Jamal Kashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh were well-known journalists who were killed in the line of duty. There are many differences between the horrific, premeditated murder of the Saudi journalist and the killing of the Palestinian one, the circumstances of which have not yet been fully established. But more than a month after Abu Akleh’s death it can be said with near certainty that her killers knew that she was a journalist and killed her for it, just like the people who killed her Saudi colleague.
For this reason, we mustn’t allow her death to sink into oblivion, as is now happening, without finding the people responsible for it. The crime was less shocking in its circumstances than the murder of Khashoggi, but it was a serious crime nevertheless. It must not remain one devoid of guilty and responsible parties.
There is no chance that the person who knew to aim his weapon at the only exposed spot on Abu Akleh’s neck, between her helmet and her protective vest, did not see the prominent letters on her chest, and that of her colleagues, identifying them as journalists. He meant to kill a journalist, even if the IDF spokesperson tries to argue otherwise. Like the IDF, Saudi Arabia denied for a long time that it had murdered Khashoggi, claiming that he had died in a “brawl.”
Evidence that IDF soldiers are the ones who killed Abu Akleh is piling up, even without a smoking gun, with not a shred of evidence showing that she was killed by Palestinian fire. CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera conducted intensive investigations that led to an almost unequivocal conclusion that IDF soldiers are the ones who shot her.
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A desperate attempt by Israel to show a video describing the possibility that she was killed by indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire was dismissed in reports by Deiaa Haj Yahia in Haaretz and by the human rights organization B’Tselem. These proved that there was no line of sight between the armed Palestinians and the journalist. The CNN report showed three bullet marks on a tree beside the spot in which she was killed, too close together to suggest indiscriminate fire. The Washington Post revealed that there had been no shooting in the minutes before her death, and that she was killed by one gunshot fired by one person. The bullet, suggested the report, was fired from inside a vehicle in a military convoy that was about 180 meters from Abu Akleh. This type of bullet, according to Al Jazeera, is in use by the IDF.
Saudi Arabia and its leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, paid a heavy international price for Khashoggi’s murder. One may assume that as a result, Crown Prince Mohammed will never again order the murder of a journalist. Israel, which, in the absence of unambiguous proof, will enjoy the benefit of the doubt, will pay nothing. Thus, the IDF will not hesitate to hit other Palestinian journalists in the future, including by sharpshooters. There are people in the army who know the truth. There were soldiers and commanders there who saw and knew what happened, and they’re keeping it to themselves. This is not only a betrayal of their office, it’s a whitewashing of a crime and a call for committing similar crimes in the future.
Imagine a scenario in which a video is found, showing the Israeli sharpshooter firing at Abu Akleh. Will anyone be prosecuted? For what? For murder, for manslaughter? Will the system unanimously condemn the shooter? Will the media portray him as a criminal and a murderer? Will his colleagues and commanders, who knew about and concealed his actions, be sent to prison for withholding evidence? It’s laughable to even ask such questions. During Abu Akleh’s funeral, policeman went wild in their barbarity, striking the pallbearers with their batons and almost causing them to drop the coffin. Was anyone punished for this? A police investigation found some “faults.” These will not be made public and no policeman will be charged. Abu Akleh’s killer will be treated even more gently: Most Israelis will view him as a hero.
No one dismembered Abu Akleh’s body inside a consulate and no one shoved rags into her mouth so that her screams would not be heard. But on the morning of May 11, a journalist was shot to death from a distance, deliberately, almost certainly by IDF soldiers, who will take their crime and their secret with them to their graves. The world, and most Israelis, will forgive the IDF for this as well.