Editorial |

The Israeli Military Must Provide Real Answers on Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh's Death

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Shireen Abu Akleh.
Shireen Abu Akleh.Credit: /AP

Following ballistic tests of the bullet that killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, the U.S. State Department concluded on Monday that it’s impossible to determine for certain who killed her. Nevertheless, it added, it is “likely” that the fatal shot came from an Israel Defense Forces position.

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Although the Americans said they “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances,” the IDF apparently didn’t like the conclusion that its soldiers were “likely” responsible for the shooting. So what did it do? It erased the part it didn’t like. The army issued a statement without mentioning the Americans’ conclusion that its soldiers probably fired the bullet. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said it’s impossible to be sure which gun fired the bullet due to the bullet’s damaged condition.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz went even further by claiming the true blame for Abu Akleh’s death rested with another party entirely. “You have to remember that the ones who bear responsibility for this incident are first and foremost the terrorists who operate from among a civilian population,” he said. There’s nothing new under the Israeli sun – the Palestinians kill themselves.

Israel can’t ignore the conclusion, based on the tests, that it’s “likely” Israeli soldiers fired the bullet. Nor is it only the Americans who reached that conclusion. Last week, the UN Human Rights Commission announced that its own investigation similarly found that Abu Akleh was killed by IDF fire. CNN, which also conducted its own investigation, determined that the IDF was in all probability the source of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh. In that case, too, the IDF said that “based on the investigation’s findings, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has ordered work to continue to clarify and investigate the incident using all the tools at our disposal, out of a commitment to transparency and uncovering the truth.” But beyond those pretty words, it provided no information as to who will clarify and investigate and what tools will be used.

The IDF must provide real answers about the circumstances of the death of a journalist who was a Palestinian symbol both in life and in death, and all the more so after Israel desecrated her coffin during her unforgettable funeral procession. Instead of once again trying to do a snow job on the whole world with vague promises and an endless public diplomacy campaign, it ought to demand that the Military Police open an immediate criminal investigation.

Even if such probes always have a tendency to be “the IDF investigating itself,” this would nevertheless be infinitely preferable to Israel’s denials of one simple fact – everyone who has investigated this incident has pointed a finger at soldiers from the Duvdevan unit, even if this is “merely” very likely.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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