Report is too little, too late
The reported "killing" of Mohammed al Dura in a hail of Israeli bullets was nothing of the kind and was instead a modern-day blood libel. So said the state of Israel this week.
What kept it?
The al Dura travesty is a scandal that has been simmering for the past 13 years. It is hard to overstate the significance of the footage, broadcast on the station France 2 in September 2000 by reporter Charles Enderlin. It purported to show 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura clinging to his father under a sustained barrage of Israeli fire during a demonstration at the Netzarim Junction. The child was shown slumping to the ground - whereupon Enderlin declared that he was dead.
Mohammed al-Dura became the poster child of the last decade's terrorist war. The image of him clinging to his father was the recruiting sergeant for countless acts of murder, and the further delegitimisation of Israel.
The foreign ministry seemed to believe it was all just water under the bridge
The definitive evidence that this "killing" was, however, a faked performance out of the "Pallywood" terrorist repertory has been available for years. Yet Israel remained silent.
Now an Israel government committee has found that France 2 had edited the raw footage and thereby excluded a part at the end in which the boy - declared dead by Enderlin moments earlier - is clearly seen alive and moving. Quelle surprise!
Back in 2007, I myself saw this missing footage in a French court that had demanded it be produced. France 2 had brought a libel suit against French media watchdog Philippe Karsenty for saying the station had broadcast a faked killing. It's a case which is, incidentally, still trudging its way through the French appeals system.
I was in a packed courtroom which saw the child move after Enderlin said he was dead. With one or two exceptions, the world's media has studiously ignored this startling evidence. And Israel, too, remained silent.
Years earlier, Nahum Shahaf, a physicist in Israel's defence establishment, had concluded that al-Dura had not been killed at all at Netzarim and the whole thing was a theatrical set-up. Yet Israel remained silent.
Nor is this the full extent of Israel's incompetence over this affair.
Originally, the IDF actually accepted responsibility for the boy's death. After an internal inquiry, it claimed instead that father and son had probably been hit by Palestinian gunfire. But anyone looking at the broadcast footage could see that neither father nor son was wounded in any way. Did no one in the IDF or foreign ministry ask why there was no visible wound on a boy who had allegedly just been killed by snipers, no blood anywhere?
The fact is that at no stage did Israel want to get to the truth. After its gross incompetence in taking responsibility for a killing that never happened, it looked the other way as the facts emerged. The result is that this tale has been suppurating poison for 13 years. France 2 has never been called to account. Untold numbers of Israelis have been murdered as a result of this footage. And Israel has been libelled as a nation of child-killers.
So why did it stay silent until now? The foreign ministry seemed to believe it was all just water under the bridge and no good would come of stirring it up again. This "heads down" attitude is sometimes called "ghetto mentality". What the scandal surely tells is that you can take the people out of the ghetto, but you cannot always take the ghetto out of the people.
And now, 13 years too late, Israel has published the results of a government inquiry, which the rest of the world won't believe. Why now? Why produce this without the all-important independent element to guarantee its credibility? Why do so without even putting on the web for all to see the critical unbroadcast footage showing the child moving?
Why is the Israel government so monumentally incompetent?
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist