In the world of literature and entertainment, a story of fiction always captures the public's heart. It's quite easy to understand why: with fiction you're free to use your wildest imagination, and create a perfect hero and a perfect story. Whereas in the non-fiction world, the rule is that you have to stick to the truth. But is that really so? Apparently, we've become so smitten with fiction, that not only do we use it on the news, when the truth comes up -- we prefer to ignore it.
Let me ask you a question: what does the name Mohammed al Dura mean to you?
You may remember his name because it was mentioned by the late reporter Daniel Pearl's captors, seconds before they ruthlessly beheaded him on tape for the whole world to see, in the name of Mohammed al Dura, the martyr child.
Al Dura's heartbreaking photo, taken seconds before his death, has become famous both in the Muslim world and in the western one. On Iraqi and Iranian stamps, for example, it appears with the caption: Killed by the Zionist army in Palestine. A dead child is the most awful price of war. Is it a wonder that hundreds of people raged and died in the name of this boy?
The only problem with this mythological tragedy is that it isn't true. I'm not the authority to state this, by the way. It is the supreme court in France that has made this final ruling, just last week. Have you heard about it? Probably not. In the past 12 years we've gotten so attached to the myth, we don't really want to ruin it with the truth.
The original Mohammed al Dura story is about a boy that was caught with his dad in the line of fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces, at the very beginning of the second intifada. French television FR2 aired a shaky and grainy minute long video of him trying to hide behind a barrel, crying among the bullets, until collapsing to his death on his father's lap. Israel and the IDF were blamed, and the hatred towards them roared.
Along the years, many new findings came up about this story. It started with a thorough IDF investigation which concluded that by the direction of the shooting, it's logical that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets, and not Israeli ones. Then a German television investigative report showed that the remains of the buried boy who was supposed to be al Dura, were actually those of another boy, questioning if the whole incident actually occurred or if it had been staged for cynical propaganda purposes. It also turned out that the film of the incident wasn't shot by a French reporter, but by a Palestinian who gave it to channel FR2, which aired it right away without checking its authenticity. Search YouTube if you like, and you'll be amazed at some of the reports questioning if this whole incident actually happened in reality.
But the biggest lie was exposed last week by the French supreme court: it turns out that the boy's father had lied when he told French TV that his arm and leg were wounded at that same incident in which his boy died. Plain and simple -- he lied, probably because he was forced to by Hamas terrorists, and then sued the Israeli doctor for libel. But the father's wounding occurred years before this incident, by barbaric Hamas militants in Gaza. They attacked him with axes and knives, severely wounding him and paralyzing his right arm. He was brought to an Israeli hospital and treated by the Israeli doctor he later sued, because when the doctor saw the father's false statement on the FR2 report, he opened the medical documents to show it was a lie.
I don't blame the boy's father for lying, by the way. If it were me that had to choose between lying, or telling the truth and being attacked with axes and knives by terrorists again, I'm pretty sure I'd do the same. But while the poor father's motive for lying is clear -- what's the motive of the western world to keep silent about the truth, and prefer to keep believing the myth?
Sadly, these are the rules of our allegedly truthful world. The myth was aired all over the world and burned into the collective memory. It will live forever, and who knows how many others will be "inspired" with hatred as a result. And what about the real story? For some crazy reason -- no one is interested in reporting it. None of the major news channels that reported the incident 12 years ago felt necessary to report the ruling of the French supreme court. I guess it will remain our little secret, then. It kind of makes you wonder -- maybe all we really want is a good story with a hero? And once we get it -- please, don't confuse us with the facts.
Oh, and just in case you personally DO want to spread the truth and shatter the myth? Well, you may want to share this story, and try to make a small difference in a world in which it's become very hard to know who to believe.