My Word: The story of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death

I can tell you who is being systematically targeted. It isn’t journalists, Palestinian or otherwise. It’s Israelis. Make that the entire State of Israel.

 A SAND sculpture spelling the name Shireen Abu Akleh is seen on a beach in Gaza Wednesday.  (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
A SAND sculpture spelling the name Shireen Abu Akleh is seen on a beach in Gaza Wednesday.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)

I don’t know who killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin on Wednesday, but I know who carried out the character assassination of Israel after her death. It’s a long list. The blood of the 51-year-old veteran reporter had not dried before the statements were being published blaming Israel of her “murder.” I’m not shocked, or even surprised, by the knee-jerk response but I am saddened. 

Abu Akleh was killed and another Palestinian journalist, Ali Samoodi, was wounded in an exchange of fire between armed Palestinians and IDF forces. The soldiers were taking part in a counterterrorism operation during a wave of terror attacks that has taken the lives of 19 people in Israel since March. We know that the Palestinian Authority refused to carry out a joint investigation into her death to discover whether the fatal bullet had been fired by an IDF soldier or by a Palestinian, who was trying to kill an Israeli.

As Prime Minister Naftali Bennett noted, “Palestinians in Jenin were even filmed boasting ‘We hit a soldier; he’s lying on the ground.’ However, no IDF soldier was injured, which raises the possibility that Palestinian terrorists were the ones who shot the journalist.”

That Israeli MKs immediately tied the incident to their political battles, was also to be expected, but some outdid themselves. Ra’am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas used Abu Akleh’s death as an excuse to postpone a press conference about the decision of the party’s supreme religious authority, the Shurah Council, regarding Ra’am’s return to the coalition. It was the equivalent of running over Abu Akleh’s body with the bandwagon he was swift to jump on. Abbas called Abu Akleh a “martyr” while members of his political rival party, the Joint List, immediately condemned “the execution” of the journalist by “occupation” forces.  

PA official Hussein al-Sheikh called her death an “assassination.” A Hamas statement called it “a premeditated murder” and Qatar-based Al Jazeera said Abu Akleh was killed in “cold blood” in “a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms.”

 Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most predictable but regrettable response came from the International Federation of Journalists. 

“Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by the Israeli army while covering a raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin early on May 11,” the organization declared in a statement issued a few hours after her death. 

“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemned this latest targeted killing of a Palestinian media worker and has pledged to add the murder to the case lodged at the International Criminal Court (ICC) which details the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists.”

With no forensic evidence, the IFJ continued to go ballistic in its tirade against Israel, quoting other Al Jazeera reporters and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “While the full details of this horrific murder are still emerging, testimony from journalists who were with her when she was killed point towards this being another deliberate and systematic targeting of a journalist. Yet again journalists, wearing press vests, clearly identified were targeted by Israeli snipers. They were not alongside demonstrators, they were not a threat – they have been targeted to prevent them bearing witness and telling the truth about the Israeli action in Jenin.”

I can tell you who is being systematically targeted. It isn’t journalists, Palestinian or otherwise. It’s Israelis. Make that the entire State of Israel.

The Jerusalem Association of Journalists (of which I’m a member) called on the IFJ to hold its fire. After expressing deep sadness at Abu Akleh’s death and the wounding of her colleague, the JAJ demanded a thorough probe and called on the Palestinian Authority to accept the IDF’s request for a joint investigation to get to the truth about this specific incident and avoid future cases in which journalists are wounded while doing their jobs.

THE WAVE of terror is not happening in a vacuum. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, for example, called on Palestinians to use “cleavers, axes and knives” to attack Israelis just a few days before Palestinian terrorists, lo and behold, did just that at the end of Independence Day. There have also been several stabbing attacks and attempted attacks.

In Elad, three men were hacked to death by two Palestinian terrorists armed with axes. Yonatan Havakuk, 44, Boaz Gol, 49, and Oren Ben Yiftach, 35, between them left 16 suddenly fatherless children. They joined the list no one wants to join, of victims of terror.

Before their names had even been published, the US-based, extreme left-wing group “If Not Now” thought that now would be the perfect time to blame the victims, at least by proxy. 

Their statement on Facebook started out sounding morally decent: “We are grieving the loss of life today from an attack in the city of Elad, where three Israelis were killed and four were injured.

“Each of these lives is sacred, each one a whole world no longer with us.”

But If Not Now did not stop there. Their statement continued: “We also grieve the power imbalance fueling this violence – Israel’s apartheid system, where walls and weapons create a daily nightmare for all Palestinians.

“Where the Israeli government has nuclear arms and international support, while Palestinians lack rights to self-defense and self-determination.

“This status quo does not keep anyone safe.”

I tell you what doesn’t keep anyone safe – lies, libel and distortion deliberately aimed at fueling incitement against Israel. 

The statement checked all the usual boxes. It automatically repeated the apartheid lie – although, incidentally, Justice Khaled Kabub on May 9 became the first Muslim appointed to Israel’s Supreme Court. And it mentioned walls and weapons – presumably referring to the security fence aimed at preventing terrorists entering Israel to carry out murderous attacks and the soldiers patrolling it. 

As for the “nuclear arms” and “international support” – I’m not sure which is the more ridiculous claim. The IDF is not nuking Palestinians – although Iran which is the patron of terror groups, including the Houthis in Yemen who praised the Elad attack, is seeking international backing for its nuclear aims. This, despite openly declaring its desire to wipe “the Zionist entity” off the map. And if the IFJ is an expression of “international support” then we really have buried the facts along with the victims of terror. But with friends like If Not Now, who’s surprised by our enemies?

It’s this type of “wokedom” that keeps me awake at night – along with the knowledge that nobody is safe from terrorists fueled by the backing of certain global media and NGOs, a culture of martyrdom, and the Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay policy.

The two terrorists who carried out the Elad massacre – As’sad al-Rifai, 19, and Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, both from a village near Jenin – were caught after an intensive 60-hour manhunt. Then we got to see the faces of evil. One of the “poor Palestinians” was wearing braces to straighten his teeth. It was a particularly jarring image, compounded by the footage of a terrorist sitting on a rock smoking a cigarette supplied by the Shin Bet as he waited to be taken into custody.

I’m a veteran Israeli journalist and an IDF veteran. I am certain that no soldier woke up on Wednesday morning with the idea of deliberately shooting a reporter doing her job. I also know for sure that in every one of the recent terror attacks, it was the terrorists who set out with murderous intent, not their victims and not the members of the security forces and other brave individuals who halted the attacks.

The full details of Abu Akleh’s death have yet to be published, but the narrative surrounding the death of the journalist is already being constructed. Whatever the results of the investigation, the International Federation of Journalists is clearly determined that Israel should not received fair press. And that is part of the story and problem.

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