As we noted in Daybreak and many have been noting elsewhere, an investigation in Jerusalem recently concluded on the topic of Muhammed al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who was thought to be killed during the opening days of the Second Intifada. After reviewing unedited footage of the event almost 13 years later, the panel concluded that there is no certainty that the boy was shot or even killed during in the incident.
Winston Churchill famously quipped “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” I am sure a great orator like Churchill would have sought less levity in describing the damage of lies if he were referring to the case of Muhammed al-Dura, whose iconic image and martyrdom, according to the committee, may have been entirely staged.
As a doe-eyed American teenager living in Israel during the start of the Second Intifada, al-Dura’s reported death provided a crash course in the gravity of the budding unrest more than Ariel Sharon’s jaunt along the Temple Mount ever could have.
Soon enough, we understood that the uprising was premeditated, but–a full duration of al-Dura’s life later–the possibility that he may not have been injured at all is benumbing. Beyond the truth of this incident, which I hope is definitively discovered and soon, there is still the reality that al-Dura’s death was used by many to commit (and recruit others to commit) acts of violence and terror. And not only for the Palestinian cause.
The picture of Muhammad al-Dura, apparently dead across his father’s knees, was shown for days on Arab and international TV stations and was cited as inspiration by both Osama bin Laden and the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Another interesting piece of news today came out of Doha, where the Qatari emir reiterated the need for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We heard in the past that reform (in the Arab world) must wait until a peaceful settlement with Israel is achieved, but everybody should realise that such belief is now unfounded after the Arab Spring revolts,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told a conference in the Qatari capital.
“The reason is that the Arab Spring has today put Israel in direct confrontation with the Arab people, not only with their rulers. These people will no longer accept that negotiations are the goal in themselves…Our region will not see peace unless we see a resolution to the Palestinian issue.”
There it is again. That the cornerstone of regional peace is the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an old idea that didn’t sound so good even when the Middle East wasn’t aflame with widespread violence having little to do with Israel. Maybe Sheikh Hamed was speaking on a broader level, but given Qatar’s track record, it’s difficult to dole out much credit for high-mindedness. As Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out after Qatar made a recent splash in calling for a two-state solution, there’s quite a deficit between Qatar’s words and deeds here:
In addition to funding Hamas and providing support for Islamists across the region, Qatar also hosts the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command at the huge Al Udeid Air Base. The government of Qatar also hosts, and owns, the Al Jazeera television network, which allows it to project its often anti-American ideas around the world. (The only government that has guaranteed immunity against criticism from Al Jazeera is, unsurprisingly, Qatar’s).
The locus of the regional carnage right now is in Syria, where the United States remains pressed to provide support for the Syrian rebels–the most formidable of which are now the Qatari-funded Islamists (like the Nusra Front) that are aligned with al-Qaeda and, like Hamas, hate the United States and Israel. If there’s regional peace to be had, it’s not through the channels of Hamas and groups that reject Israel’s right to exist.
Of course, Israeli-Palestinian peace is vital for the world and its leaders must take steps for peace. But saying it’s everything has been part of the problem all along.