The US State Department’s July 4 statement wrongly asserting that an Israeli bullet was “likely responsible” for killing Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was biased against Israel, ignores evidence and contradicts the State Department’s finding, in its very same statement, that the bullet’s origin could not be determined, because “ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.”
Moreover, the department’s assertion appears to be based on a fraudulent “investigation” by the terrorist dictatorship of the Palestinian Authority. The State Department statement says it was based on PA and IDF investigations. But the IDF investigation showed no “likely” involvement of an IDF bullet. Rather, the detailed “IDF investigation concluded that the source of the fire that led to the death of Ms. Abu Akleh could not be determined based on the available information.”
That leaves only the PA “investigation” as the basis for the State Department’s assertion. Anti-Israel propagandists, who, among other things have been the source for phony “investigations” about Abu Akleh that blamed Israel.
The State Department assertion also ignored that footage released hours after the incident, which showed Arab terrorists wearing bullet-proof vests shooting indiscriminately and then exclaiming: “they’ve hit one, they’ve hit a soldier, he’s laying on the ground.” The IDF confirmed that no Israeli soldiers were hit by gunfire in Jenin that day. The person that the Arab terrorists exclaimed about hitting and lying on the ground could very well have been Abu Akleh.
The State Department statement also failed to mention the PA’s lack of cooperation; the PA’s refusal and then long delay in turning over an alleged bullet; questions about the chain of custody; the failure to turn over a second alleged bullet fired at the Al Jazeera reporter; and the unlikelihood that a bullet recovered from a body would be that badly damaged.
All these factors evidence the lack of credibility of any PA accounts of the events, and call into question whether the bullet that the PA belatedly turned over to the US was even the bullet that hit Abu Akleh. The terrorist anti-Israel PA would surely never hand over a bullet that was used by a PA weapon.
Abu Akleh was hit after Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists fired heavily and indiscriminately, and hurled explosives, during an IDF counterterrorism operation in Jenin on May 11. For nearly two months, the Palestinian Authority rejected Israeli requests to hold a joint investigation and/or to at least turn over the bullet that hit Abu Akleh for Israel to examine.
Obviously, the PA had something to hide. It took until last weekend for the PA to finally turn over an alleged bullet to the US security coordinator (USSC), for examination at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel.
Thankfully, a portion of the July 4 State Department statement acknowledged that the Al Jazeera journalist was hit unintentionally, and gave some indication of the context of the incident. (The IDF counterterrorism operation followed several weeks during which Palestinian Arab terrorists – many of whom were from the Jenin area – killed 19 innocent Jews, Druze, Ukrainians and others in Israel.)
The State Department statement said: “The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.”
Journalists in battle
Journalists in battle areas are always at risk. The Abu Akleh incident seems no different from the long lists of thousands of journalists who died when standing close to, or in the midst of battles in wars occurring throughout the world, throughout history. For instance, 32 journalists were killed while covering the Iraq war, many as a result of American fire. Israel has a remarkably good record of avoiding hitting journalists. But yet the world, and unfortunately, our own US State Department, are quick to irresponsibly and even antisemitically make this into yet another occasion to unfairly criticize the Jewish state.
Did the PA turn over the wrong bullet to prevent experts from determining that PIJ terrorists killed Abu Akleh? Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense chairman Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) stated that the fact that the bullet was too damaged to link the bullet signature markings with a rifle that fired it may mean that the PA may have turned over the wrong bullet for examination.
Zionist Organization of America vice chair Paul Tartell, MD, FACS, a double board certified surgeon who has operated on gunshot trauma victims in some of the most violent urban centers in the United States, further explained:
“Bullets recovered from a body are typically intact enough for adequate forensic examination, in concert with a thorough, contemporaneous autopsy. The PA’s belated submission of a severely damaged bullet calls into question whether the bullet was removed from Abu Akleh’s body, and whether the bullet was altered after removal so as to preclude a subsequent conclusive forensic examination.
“Furthermore, it is unknown whether whoever removed the bullet – be it a surgeon, pathologist, medical examiner or coroner – put a unique identifying mark on it: we have no indication that a chain of custody was either initiated or maintained. Moreover, we do not have any information as to DNA evidence from the bullet. All these issues must be definitively addressed in order to forensically determine Abu Akleh’s true cause of death. Any conclusion absent such consideration is sheer folly and wholly irresponsible.”
“Bullets recovered from a body are typically intact enough for adequate forensic examination, in concert with a thorough, contemporaneous autopsy. The PA’s belated submission of a severely damaged bullet calls into question whether the bullet was removed from Abu Akleh’s body."Zionist Organization of America vice chair Paul Tartell
Has the State Department issued this outrageous conclusion to intimidate Israel into making future concessions that the US demands? This report should frighten Israel into worrying that the Biden administration is capable of doing that.
The writer is president of the Zionist Organization of America.