Shireen Abu Akleh and the rush to judgment

The facts available to the public about the tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera are sparse. 

The Israel Defence Forces conducted a raid on Jenin on the morning of Wednesday 10 May, searching for accomplices to the recent terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, the latest of which saw three Israeli fathers attacked and killed with axes.

Gun battles between the IDF and Palestinian militants rang out in a number of areas of Jenin, and during one of these Abu Akleh was shot, apparently dying instantly.

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Al Jazeera and various Palestinian sources immediately accused Israel of carrying out a targeted assassination, and their claim was quickly echoed around the world. For its part, Israel pointed to the indiscriminate shooting habits of Palestinian gunmen, using video from a different location in Jenin. In the video, there are shouts that a soldier is down, shot. No Israeli soldier was injured, so who had the Palestinians shot?

None of these uncertainties yesterday prevented Irish politicians from jumping on the Al Jazeera bandwagon. Sinn Féin’s John Brady tweeted that “The murder of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli occupation forces must be investigated as a war crime.” In the Dáil, Mary Lou McDonald accused Israel of a “long-established pattern” of “systemic targeting” of journalists, and claimed Abu Akleh was “shot in the face by an Israeli sniper”.

Paul Murphy told the Dáil that “The Israeli Defense Forces ignored the (press) jacket and shot her in the head in what has been described as a cold-blooded assassination.” Richard Boyd Barrett, apparently unaware that the Oslo Accords permit IDF activity in Area A towns and cities like Jenin, demanded to know “What the hell were the Israeli Defense Forces, IDF, doing carrying out “an operation” on Palestinian territory?”

In the meantime, Israel has promised a thorough investigation and requested a joint examination with the Palestinian Authority. This request has been rejected, with the PA saying they will share investigation results with the United States and Qatar. Since Qatar is a state-sponsor of Palestinian terrorism we won’t hold our breath.

The head of the Nablus Medical Centre said late yesterday that it was not possible to say yet that the shooting was carried out by the IDF. Further tests are needed on the bullet, which has been recovered. Twitter is awash with geolocation, forensic and ballistic experts claiming to know who was shooting where, and which bullets are more likely to come from Israeli or Palestinian guns.

The truth is, nobody knows yet who shot Shireen Abu Akleh. But that hasn’t stopped the court of public opinion from charging, trying, convicting and condemning Israel. If only Palestinian terrorism was met with the same condemnation.

Optional Extra

  1. Watch this video “Who killed Shireen Abu Akleh?” from the Israel Advocacy Network

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