‘The Los Angeles Times’ and its absurd Abu Akleh conspiracy theory

Without evidence, the paper accuses the Israeli government of ordering the killing of the “Al Jazeera” journalist.

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Source: Screenshot.
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Source: Screenshot.
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

The Los Angeles Times has outflanked CNN by adopting the most fantastical, journalistically-challenged narrative of the unsolved fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists.

Facing a shortage of objective evidence, CNN’s farcical “investigation” relied on the feelings of biased eyewitnesses. On that basis, it concluded that Israeli troops deliberately killed Abu Akleh.

Relying on nothing at all, The Los Angeles Times has decided to publish the even more unhinged libel that the Israeli government played a role in Abu Akleh’s killing, akin to the Saudi monarchy’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a report about U.S. President Joe Biden’s appearance at the Summit of the Americas, Times reporters Tracy Wilkinson and Courtney Subramanian wrote: “Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, completing a round of speeches, addressed a symposium for student journalists to defend press freedoms. But he quickly found himself battling back difficult questions, like why the U.S. deals with governments that allegedly kill journalists while condemning others.”

Seven paragraphs later, the reporters pointed to “Israel and Saudi Arabia, two governments involved in recent killings of journalists.”

“In one case, a well-known Palestinian journalist was shot and killed during an Israeli raid on a West Bank city; the case has not been resolved, but some Palestinians blame Israel for the killing,” they wrote.

“In the other case, a prominent Saudi journalist and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, and U.S. intelligence officials believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the killing,” the reporters added.

It should be superfluous to point out that while “some Palestinians blame Israel for the killing,” as the article accurately notes, this does not amount to proof of Israeli government involvement. Indeed, so long as the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to relinquish the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for ballistic analysis, it cannot even be established whether an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian gunman fired the fatal shot.

Moreover, if a ballistics test did one day establish that an Israeli soldier fired the gun, how would that implicate the Israeli government? A bullet could have ricocheted, the soldier might have shot Abu Akleh by mistake or something else could have gone wrong. Even in the highly unlikely case that the soldier deliberately disobeyed orders and targeted a journalist, this would still not establish Israeli government involvement.

Indeed, how would the Times even begin to prove that the soldier received government orders to murder Abu Akleh? Was there a cabinet meeting at which the government approved the killing? If not, what exactly constituted Israeli government involvement? There are no remotely plausible answers to these questions.

The Associated Press, Agence France Presse and The Guardian have all commendably corrected themselves after reporting as fact the unsubstantiated allegation that Israeli soldiers killed Abu Akleh. Why hasn’t The Los Angeles Times corrected the even more outrageous claim that the Israeli government played a role in the killing? And if the Times is going to stand by that fabrication, what’s next?

The Times’ allegation is as tethered to reality as the following make-believe scenario: The Israeli government was involved in the murders of Israeli civilians in Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv and Beersheva to establish the pretext for a counter-terror operation that would provide the opportunity to knock off public enemy No. 1, Shireen Abu Akleh.

CAMERA contacted senior Times editors last week and pointed out that (as their own reporters acknowledged), Abu Akleh’s case has not been solved. Despite this, the Times has failed to retract their baseless accusation, suggesting that the paper has drifted into full-blown conspiracy theory. Is this the kind of thing that passes as “press freedom” at The Los Angeles Times? Freedom from the facts?

Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

This article was originally published by CAMERA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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