Some two months ago, Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in Jenin. The ensuing chorus of accusations that Israel intentionally killed her was almost Pavlovian. According to findings released by the IDF two days after the incident, there were two possible sources of gunfire: First, armed Palestinians who shot her while aiming at IDF vehicles. Second, an IDF soldier who fired from inside a jeep at a terrorist standing next to Akleh, hitting her inadvertently. Either way, the investigation assumed she was shot by mistake.
Why were the findings inconclusive? Why weren’t the soldiers who could have been involved subject to questioning? Because the Palestinians held the bullet that caused Akleh’s death and refused to hand it over for testing. In addition, they refused to conduct a joint forensic investigation that could shed light on the incident.
None of this stopped both the media and the Palestinians from reaching their own conclusions. CNN and The New York Times found that Israel was to blame, whether accidentally or intentionally. The Palestinians, of course, went further, publishing findings from an “investigation” that claimed Akleh was shot from behind while trying to run away from IDF soldiers, who simply opened fire on an innocent journalist, as we all know the IDF loves to do. To anyone with any sense, of course, it’s obvious that Israel has no interest in killing journalists, and the fallout from Akleh’s death is far greater than the benefits of silencing her.
Why is all this happening? Because the Palestinians won’t give up so easily on a good story that can demonize Israel. The world has lost interest in the Palestinian issue and Akleh’s death has somewhat revived it. U.S. President Joe Biden’s impending visit to the Middle East has also rekindled the story. Yet after the U.S. finally pressured the Palestinians into handing over the bullet that supposedly killed Akleh, the American analysis came back inconclusive.
There could be even more forensic tests, with which Israel will cooperate, instead of standing up and stating with confidence that the tests are meaningless because the evidence could have been tampered with. It might sound crazy, but this is completely plausible when it comes to the Palestinians. Hundreds of terrorists have been shot and killed by our forces. Would it be so hard to take one of those bullets, clean it and put a few drops of the journalist’s blood on it? Here’s the DNA, the Palestinians will claim, and the world will believe their claims that the IDF destroyed the weapon that fired the bullet. And that will be that. Quod erat demonstrandum—the thing required was shown. The fact that hundreds of stolen IDF weapons are in circulation in Jenin also won’t change a thing.
A few final words: War reporters are heroes. They tell an important story and know that in doing so they are putting their lives at risk. They can be accidentally killed by either side, and they understand this and take it into account. However, hundreds of journalists have been killed in war zones across the globe, and no one has run ballistic tests on those bullets. Just for us. What else is new?
Karni Eldad is a journalist, columnist and editor.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.