international media and human rights organizations’ documentation of this horrifying crime, comes in the context of continued Israeli attempts to deny its crimes against Palestinian civilians, and discredit evidence which prove that war crimes have been committed against Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

In this regard, Israeli forces 12 years after the incident, which took place in September 2000, formed an official investigation committee in September 2012. The investigation is called the “Israeli Government Review Committee,” at the instructions of Israeli Prime Minister as a proactive step to disrupt the court’s decision. The committee’s report, issued on 19 May 2013, reached the following conclusions: “There is no evidence that Mohammed or his father, Jamal, were wounded in the incident; the two were not struck by bullets at all; and the Israeli forces bear no responsibility for the incident.”

PCHR refuted, at the time, the report of the Israeli Government Review Committee, pointing out that this examination, and previous investigations into the matter, conducted by the Israeli authorities failed to meet international standards of independence, impartiality, transparency, promptness, and effectiveness. PCHR also confirmed that it carried out an extensive investigation of the incident after it occurred, the findings of which completely contradict the assertions of the Israeli report. As part of its investigations, PCHR’s lawyers collected affidavits from the following persons:

1. Mr. Talal Hassan Abu Rahma, a photographer for France 2 television who witnessed the incident;

2. Mr. Ma’ali Suleiman Hussain Selmi, head of the reception department at Shifa hospital in Gaza City; and

3. Mr. Fathi Ahmed Mas’oud al-Louh, an ambulance driver present at the Martyrs junction on the day of the incident and who was seriously injured by Israeli gunfire.

As part of the eyewitness testimonies, Abu Rahma, who was present during the incident, stated that the Israeli forces fired intensively and intermittently at Mohammed and Jamal. The victims were then evacuated to Shifa hospital by ambulance, where Mohammed was pronounced dead on arrival. Another eyewitness, Al-Louh also stated that, while tending to a number of injured persons, he himself was injured by a rubber coated metal bullet in his right leg, and shortly after that he was injured when a live bullet grazed the top of his head.

In the light of the above, PCHR:

1. Confirms that Israeli attempts to obscure and forge the truth are desperate and obvious to the world, and aim to deny the suffering of Palestinians and their right to receive justice and redress;

2. Asserts that it will continue to prosecute Israeli war criminals and bring them to justice, demanding the international community to hold its responsibility to stop Israeli crimes and redress Palestinian victims; and

3. Calls upon the international community for an independent investigation of the incident, and to publish its results, prosecute the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Unedited footage of the incident here
Muhammad al-Durrah incident. Wikipedia’s detailed account

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