America Can’t Prove It, But Blames Israel Anyway for Al Jazeera Reporter’s Death

Meanwhile, Israeli experts say Jerusalem needs a coherent strategy to convey its positions irrespective of how Shireen Abu Akleh was killed.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: America, Media Bias
Palestinian journalists take part in a candlelight vigil in the Gaza Strip in memory of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin during a firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorists on May 11, 2022.
Palestinian journalists take part in a candlelight vigil in the Gaza Strip in memory of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin during a firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorists on May 11, 2022. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

The final analysis into the death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was predictably inconclusive, and frustrating.

The Palestinian Authority finally handed over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to be examined by American and Israeli officials.

The United States Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) Lt.-Gen. Michael Fenzel announced shortly after that the bullet was too damaged to determine who had fired it.

This contrasted sharply with the conclusion reached by the Palestinians, Al Jazeera and other mainstream media outlets like CNN, which all shouted that an Israeli soldier had shot Abu Akleh, and had done so on purpose.

That the bullet was no longer suitable for genuine forensic analysis after weeks in the hands of the Palestinians didn’t come as much of a surprise. What did shock Israelis was that despite this fact, Gen. Fenzel still decided to point an accusatory finger at the Jewish state.

“Gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death, read the report by Fenzel’s office. Though he did conceded there was “no reason to believe that this was intentional.”

The question on every Israeli’s lips was: If it’s not possible to actually prove who shot the bullet, why speculate, especially when such speculation feeds the anti-Israel narrative?

That’s certainly not what the Jewish state expected from its closest ally.


Israel will not be deterred

Israel’s new Prime Minister Yair Lapid responded to the report by insisting that the IDF does not deliberately target journalists, and will not let this incident deter it from combatting Palestinian terrorism:

“Tragically, hundreds of journalists have been killed in recent years in combat zones around the world. The State of Israel recognizes the importance of freedom of the press and safeguarding journalists as they carry out their duties.

“The IDF will continue fighting terror whenever and wherever necessary. I give full and unequivocal backing to the IDF soldiers who risk their lives to defend the citizens of Israel from terrorism and who work around the clock for the security of Israel.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed that regardless of who shot the fatal bullet, the blame for Abu Akleh’s death ultimately lies on the Palestinian terrorists who operate from civilian areas:

“It is important to emphasize that during this operational event, as in many others, hundreds of bullets were fired at IDF troops, who responded with fire of their own—only in the direction of the sources of fire.

“Our troops and their commanders have the duty to defend the citizens of the State of Israel, and they have my full support to operate accordingly.”


Getting ahead of the story

Israeli experts responded to the unfortunate American report by stressing that Israel’s leaders need to do a better job of getting out in front of the story.

IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, who served in the military for more than 40 years and is currently a member of the Israel Defense and Security Forum, told JNS that while Abu Akleh’s death was regrettable, the incident itself is not unique—many journalists across the globe are killed every year covering wars. That this particular event has generated so much attention, he said, is evidence of an irrational fixation with Israel.

“It doesn’t matter if Abu Akleh was a Palestinian or an American or any other nationality. She was a journalist who entered a battlefield, and there is risk involved [in that]. Hundreds of reporters perish the same way, and it is obvious that Israel did not kill her intentionally. What is the difference between her case and other places of conflict?” he said.

He further emphasized that the IDF goes to great lengths—“more so than any other military in the world”—to avoid civilian casualties.

“Israel is justified in conducting operations in order to protect its citizens and this is the real issue–not whose bullet killed Abu Akleh,” he said.


Soviet-style propaganda

The Al Jazeera reporter was killed during one of a series of IDF missions launched in the aftermath of numerous deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis, some of whose perpetrators came from Jenin.

Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare Project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, agrees that the devil, in this instance, is not in the details. The need to uncover the facts was relegated to the back burner from the get-go, he said.

“The Abu Akleh incident is an example of Soviet-style propaganda, par excellence,” Diker said. “It is the byproduct of the ideological political warfare that [PA chief] Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat learned at the knees of their Soviet paymasters starting in the 1960s. It was a full frontal assault on Jews and the Jewish collective before anyone could even turn around,” he added.

“Abu Akleh worked out of Israel for decades essentially as a political warrior on behalf of the PA while operating under the guise of ‘journalist,’” he continued. “You’ll notice that within moments of the event, the Palestinian political warfare machine went into full gear, blaming Israel for ‘murdering’ her. This, before any of the circumstances were known. This is the same PA that blamed Israel for infecting Palestinians with coronavirus and for poisoning wells in the West Bank.”

There is a term for this approach in Russian literature, said Diker: “gibridnaya voyna,” which translates into “hybrid warfare”; that is, using all available means to harm your enemy, whether political, economic, cultural, etc. This “360 degree” attack strategy was called “omni-directional warfare” by Israeli scholar Dr. Ofer Fridman.

“And you can judge the effectiveness, given that much of the Western media adopted the Palestinian narrative,” said Diker. “CNN, for example, published an ‘investigative’ report that concluded that Israel ‘targeted’ Abu Akleh. Israel would do well to wake up to this decades-old Palestinian campaign, because failing to do so has placed its legitimacy on life support in many circles.”

With reporting by JNS.

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