by Ayman Ahmed
The image of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durrah, cowering in fear behind his father Jamal, continues to haunt human conscience 20 years after his brutal murder by the Israelis.
Muhammad was murdered in cold blood by Israeli soldiers on September 30, 2000 as his desperate father tried to shield him from incoming Israeli bullets.
Muhammad al-Durrah’s murder may have become another dead statistic but for the footage captured by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma freelancing for France2 TV.
The footage, aired for 59 seconds on the French TV channel the same day (September 30, 2000), showed the father crouching behind a concrete cylinder while trying to shield his son with his own body.
Screams of the terrified boy could be heard as his father waved to Israeli soldiers to catch their attention so that they would stop shooting at them.
Instead, the Israelis intensified their fire.
Muhammad was first hit in the leg despite his father trying to shield him from the bullets.
Then following a burst of gunfire and dust, Muhammad was seen slumping in his father’s lap as several bullets pierced his stomach causing profuse bleeding.
He died soon after.
Fifty-nine seconds of the footage were broadcast in France with a voiceover from Charles Enderlin, the station’s bureau chief in Israel.
Based on information from cameraman Abu Rahma, Enderlin told viewers that the al-Durrahs had been the target of fire from Israeli positions and that the boy had died.
Muhammad's images were plastered on walls throughout the Muslim world and postage stamps were issued in memory of this young martyr. His death came to symbolize the Palestinians' plight.
Not surprisingly, the Israeli occupation army as well as the Zionist regime tried to cast doubt on the veracity of the footage.
It was too powerful an image and was creating global revulsion at Israeli barbarism.
The well-oiled Israeli propaganda machinery immediately went into action to undermine the report.
In France, pro-Israeli media commentators tried to cast doubt on the footage to shield their favourite country—Israel--from global condemnation.
One media commentator in particular, Philippe Karsenty, had the audacity to allege that the scene had been staged by France 2.
The French TV channel sued him for libel and in 2013 he was fined €7,000 by the Court of Appeal of Paris.
It is important to keep in mind the context.
On September 28, 2000, two days before Muhammad al-Durrah’s brutal murder, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon had barged onto the sacred al-Aqsa Compound in Jerusalem.
His ponderous bulk desecrating Islam’s third holiest site and the first qibla sparked what came to be called the Second Intifadah.
Sharon had rightly earned the epithet, ‘The Butcher of Beirut’ when he led Israel’s military onslaught on Lebanon in June 1982 going all the way to Beirut.
In addition to killing thousands of Palestinian fighters, Sharon and his troops also facilitated the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
The massacre was carried out by Phalangist militia that was allied with and supported by the Zionists.
Sharon’s provocative incursion on to the Masjid al-Aqsa compound led to widespread protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The tiny Gaza Strip was still under Zionist occupation where 50 illegal Israeli squatter families had created a squatter camp.
It was the second day of protests in Gaza when thousands of Palestinian students engaged in stone throwing against Zionist occupation troops.
The locality in Gaza where the shooting took place is called al-Shohada (martyrs’) junction.
It lies on Saladin Road, a few kilometres south of Gaza City.
Muhammad had accompanied his father to the market that day and were returning home when they were caught in Israeli firing.
It is there that the Zionist occupiers murdered Muhammad in cold blood.
Muhammad al-Durrah's murder represents the all-too common experience of Palestinians. It also exposes the true face of Israeli military occupation.
No words can describe the brutal nature of Zionism and its practitioners.
Since Muhammad al Durrah's murder 20 years ago, thousands of other Palestinian children have since been drenched in blood due to Israeli bullets.
While their innocent souls have departed from this world, the Palestinians' struggle for dignity and freedom continues.