Israel must release the Shireen Abu Akleh probe findings - editorial

As the world closely monitors Israel’s investigations into the circumstances of both Abu Akleh’s killing and the violence at her funeral, Israel needs to publish its findings.

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

Israel Police announced last Thursday that they had concluded an investigation into police conduct during the funeral procession of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem last month. But instead of releasing the findings of their probe, the police issued only a statement, quoting Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai as saying that Abu Akleh’s funeral had been a “complex event.”

The Police Operations Division presented its conclusions on Wednesday night to Shabtai, who had ordered the investigation. Responding to media footage of police violence against mourners at the funeral, Shabtai acknowledged: “It is impossible to remain indifferent to the harsh images.”

While the conduct of police forces on the ground had been properly examined, he appeared to apportion blame for the violence onto “rioters” at the funeral. 

“We must thoroughly study the incident, so that in the future sensitive events such as these will not be disturbed by violent rioters,” he said. “I trust the actions of Israel Police officers, who will continue to reliably work for the safety of the entire public.”

“I trust the actions of Israel Police officers, who will continue to reliably work for the safety of the entire public.”

Kobi Shabtai

This is simply not good enough.

As the world closely monitors Israel’s investigations into the circumstances of both Abu Akleh’s killing and the violence at her funeral, Israel needs to publish its findings – and the sooner the better.

 PALESTINIANS CARRY the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, in Ramallah on Wednesday.  (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) PALESTINIANS CARRY the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, in Ramallah on Wednesday. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Police came under harsh criticism after images of officers beating pallbearers were broadcast around the world, sparking international outrage.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession”; UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed”; and the European Union said it was “appalled by... the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession.”

The Jerusalem Red Crescent said at the time that 33 Palestinians had been injured and six hospitalized, while police said six were arrested after rioters threw “rocks and glass bottles” at them – but this was not addressed in the police statement issued last week.

Attempts by the media to pressure police to publish the results of their probe were brushed aside. “CNN has asked police when they plan to release their investigation but has not received any reply,” CNN reported.

According to media reports, the investigation concluded that despite a finding that there had been police misconduct, no one should be punished. “Obviously the images that emerged were unpleasant and could have been different, but overall the police acted well in a complex and violent incident,” a senior police officer was quoted by Haaretz as saying.

At the same time, Israel’s determination of how the veteran American Palestinian journalist was killed in Jenin on May 11 is also pending – despite the publication by key media outlets of some extremely damaging reports.

Even though the official postmortem report by the Palestinian Authority said it could not determine who shot the fatal bullet, The Washington Post, CNN and The Associated Press published the results of their own probes, finding that Abu Akleh was killed by an IDF bullet – with some even suggesting that she had been deliberately shot by Israeli troops.

Although the IDF squarely rejected these allegations, we are still awaiting the results of the military investigation ordered by Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi. “There is one thing that can be determined with certainty: no IDF soldier deliberately fired at a journalist,” Kohavi stated. “We investigated this. That is the conclusion and there is no other.”

In response to The Washington Post report, the IDF said it would “continue to responsibly investigate the incident in order to get to the truth of this tragic event. The bullet is vital to reaching a conclusion as to the source of the fire that killed Abu Akleh, and it is an important source for reaching an evidence-based conclusion. The Palestinians continue to refuse the IDF’s offer to conduct a joint forensic examination of the bullet, with American representation.”

We urge the IDF and the Israel Police to publish the results of all their investigations into Abu Akleh’s death and her funeral as soon as possible. Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and people around the world need to know the truth – whatever it is.