The events during Friday’s funeral procession of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot to death last week during clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, are a mark of Cain on Israel.
During the funeral procession, police confiscated Palestinian flags from mourners and struck her pallbearers with batons. One video shows dozens of police running toward pallbearers and dispersing them with batons, almost leading them to drop the coffin.
The police dishonored Abu Akleh’s memory, showed zero respect for the mourners and turned the funeral into a mess that should put all Israelis to shame. Even if some people rioted at the funeral, the police’s job is to lower the flames, not raise them.
This is not just about damage to Israel’s image. This is a definitive incident that revealed the full ugliness of life under Israel’s occupation. No PR in the world can repair the damage, because there is no “narrative” that justifies the Israel Police’s conduct.
- Death of Al Jazeera reporter: In the court of global opinion, Israel has already lost
- Clashes with police erupt at Palestinian journalist's funeral procession
- In the ‘investigation’ into Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, too, no one will be found guilty
This is not only about contempt for the pain and grief of the Palestinians; it is about a fundamentally wrong attitude toward the Palestinian flag. This is the flag of the Palestinian Authority – an entity established as part of a deal with Israel, a deal that among other things enshrines the security cooperation that Israel has enjoyed for almost 30 years – and it is recognized by the whole world, including Israel. The police must stop considering waving the flag to be an act of defiance. Anyone may wave it, like any other flag, anywhere, including in Israel, where – and it is important to once again remind the Israeli public in general, and the Israel Police in particular – it is not against the law.
Beyond that, one must ask: What flag do Israelis believe the Palestinians should identify with? Have the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation been invited to become equal citizens of Israel and wave its flag? U.S. President Joe Biden said the events at the funeral should be investigated, officials in the U.S. government expressed shock and Democratic lawmakers condemned it.
There were condemnations in Israel too, and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, along with Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, on Saturday ordered an investigation into the police’s conduct during the funeral. Hopefully the investigation will not end with empty statements and worthless reprimands. To change the reckless and violent behavior of the police in the streets of Jerusalem, those responsible must be identified and replaced.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.