What we know is that Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in Jenin during a shootout between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen.
How Abu Akleh died depends on how one feels about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and before she has even been buried, her death is being exploited for political gain.
Anyone who thinks that Israel’s presence in the West Bank – with settlers or soldiers – is odious, did not waste any time in placing the blame squarely on the “occupation forces.”
News reports and wire services liberally appropriated the Al Jazeera claims that Abu Akleh was shot by an IDF soldier. Reuters used it as their headline: “Al Jazeera says reporter killed by Israeli army gunfire in West Bank.”
That narrative was backed up by the testimony of fellow-Palestinian journalist Ali Samoudi, for the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper, who was also shot during the incident but not seriously hurt.
“All of a sudden, they opened fire at us,” he told reporters, referring to the IDF. “They killed her in cold blood. One bullet hit me, the second hit Shireen.”
Israel’s defenders on social media were quick to post a homemade video purporting to show Palestinian gunmen in a firefight, with one Palestinian heard saying that they had struck an IDF soldier. They claimed this as proof that the Palestinians killed Abu Akleh.
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In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asked the PA to conduct a joint autopsy to determine the cause of death, an offer that was apparently rejected out of hand. Israel’s defenders used that as further proof that the Palestinians had no interest in getting to the bottom of the incident, preferring to milk the tragedy for all its worth.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also got into the act, saying that he held Israel “fully responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded that Abbas was “making baseless accusations against Israel,” adding: “According to the information we currently have, there’s a considerable chance that Palestinian gunmen who were firing recklessly caused the journalist’s saddening death.”
In the hours since Abu Akleh’s death, the accusations and counter-accusations have been ceaseless. That’s how it goes in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Any issue that can be exploited by one side against the other is milked to the last drop.
But this time, it would be best to take the advice of Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, who tweeted the following:
“I have no idea who killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last night. You don’t either. Let’s find a real, independent, quick investigation to avoid her tragic death becoming another source of conflict. And all commit to respecting findings.”
That would be the most appropriate memorial to a journalist who was killed doing her job. Unfortunately, the manic taking of sides between supporters of the Palestinians and of Israel has made the circumstances of her death more important than her memory.