The making of a Palestinian martyr

The death of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh is Ramallah’s latest excuse to enlist the international community in its effort to demonize Israel by accusing it of targeting children.

Palestinian gunmen and mourners participate in the funeral procession of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh, killed the previous night during an IDF raid in Jenin, Dec. 12, 2022. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Palestinian gunmen and mourners participate in the funeral procession of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh, killed the previous night during an IDF raid in Jenin, Dec. 12, 2022. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For the powers-that-be in the Palestinian Authority, the death on Sunday night of 16-year-old Jana Zakarneh couldn’t have come at a better time, mere hours before the arrival in the region of U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba.

Gamba kicked off her visit, a fact-finding mission to garner fodder for her annual report on harm to kids in the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict,” in Ramallah. According to the Wafa news agency, her first meeting was with P.A. Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who presented her with detailed documentation of “Israel’s systematic and deliberate crimes against Palestinian children,” including “killing and maiming, targeting of schools and hospitals, sexual assaults, kidnapping and denying access to humanitarian and medical aid.”

It must have been music to Gamba’s ears. In the guise of neutrality, however, she will convene with and hear Jerusalem’s version of events (in other words, the truth): that Israel is in a defensive war against terrorists and goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, often to the point of imperiling its own troops.

But the deck of the international body, as always, is stacked against Israel, regardless of the reality on the ground. Zakarneh’s death is but a case in point. Incidents such as the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was caught in a crossfire between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists on May 11, are rare. In fact, considering the cynical use by terrorists of non-combatants as human shields, it’s a miracle not more of them are killed.

Furthermore, Zakarneh’s presence next to an armed terrorist during a firefight with the Israeli military raises serious questions about her degree of involvement. Initial investigations indicate, for instance, that she regularly served as a photographer for gunmen in her neighborhood. And cellphone footage from her camera isn’t the only evidence.

Her grieving uncle’s contradictory accounts of the night in question were just as big a giveaway, albeit unintentional. He told one outlet that his niece had been at home minding her own business when the sound of gunshots overhead spurred her to race to the roof. He was quoted on Twitter as claiming that she had gone to the roof to find her missing cat.

Both stories are revealing; most young girls would have responded to the noise of gunfire, all-too-familiar in Jenin, by cowering under their beds, not rushing to get in on the action. It’s puzzling that no adult blocked her exit from the apartment under the circumstances.

As Israeli soldiers and Border Police were in pursuit of terrorists, three of whom were known to be plotting imminent attacks, residents of the area hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and explosives at them. Experience has taught both the murderers and those seeking to arrest them that rooftops are the best perch for this. IDF snipers were thus appropriately positioned.

The one who ended up shooting Zakarneh was simply doing his extremely difficult, dangerous job—in pitch darkness, no less. Had the young woman not been next to the targeted terrorist, filming the exchange to post on social media for propaganda purposes, she would still be alive and well.

But, then, mobs of hate-filled Palestinians would have been robbed of the ritual of carrying her flag-draped body through the streets of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) city that has become a key base for arms-hoarding and terrorist activity against the “Zionists.” It’s par for the making of a martyr, whose family will be rewarded with a generous monthly stipend from the P.A.

That’s a given, as is the vile way in which the whole scenario will be depicted in Gamba’s report.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

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