Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed—and fellow reporter Ali al-Samoudi was wounded—during an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank on the morning of May 11. The aim of the incursion, which followed weeks of deadly “lone-wolf” attacks on Israelis, was to apprehend a terrorist operating in the city of Jenin, a hotbed of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activity.
It is home, for example, to the Palestinians who went on shooting sprees in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv in April and slaughtered three innocents in Elad on May 5. These were among five massacres successfully committed by Palestinians and Arab citizens of the Jewish state ahead of and during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and in honor of the 74th anniversary of the “Nakba,” Arabic for the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948. The other two, in Beersheba and Hadera, were perpetrated in late March.
These were in addition to several additional terrorist assaults that were thwarted by the IDF, Shin Bet internal security service, and the Israel Police.
This context for the IDF entry into Jenin on the Wednesday that Abu Akleh lost her life has been glossed over by left-wing media outlets, if not altogether excluded from the coverage of those with an openly anti-Israel slant. The best example of the latter, of course, is that of the Palestinian Authority press, controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas and his men in Ramallah. Naturally, the rest of the anti-Israel sites, such as those run by Hamas and Hezbollah, also alter the facts in order to demonize the Jewish state.
The fiction they concocted—that Israeli snipers targeted Abu Akleh—suits Al Jazeera’s general narrative and the one that the Qatar-owned broadcaster has been conveying about its veteran staffer in particular. To pepper the propaganda and make it even more internationally palatable, most reports of this nature highlight that Abu Akleh and her cohorts on the scene were wearing signs clearly marked “PRESS” on their protective vests.
This is just about the only true detail in the bulk of the stories. But the purpose of underscoring it is to illustrate that IDF troops supposedly aimed to kill members of the media. As a result, no world condemnation has been complete without loud lip service to the sanctity of press freedom.
The piety on this score would be laughable if it weren’t so mendacious, coming from corners of the earth where freedom of any kind, certainly that relating to unbiased reportage, is minimal or nonexistent. Unlike its detractors in the Middle East, Israel is a democracy with a press that is not only free to criticize the government, but does so lustily, with impunity, on a regular basis.
It is also a country with rules of engagement so stringent that its men and women in uniform are often hesitant to shoot to kill, for fear of court-martial or criminal prosecution. Indeed, Israel’s first response to Abu Akleh’s death, along with sincere condolences to her family, was to open an investigation.
The purpose of the ongoing probe is to determine whether she had been hit by Palestinian gunmen shooting their weapons indiscriminately or by IDF soldiers returning fire. Either way, the Israeli government and military have been up-front about wishing to identify the origin of the ammo that killed her, whatever it may be.
The Palestinian Authority has a different agenda. It promptly rejected the offer to cooperate with Israel and refused to hand over the bullet for a ballistics test. Instead, it went straight to the International Criminal Court to demand that Israel be censured.
Meanwhile, CNN conducted an investigation of its own—in the form of a dramatic news feature with a click-bait headline claiming “new evidence” showing that Abu Akleh was killed by the IDF. The so-called proof was, in its own words, a “shaky video, filmed by Al Jazeera cameraman Majdi Banura.”
Even according to CNN, the footage doesn’t actually show Abu Akleh being shot. But never mind that insignificant detail. Interviewees were on hand to give eye-witness accounts.
These sources—among them Palestinian journalist Shatha Hanaysha and Professor Jamal Huwail of the Arab American University in Jenin—all said they “believed” that the IDF had “fired deliberately” on Abu Akleh and the group of journalists with her at the scene. Conveniently, CNN omitted the pedigree of these two figures.
Hanaysha is a champion of “martyrs” killed in the process of attempting to and succeeding at slaughtering Jews. Referring to such paragons as her “comrades-in-arms,” she lauds their deeds on social media without apology.
Huwail, a member of Abbas’s Fatah faction, is a former parliamentarian in the Palestinian Legislative Council. As the NGO HonestReporting pointed out, Huwail “described the terrorist who murdered four people in a vehicle-ramming and knife rampage in Beersheba on March 22 as a ‘lone lion’ who had ‘sounded the alarm of this criminal Zionist occupation.’”
