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Neither Israelis nor Palestinians Care Who Killed Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh adorns a wall, in Gaza City, on Sunday.
A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh adorns a wall, in Gaza City, on Sunday.Credit: Adel Hana /AP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The story of the death last week of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the Jenin refugee camp activates those giving the stage directions on every side with astounding precision: the automatic talking parrots on one side accuse the “Israel Defense Forces stormtroopers” of executing the journalist from Al Jazeera, while the mechanical bots of the other side blame the Palestinians of the killing itself and of spreading lies – because the IDF, as everyone knows, is the most moral army in the world and never makes a mistake. Now other big names have joined the festivities, among them Susan Sarandon, who’s decided to side with Bella Hadid. (Bar Refaeli and Gal Gadot – last call for the box office.)

It is possible, and necessary, to mention the general and broader context in which this event (also) took place: an operation in occupied territory by IDF and Shin Bet security service units, some of which are plagued by profound moral faults, within a situation that is one of total bereavement and failure: holding territory under military rule whose population is held hostage without basic civil rights.

After we’ve said all this – and it’s important to say it because the blood of a journalist, even as recognizable, famous and inspirational as she may be, is not redder than the blood of other innocent victims, including Palestinians and also Jews, who accidentally find themselves at the scene of a murderous terror incident – we must examine the present case in a serious manner in an attempt to find the truth and discover who shot Shireen Abu Akleh.

When we try to get down to the real facts of the matter, we discover first of all that no decent person can at the moment give an honest and verified answer to this question. After a short time, we discover even more: that none of the parties involved is even interested in finding the truth. This is exemplified more than anything else in the story of the bullet – apparently the only thing that can provide evidence showing with a relatively reasonable high level of certainty which weapon was used to kill Abu Akleh.

The Palestinians, who rushed to the scene to remove the body, do not want to give Israel the bullet they removed from it because a “not good” finding from their perspective – in other words, that the journalist was shot by an armed Palestinian – could very well put paid to their magnificent round of exploitation of the incident, which serves the Palestinian Authority on a number of fronts. It serves it outwardly as a foundation for the Davidic narrative, according to which Israel – read: Goliath – kills women and journalists. Moreover, it serves PA President Mahmoud Abbas domestically by strengthening his standing vis-à-vis Hamas, because he’s the man orchestrating the events, as his appearance at Abu Akleh’s funeral demonstrates. Paradoxically, the Israelis are happy with his burgeoning power too: “He may be growing stronger at our expense, but it’s still worth it for us,” one senior official commented.

The truth is that Israelis too – in spite of all the declarations and the explicit request – do not actually want to receive the bullet (“What will happen if it turns out that we really did kill her?” a senior defense official told me, in all honesty.) As far as the Israeli side is concerned, Palestinian obstinacy is rather convenient, allowing Israel to have its cake (“We offered all the tools needed for investigating the truth/the Palestinians are not providing the bullet because they have something to hide”), and eat it too (should solid evidence show that Abu Akleh did die as a result of Israeli fire).

Meanwhile, as long as the Palestinians do not hand over the bullet, the Biden administration is not expected to take any action against Israel, and officials in the know say that even Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered, is containing the incident – and at this stage is not taking the steps it could implement against Israel.

Since her tragic death, Abu Akleh has served as a vessel for the narrative contractors on both sides, who are exploiting her body. These narratives were cast long before the incident, and an investigation of the truth in this case could damage one of them. Which is why you should not be surprised if the noise surrounding this incident only grows louder and louder, but in terms of what’s happening on the ground – chiefly, the opening of an investigation by a number of organizations – is actually being thwarted.

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