FBI has a double standard for Abu Akleh, Israeli victims - comment

Despite pressure, Washington refuses to press Jordan on the Sbarro bomber Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi, but will go to great lengths for Shireen Abu Akleh.

A GAPING hole is left in the shop front of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem after the suicide bombing that killed 15 people and wounded more than 80 others. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A GAPING hole is left in the shop front of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem after the suicide bombing that killed 15 people and wounded more than 80 others.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” poster, which can be viewed on the FBI website, describes her as “charged with participating in an August 9, 2001 suicide bomb attack at a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two United States nationals. Four other United States nationals were among approximately 122 others injured in the attack,” the site reads. “Should be considered armed and dangerous.”

The FBI poster asks for tips and offers a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Tamimi’s arrest.

Here’s a tip: She’s in Jordan, hosting a talk show on Hamas TV.

Don’t expect this writer to receive millions of dollars anytime soon, though. Tamimi’s whereabouts have been long known – she’s on TV, not exactly hiding – but Jordan refuses to extradite her.

Despite an ongoing campaign by the family of one of the Sbarro attack victims, Malki Roth, which has received significant attention in Jewish media and Israeli media in English, Washington has not done much to press Jordan on the matter. There’s no indication the Biden administration has done anything at all.

 Shireen Abu Akleh (credit: AL JAZEERA) Shireen Abu Akleh (credit: AL JAZEERA)

Which brings us to the extraordinary lengths to which Washington seems willing to go for Palestinian Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, a US citizen who was killed in an exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in May.

Israel was initially unable to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident because the Palestinian Authority, which insisted along with Abu Akleh’s family that the IDF assassinated her, refused to hand over any evidence from the scene. Eventually, and following US pressure, the PA handed over the bullet. The Israeli examination of the bullet was conducted together with US investigators and Israel was fully transparent with the US about all elements of the probe. In September, the IDF said it found that Abu Akleh was likely unintentionally shot by an Israeli soldier in an exchange of fire with Palestinian terrorists, but that there was no conclusive evidence.

At the time, the US continued to say it expects transparency, but didn’t announce next steps. Dissatisfied with the result, the Abu Akleh family began lobbying sympathetic politicians, along with the State Department.

This week, the US Department of Justice notified its Israeli counterpart that the FBI would be conducting its own investigation. This seems to be an unprecedented situation, in which the US officially considers a democratic ally to have an independent judiciary capable of investigating and prosecuting its own soldiers when need be – after all, it supports that argument when it’s made against International Criminal Court involvement – and is proceeding with an FBI investigation against that ally’s wishes after the ally’s probe reached its own conclusions.

IT’s NOT CLEAR what the FBI will accomplish in its investigation, considering that the agency does not appear to have access to new evidence nor will it be able to question Israeli soldiers. One can’t say the IDF is above reproach, because no one is, but the US was involved in Israel’s inquiry and the State Department released a statement saying they “welcome” it. Yet they’re insisting on going forward with their own probe.

In other words, this apparently accidental, but still tragic, death of a US citizen seems to warrant special attention that an intentional terrorist bombing with several American victims does not. As documented on the Roth family’s website, the preferential treatment of Abu Akleh over other victims started before the FBI probe. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the journalist’s family, but didn’t do the same for Israeli-American victims of terror, and put substantial pressure on Defense Minister Benny Gantz over the IDF inquiry.

And, of course, the Sbarro attack is just one example – chosen because of the Roth family’s extensive lobbying efforts that arguably go beyond that of the Abu Aklehs – but there are 49 US citizens, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, that have been murdered by Palestinians since then. The FBI doesn’t seem to have done much to get justice for them, either.

Since Washington has not given an explanation, what’s left is to speculate.

What is behind Washington's double standard?

In a way, this fits in with the way the Biden administration has treated other allies in the Middle East, as though the accidental killing of someone caught in a crossfire is akin to the horrific murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered and dissolved in acid, ordered by the Saudi leadership. The Washington Post also recently published details of a leaked National Intelligence Council report on Emirati efforts to influence US policy. It must be said that those countries are not democracies and the actions Washington is criticizing were not followed with cooperation and transparency, in contrast with Israel following Abu Akleh’s death.

Some have talked about it being a shot across the bow to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu as he’s expected to form a far-right government, though Washington is expressing dissatisfaction at events that occurred under a government to the left of Netanyahu.

Another argument made is that this is about US politics. The midterms just took place and US President Joe Biden may feel freer to take more controversial actions than he did before. The left-wing of the Democratic Party pushed for a probe of Abu Akleh’s killing and, as Netanyahu says in his recently-published memoir, Biden professed to feeling pressure on Israel issues in what is “not Scoop Jackson’s Democratic Party.”

US Senator Ted Cruz certainly sees it that way, saying the FBI investigation “underscores how corrupt and blatantly politicized the Justice Department has become, and how entirely beholden to the radical left-wing Squad Democrats really are. This administration has spent its time in office weaponizing the DOJ to target their political enemies as a matter of policy, and now they have allowed that tactic to bleed into their obsession with undermining our Israeli allies.”

Whether it’s about the Biden administration’s moralistic approach to the Middle East or about Democratic Party dynamics, this just contributes to a broader sense that the FBI has used and abused as a political tool in recent years.

The Abu Akleh investigation announcement happened to take place in the week in which Commentary released an issue with a cover story by intelligence reporter Eli Lake about how the FBI is desperately in need of reform.

"FBI officials routinely deceive not only the public but also the institutions designed to protect the public from FBI overreach. Agents lie to supervisors. Supervisors lie to judges. FBI directors mislead Congress. And almost no one is ever punished."

Eli Lake

“FBI officials routinely deceive not only the public but also the institutions designed to protect the public from FBI overreach. Agents lie to supervisors. Supervisors lie to judges. FBI directors mislead Congress. And almost no one is ever punished,” Lake wrote, following it up with a litany of recent abuses.

FBI leaders who leaked to the press and went after certain politicians are feted, Lake pointed out, asking: “What lesson will others draw from this, except that there are no consequences for abusing authority against the right political targets?”