Their testimony, a mixture of projection and knee-jerk Israel-bashing, is as trustworthy as the conclusion reached by Palestinian officialdom. Following the autopsy, which was performed at the Forensic Medicine Institute of Al Najah University in Nablus, PA Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib announced definitively that Abu Akleh had been killed by Israeli forces.
Worse, he said that the victim had been fleeing from the direction of the gunfire when she was struck in the head by a 5.56 mm bullet—one typically used to penetrate armor. This would explain how the helmet she was wearing was not effective.
Such claims might be more plausible were the PA not hiding the bullet in question, and if other video clips out there didn’t show Palestinian gunmen themselves firing M-16 rifles. This dubious situation didn’t prevent 57 House Democrats from sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding that they investigate. The implication of the May 19 missive, initiated by Representatives Andre Carson of Indiana, Lou Correa of California, and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, was clear: Israeli behavior required immediate attention.
Ironically, from the get-go, Israel sought both Palestinian cooperation and American assistance in the matter. Neither agreed. This is par for the PA. But it is peculiar from Washington’s point of view.
In the first place, Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old resident of eastern Jerusalem venerated among Arabic speakers for her coverage of the Middle East, was a dual American-Israeli citizen. It would be appropriate, then, for the United States to oversee the findings of her autopsy, certainly when urged to do so by Israel. That the PA would have no desire for such intervention makes sense. The powers that be in Ramallah are not after the truth, since it may, or already does, conflict with their version of events.
One biographical detail that Abbas and his echo chamber are obfuscating, for instance, is that Abu Akleh was a Christian. The Islamic shouts of “Allahu Akbar” for her “martyrdom” tend to glaze over her origins. Indeed, the vociferous appropriation of her death by the PA has drowned out her identity entirely.
Which brings us to her funeral.
Two days after her tragic and untimely demise, Abu Akleh was set to be laid to rest in a respect-ful ceremony, as per her grieving family’s wishes. The plan was for her body to be accompanied by processions starting in Jenin and passing through Nablus and Ramallah to Saint Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem. From there, her coffin was to be transported by hearse to the Greek Orthodox cemetery on Mount Zion, where she would be buried next to her late parents and grandfather.
It was when the hearse approached the hospital that Abu Akleh’s final passage turned ugly. Mobs of Palestinians surrounded and pounded on the vehicle, forcing it to back away. At this point, the throngs grabbed the coffin at the entrance to the hospital, in an attempt to march it through the streets of Jerusalem. Footage from the Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera examined by the research organization Palestinian Media Watch shows a Palestinian Jerusalem official explaining that the crowd wanted Abu Akleh’s body to be carried on their shoulders (as is customary treatment for Islamic “martyrs”), rather than in the church’s hearse, so the occasion would not be marked “as if a Christian woman died.”
Ahead of the funeral, Abu Akleh’s brother had coordinated the schedule with the Israel Police precisely to avoid such mishaps. His effort to preserve the dignity of his sister’s burial was in vain, as the “mourners” outside the hospital were too busy exploiting her death to care about her family’s feelings.
Faced with the chaos, police officers took action to retrieve the coffin and bring it back to the hospital so that the hearse could return and then go to the cemetery. Under attack from the angry horde, the men-in-blue forcefully confronted the aggressors. The entire clash, according to Palestinian Media Watch, lasted a total of three minutes. Nevertheless, a tsunami of anti-Israel coverage ensued with glee-filled fervor. Initially, it was the IDF under the anti-Semitic microscope. Afterwards, the Israel Police took a literal and figurative beating.
PA chieftain Abbas couldn’t be more pleased with the way the entire story has unfolded. He warmly welcomes any additional impetus to incite his people and the world against Israel. Extremely unpopular at home, and with an increasing number of Palestinians supporting his rivals in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he takes any opportunity he can get to illustrate that he is just as bent on destroying the “Zionist entity” as they are. Playing a double game, he simultaneously whines to the West that his efforts at peace with Israel are made impossible by its “evil occupation.”
