PARIS -- The French courts have decided facts don't matter, and a blood libel against the Jews and Israel will stand on the books. But this is no trivial matter.
The French government has legitimized a hoax that has contributed to the murder of many Americans and Israelis.
The Al-Durrah Hoax
In 2000, a Palestinian boy named Mohammed al-Durrah was allegedly killed by Israeli soldiers during a gun battle in the Gaza Strip. The incident was shown in a 59-second news report on France2.
The report by correspondent Charles Enderlin ignited rage across the Muslim world and would be used as a recruiting tool by al Qaeda and for the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
But the video, shot by a Palestinian cameraman, has been dismissed by many journalists and experts as fake. They say the Israelis could not have killed the boy as shown in the video. The two bullets, seen hitting the wall in the France2 video, came from the Palestinian position.
Further, the boy was supposedly hit with three high velocity bullets and the father with 12, but there was no blood on their bodies or on the wall behind them. And on the raw footage of the gun battle, the boy, after he is supposed to be dead, can be seen peeking out from under his arm.
The Palestinians are famous for staging faked injuries and death in order to gain international sympathy. It's become known as "Pallywood." While there are real injuries and death in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would-be Palestinian actors also pretend to be victims of the Israelis.
Day in Court
Philippe Karsenty, deputy mayor in the Paris suburb of Neuilly, says he, like others, believed the al-Durrah video at first. Then saw the evidence that led him to believe it was a fake.
"So, I went to the France2 office. I went everywhere to ask them to please correct the news, and they weren't interested," Karsenty said. "I went all over the place -- to ministers, media outlets -- and nobody wanted to listen."
So, Karsenty began a public campaign to spread the word that the video was a hoax, and he was sued by France2 for defamation. A few weeks ago, after years of court battles, Karsenty finally lost.
Nidra Poller, an American author living in Paris, said one of the first questions that need to be asked is why a TV network would sue a viewer for simply complaining that a story isn't true.
Poller is writing a book about the al-Durrah affair.
"In a democratic country, citizens watched the news report, saw that it was visibly fake, which you can see today anytime you look at it, and they said it was a fake. You don't take people to court for that," she told CBN News.
"They took three people to court, thinking they had three small fries. They got fooled because Philippe Karsenty wasn't a small fry, and he fought back," she said.
The al-Durrah affair would become about far more than just whether a boy's death was real or fake. Mohammed al-Durrah is now a religious and cultural icon in the Muslim world. His face adorns stamps; his name is on monuments and buildings. He became another reason to hate and kill Jews.
The al-Durrah affair may have started as sloppy journalism, but Jews say it has become a modern-day blood libel, when Jews are falsely accused of killing children.
"Those who believe Jews are child killers, they see that [video] and the belief makes them think they're seeing [actual child killing]," Poller said.
Richard Prasquier, the former head of France's national council of Jews (CRIF), said, "The image of the Israelis as a killer of children was really, strikingly reinforced by this broadcast."
Prasquier said in his six years as France's top Jewish official, he was never once invited to speak about the controversy on French TV.
"I'm French. I want to see in my country freedom of expression, the possibility of expressing different views and not to be blacklisted or boycotted just because you do not express the views that are the views of the majority of the media world. This is not freedom of expression," he charged.
The Media Mafia?
The al-Durrah affair is both about the French media's view of Israel as a bully in the Middle East and how the French government and media tend to operate like an exclusive club, where the members protect one another.
Karsenty described the French establishment and media as a "mafia." When Karsenty won on the al-Durrah case on appeal in 2008, France's Supreme Court stepped in last year and threw out the decision.
Critics say the French establishment decided long ago to circle the wagons and defend France2 and the al-Durrah report. Whether the report was true or not became secondary.
French conservative journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet said Karsenty is right, "but that is not the point."
"It becomes a question of honor and it does not become a question of facts. In French civilization, as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon civilization, you do not apologize for a mistake because that is an admission of weakness," she said.
Did the French "system" want to protect France2 in this? Moutet answered with an unequivocal "yes."
"The French are pro-establishment by nature. It is impossible to raise this issue in this way in the French media system. If you do, you will pay a huge price for it," she said.
"France suffers from 'tall poppy syndrome.' We don't like people to be different," she explained. "We don't like troublemakers. And people think, 'This is France2. This was the first French TV station. They cannot be wrong, by their nature.' That's the French way."
What Really Happened
So, what happened to Mohammed al-Durrah?
"To be honest, nobody has found the 20-something boy on a beach in Gaza, and that would really change things," Moutet said. "What is clear is that unless the Israelis invented a gun that shoots bullets that turn, he can't have been killed by Israeli bullets."
The Israeli government says he had to have been killed by Palestinian fire or some other way.
France2 Correspondent Charles Enderlin told CBN News he still believes Mohammed al-Durrah was killed by Israeli fire.
But he added, "I reject and condemn the way terrorists used my report."
"If [Enderlin] made blunders, and I think he made terrible blunders, we have to accept that he made blunders and we have to see it," Prasquier said. "This is how democracy should work. If democracy doesn't work this way, it's not democracy -- it's a dictatorship of the majority."
Karsenty noted, "The history books are already taking this story into consideration as 'the truth.' We need to make them understand that it was a hoax, that it was completely fabricated."
Having finally beaten Philippe Karsenty in court, Benedicte Amblard, the attorney for the France2 and Enderlin, said specifically that the court punished an attack on her clients' "honor."
So, the French justice system has enshrined in a legal victory of what some say amounts to a blood libel against Israel and the Jews, giving Muslims one more reason to kill Israelis and Americans.
But France2 and the French establishment still have their 'honor.'