So much of what has happened surrounding the death of Shireen Abu Akleh is emblematic of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
If you have been hiding under a rock for the past few days, here is a summary of what happened to long-time Al Jazeera reporter Abu Akleh this past Wednesday:
After 19 Israelis were murdered over the last 45 days, with many of the murderers coming from the Islamic Jihad and Hamas hotbed that is the town of Jenin. The Israeli army was forced to enter the town in pursuit of wanted terrorists who attacked Israelis and/or were planning more attacks. The IDF forces found themselves facing a barrage of gunfire and firebombs from Islamic Jihad terrorists and returned fire. During this exchange of fire, Abu Akleh was shot and killed.
Immediately following news of her death, Al Jazeera and other agenda-driven media outlets claimed without evidence that the Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted Abu Akleh. At the same time, they also published “witness” statements from people in Jenin who claimed that only IDF soldiers were firing their weapons when Abu Akleh was killed. Shortly after, however, a video was released showing Islamic Jihad gunmen shooting M-16 rifles on automatic. Their fire was indiscriminate and undisciplined, something that is often described as “pray and spray.” They fired literally hundreds of rounds. When that video was released, all of Al Jazeera’s stories claiming that only Israeli soldiers were firing disappeared from their website.
Sadly, that encounter with the facts did not prompt Al Jazeera or the chorus of Israel-haters in the media to be more responsible in their coverage. To the contrary, they asserted that Abu Akleh was “murdered” by IDF soldiers with even more ferocity. They did so even though the Palestinian Authority’s own medical examiner said that, based on his examination of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, it was impossible for him to tell whether it came from an IDF or Islamic Jihad rifle.
Numerous pro-Israel groups also pointed out that, in the video, some of the terrorists shout that an Israeli soldier was hit. Since no Israeli soldier was wounded in the incident, it was certainly possible—though not conclusive—that Abu Akleh was hit by one of the hundreds of indiscriminate rounds fired by the terrorists.
In response, the usual “blame Israel first” suspects, like the NGO B’Tselem, quickly released a video that claimed it was impossible for Abu Akleh to have been killed by the indiscriminate hail of bullets, because the terrorists were 300 meters away with no direct line of sight.
Apparently, B’Tselem and others don’t know (unlikely) or are counting on the fact that other people don’t know (more likely) that an M-16 round, if it doesn’t hit anything beforehand, travels at least 550 meters at a speed of 900 meters per second. They also want you to believe that the terrorists shooting in the video were the only ones shooting hundreds of rounds at the Israeli soldiers.
B’Tselem, Al Jazeera and others also don’t want anyone to consider the fact that in densely populated areas with many people, buildings, cars and so on, a hail of bullets fired from a high-powered rifle like an M-16 can do very unexpected things. For example, they can ricochet off the ground hundreds of meters from the bullet’s intended target and do terrible things to anyone it ends up hitting.
The Israeli government understands this. That is why, from the moment it learned that Abu Akleh had been killed, the Israeli government expressed its sorrow over the tragic death of a journalist and asked for a full and fair joint investigation conducted in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority. Notably, the Israeli government did not reach any conclusions about whose bullet killed Abu Akleh or even how she was killed. This was appropriate since no investigation had even been started, let alone completed.
The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, immediately fanned the flames of hate and incitement by baselessly asserting that Abu Akleh was intentionally shot by IDF soldiers. In addition, the P.A. refused to conduct any joint investigation or turn over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to Israel for forensic examination. A ballistics examination could be decisive, as the IDF special forces use Tavor rifles, not M16s. It seems clear that the Palestinian Authority has no interest in getting to the truth. Instead, it went “all-in” on Al Jazeera’s original version of events before a forensic investigation had even begun.
This brings us to how this entire incident is emblematic of the Arab-Israeli conflict itself and how the media typically covers it.
To distinguish between ordinary criticism—to which every country and government should be subject—and criticism of Israel grounded in anti-Semitism, human rights activist, Soviet dissident and all-around hero Natan Sharansky developed his famous “3-D test”—Demonization, Delegitimization and Double Standards.
In regard to demonization, every time Israel responds to attacks on Israelis, it is the response that gets the bulk of the reporting; often to the exclusion of any reporting on why Israel deployed its military in the first place. This happens in almost every case of Israeli military action, and it happened again with the reporting on the death of Abu Akleh. A Google search for news articles about “Abu Akleh” two days after her death had “about 14,100,000 results.” Almost none of those articles even implicitly reference the reason the IDF was in Jenin—namely, the 19 Israelis murdered over the past 45 days.
By the same token, a Google search for “Dizengoff terrorist attack” produced only “about 55,300 results,” or less than a quarter of 1% of the search for “Abu Akleh.” And sadly, there have been at least four different “Dizengoff terrorist attacks” since 1994 that are included in those results. So, the latest attack by a Jenin resident in Tel Aviv on March 8, shooting over a dozen people in a bar, doesn’t even generate a quarter of 1% of the news articles generated by the likely accidental shooting of Abu Akleh.
As a result of this, the average news consumer only knows about the Israeli response and not the cause. All they are reading about or seeing is the firemen taking an ax to a door. They have no idea that the firemen are responding to a fire.
This demonization leads to delegitimization. After all, if Israeli soldiers, for no apparent reason at all, are going into places like Jenin with “guns blazing,” then why not accuse them of “murder” without any evidence—as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), as well as many international media outlets, did within minutes of Abu Akleh’s death? And if you believe Israel is just attacking people for no reason because you never read about bombs on Israeli buses, the thousands of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza or the string of mass-murder attacks directed by terrorist groups in Jenin, then you may be quick to conclude those Jews and their Jewish state are just too evil to exist anymore.
Lastly, we have the infamous double standard, which as Sharansky has pointed out, is all too often applied to Israel. Regarding the death of Abu Akleh, that double standard is also made evident by some simple Google searches.
In the past five years, about 400 journalists have been killed covering conflict zones. None have generated a fraction of the media and social media attention that Abu Akleh’s death has generated in barely two days. Recently, many reporters have been tragically killed covering the war in Ukraine. When one does a Google search of the names of the French, American or Ukrainian journalists killed covering the war, the average search yields 226,000 results. But when one types in “Shireen Abu Akleh,” the search yields 18,200,000 results. Was the death of Abu Akleh really 80 times more important and newsworthy than those of the reporters killed in Ukraine?
Certainly, it is for those who wish to demonize Israel by applying to it standards of conduct and scrutiny that are applied to no other country.
As many Jews, all too used to the Three D’s and how they are regularly applied to our indigenous homeland, often say: “No Jews, No News.” While this may be cynical, it is also sadly, painfully true.
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including StandWithUs and the FIDF, and is a national board member of Herut North America.
This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal.
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