The death of Palestinian-American journalist Shirin Abu Akleh should have marked a turning point in the US government’s approach to protecting foreign journalists – but when an ally can be blamed, it becomes a problem.
Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist who worked for Al Jazeera, had many things: he was a Christian and a brave journalist, but to most Palestinians he was the name of a favorite family that many grew up watching on TV. His death came as a shock, not least because eyewitnesses said Israeli forces shot him in the head with live ammunition during an operation in the Jenin camp in the West Bank.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry quickly shared a video of Palestinian gunmen firing on Jenin, Claiming on Twitter That Palestinians “The indiscriminate firing probably hit Al-Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akla.” Israel’s top human rights body, B’Tselem, then conducted an investigation into claims made by the Israeli government, demonstrating “The shooting shown in this video may not have been a gunshot wound to Shirin Abu Akleh and his colleague.” Despite the lack of evidence, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a speech addressing the incident, suggested that a “Significant Possibilities” Palestine liability and calls for Israeli investigation.
When State Department spokesman Ned Price addressed the U.S. media on the night of Abu Akleh’s death and suggested the Biden administration’s position and response to the killings, he spoke of Washington’s confidence in the Israeli government’s ability to conduct an investigation. When asked by reporters why there should be no international investigation, where the United States will be involved – due to doubts about Israel’s ability to remain neutral, Price cited Iyad al-Halaq. Iyad al-Halaq was a Palestinian with special needs who was shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem in May 2020. Although Price used it as an example of Israel holding its forces accountable, the trial is ongoing and no one has been captured or held captive. Israeli authorities have released the name of the accused police officer.
The Israeli position, which the Palestinians probably killed Abu Akleh, was relocated a day later, when Israeli authorities said they would investigate his death and even mentioned that an Israeli soldier had killed him, a possibility that would be investigated. However, according to a May 19 report, Israel is no longer going to investigate the killings, as an investigation into Israeli soldiers being treated as suspects is likely to face opposition from the country’s society.
The question now is whether the Israeli investigation into Abu Akleh’s assassination will be carried out at all, and the US government’s claim that Israel can be trusted to conduct a proper investigation seems even more credible. Indeed, Israel’s past actions indicate just the opposite. The last shooting of a clearly identified journalist wearing a vest labeled ‘Press’ took place in the Gaza Strip in April 2018, when snipers shot and killed 30-year-old Yasser Murtaza during a non-violent protest. Display. “Yasir Mortaza was a civilian and a journalist who wore clear press identities when filming the protests in Gaza with Israel. He was there because he wanted to register civilians exercising their right to protest peacefully. The Norwegian Refugee Council said at the time that a subsequent UN human rights report reflected a conclusion.
Instead of investigating his troops for killing Murtaza, Israeli officials began claiming that the victim was flying a drone over the heads of Israeli soldiers and trying to portray the young journalist as a terrorist. During the ‘Great Return March’ protests in 2018-19, Israel did not only prosecute any of its soldiers for the killings, not a single soldier was accused of killing more than 300 Palestinians, including two journalists.
In 2016, in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil, an Israeli soldier named Azoria Ilo killed a Palestinian man lying unconscious on the ground. After the video of the whole incident was released, making it impossible to distort what happened, Israel worked and Azaria was finally punished, sentenced in 2018 to 18 months in prison. However, it was later reduced to four months by the Army Chief of Staff, Gaddy Eisenkot. This is the last time Israeli troops have been sent to prison for killing a Palestinian.
At Abu Akleh’s funeral last Friday, Israeli forces attacked mourners and palbears, later claiming that Palestinians were throwing shells and bottles at them – but there have been indications since then. Medical and Electoral Editing Footage of the funeral is in the hands of the police.
Even if Israel finally conducts its own investigation into his murder, past examples indicate that a neutral outcome is unlikely, and Israeli soldiers, even if convicted, will not be brought to justice at the full extent of the law. In fact, the track record of accountability is so bad that B’Tselem, a human rights group, no longer bothers to file complaints with the Israeli Defense Forces and the police, sees it as a futile endeavor.
Without calling for an international inquiry, or launching one itself, the US administration is sending a clear message to Israel that those involved in the killing of US journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories will not be held accountable.
The statements, opinions and opinions expressed in this column do not merely represent the author and RT’s.