That Abu Akleh was killed in Jenin is particularly relevant in this context. The 1993–5 Oslo Accords gave the PA control over the city and refugee camp. Part of the autonomy meant that the Palestinian leadership was in charge of acting against terrorism. It never worked out that way, compelling Israel periodically to do the job. Hence, the raid that inadvertently turned the Al Jazeera journalist into a household name.
Her death couldn’t have come at a better time for the physically and politically ailing Abbas. It is the perfect prop for his latest Pallywood drama. Pallywood, a portmanteau coined more than two decades ago by the historian Richard Landes, refers to productions staged by the Palestinians to manipulate the media by disguising anti-Israel propaganda as news. It was first used to depict the global brouhaha surrounding the death in Gaza of 12-year-old Muhammed al-Dura.
On the day that became known as the start of the Second Intifada—Hamas’s nearly four-and-a-half-year suicide-bombing war against innocent Israelis—France 2 TV broadcast footage of a shootout between IDF troops and terrorists in Gaza, zooming in on al-Dura and his father taking cover behind a concrete drum. The heavily edited film of the boy slumping after being shot was the work of a Palestinian stringer for the state-run French network and its reporter, Charles Enderlin.
The dispute that followed never was completely resolved, and it bears recalling in light of the current controversy over Abu Akleh. Then, as now, the PA accused the IDF of “murder” and hailed the victim as a “martyr.” At the time, as well, left-wing groups in Israel and abroad used the story as evidence of Israeli “brutality” against the Palestinians. Amid the din, Israel’s assurances that it was scrutinizing the source of the gunfire and that the child was not assassinated by the IDF fell on many a deaf ear. Something similar is happening today, with social media spreading the inconclusive or doctored clips at a frightening pace.
The good news, along with the fake, is twofold. First, not everyone is buying or selling the presumption of Zionist guilt. In contrast to the reflexive hostility of their radical colleagues in Congress, a bipartisan group of 25 representatives gave Israel the benefit of the doubt in its own letter to Blinken.
“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation, so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” stated the letter, spearheaded by New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer and sent on May 4.
And second, the Internet platforms enabling the rapid dissemination of demonization also allow for swift rebuttal. The scores of talented tweeters sharing valuable information to counter the lies and offer solace to like-minded, lonely followers deserve kudos for their labors.
Actress and author Noa Tishby, Israel’s first-ever Special Envoy for Combating Anti-Semitism and Delegitimization, is a prime example. In a TikTok video that went viral within minutes of its release, the brunette bombshell gave an explosive exposé of enemy indoctrination relating to Abu Akleh.
“Here are some facts you may not know,” she begins her brief clip. “The International Federation of Journalists … conducted a report about the number of death cases of journalists in war zones between 1990 and 2020. According to the report, 2,658 journalists have been killed in that period of time. Three hundred forty were killed in Iraq, 178 in Mexico, 160 in the Philippines, 138 in Pakistan, and 116 in India. Twelve of the cases were Al Jazeera journalists. Seven of them were killed in Syria, two in Iraq, one in Yemen, one in Libya, and one case from last week.”
She goes on: “Each one of these deaths is horrific, but you can’t name the other 2,657 journalists. You can only name the one [who] was killed in clashes between Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli army. In any of the other deaths, we did not see such vitriol, hateful, horrific reactions and rhetoric as we’ve seen by the international community, social media, celebrities, and the United Nations towards Israel.”
This, she concludes, “is what we call a double standard… and it’s purely rooted in sometimes subconscious anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish racism. So, please, just think about that for a minute, as well. Okay? And rest in peace, Shireen.”
In a sphere dominated by those who jump on any excuse to delegitimize Israel, Tishby and her allies are engaged in a Sisyphean battle. She realizes that even if the IDF is ultimately exonerated in the Abu Akleh saga, the PA and its sophists won’t cease exploiting the episode until the next one comes along.
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