Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's good

As you may have heard by now, the French court of appeals dismissed France 2's libel suit against Philippe Karsenty today. That's very good. But maybe not quite as good as it sounds at first blush.

Karsenty, you may recall, was sued by France 2 for exposing the Mohammed Al-Dura hoax as a tragedy fabricated through staged and highly edited camera footage, accompanied by a misleading and inflamatory voice-over and broadcast by the government network. That broadcast, which purported to show a palestinian Arab child being mowed down by Israeli bullets as he crouched behind a barrel with his father, inflamed the Arab and Muslim world and has inspired countless incidents of rage, mayhem and murder over the course of the past seven and a half years. For much more detail, see Richard Landes' own exposé at The Second Draft.

So the French court has vindicated (for the time being) the right of Karsenty and, presumably, anyone else to bring those facts to light. Nevertheless (and until the written opinion is released tomorrow it's not entirely clear), it sounds as if the court did not base its ruling upon a finding that Karsenty was or likely was telling the truth. Rather, the court appears to have held that Karsenty had the right to voice his opinion, whether it was true or not, because and only because he was able to demonstrate that he had conducted a sufficiently thorough investigation and assembled sufficiently convincing evidence to establish that he thought he had a reasonable basis for making the claims he did.
A statement forwarded to The Jerusalem Post from Enderlin said that "the appeals court ruled that Karsenty's words were, in fact, libelous, and that Karsenty failed to prove that the news was staged and/or false." The statement added that the case was nevertheless overturned because "the court believed Karsenty had the right to stridently criticize the [France 2] report, since it dealt with an emotional topic, and that Karsenty's investigation into the matter convinced the court he was bring sincere."

A source close to Enderlin's side of the case explained that "you can get out of a libel suit either by proving you're right, or by showing you were sincere and had some research. The court found the latter to be the case."

While that would nonetheless still be a victory for free speech, it would be a burdensome and costly victory and one that fails to confirm the reckless mendacity of those who perpetrated this hoax. After all the hoops that Karsenty has had to jump through, one would have hoped that the result would have provided more substantive vindication of his claims.

France 2, of course, isn't satisfied and has expressed an intention to appeal. If they do, Karsenty will likely go on the offensive. Enough really is enough.

The source also said Enderlin and France 2 would appeal the verdict, noting that they had won three out of four instances of judgment in the matter.

But, replied Karsenty, the only appeal left would be to France's Supreme Court. "If they continue to insist they are correct," added Karsenty, "we will have victims of terror attacks that directly resulted from the [al-Dura] footage sue France 2."
As always, stay tuned.