Palestinians incriminating Palestinians

A Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was shot and killed, apparently by a single bullet to the head, while reporting on a gun battle between soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force and Palestinian gunmen.  Was she killed by a bullet fired by the IDF or the Palestinians? To anyone with an ounce of common sense, the Palestinians have in effect proven that the fatal bullet was fired by a Palestinian gunman and not an Israeli soldier.

The bullet is in the possession of the Palestinian Authority. The so-called president of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas (now in the 17th year of his four-year term as “president”), proclaims to all who will listen that the reporter’s killing was a “crime” perpetrated by the IDF. But, at the same time as he makes these proclamations, he refuses to permit the PA to release the bullet to the joint custody of a Palestinian/Israeli forensic team, so that Israeli experts can examine the bullet with a view toward determining which side fired it.

The PA’s refusal to permit examination of the bullet is all the proof any reasonable, thoughtful, unbiased person needs to conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the bullet was fired by a Palestinian.  If the physical condition of the bullet itself provided clear evidence that it had been fired by an Israeli soldier, the PA would be inviting the whole world, including Israel, to observe that evidence.  Instead, the PA is effectively hiding the bullet.  Only one reasonable conclusion can be drawn: the likelihood is that an unbiased examination would reveal that the bullet had been fired from a Palestinian weapon, and not an Israeli one.

The Anglo-American legal system mirrors common sense in dealing with what the law calls “spoliation” of evidence, that is, the intentional suppression, alteration, or destruction of relevant evidence.  If a party to lawsuit intentionally suppresses, alters, or destroys anything that would otherwise be relevant evidence, that party, first of all, might be found guilty of a crime, because in many jurisdictions spoliation of evidence is a criminal act.

But, in addition to any criminal liability, a party that suppresses, alters, or destroys evidence in a civil lawsuit is typically punished by either the entry of a judgment against that party, or by an instruction to the finder of fact that the spoliation permits an inference that the spoiled evidence would have damaged the case of the party spoiling the evidence and supported the case of the adverse party.  The court would typically have broad discretion in fashioning a remedy for spoliation.

Abbas explained why he has refused to permit a joint Palestinian/Israeli examination of the bullet this way: “They committed the crime and we do not trust them.”  Apparently, the logical fallacy of “begging the question” is not something that Abbas studied while earning his doctorate degree at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.  Whether a “crime” was committed and whether “they”—that is, Israelis—committed it are precisely the questions that need to be answered.  They are not at all answered by Abbas’s assumption that he already knows the answers.

It’s very simple: if the bullet now in the PA’s possession bears markings that prove it was fired from an Israeli weapon, the PA would be inviting everyone—including Israeli forensic experts—to observe those markings.  But, in fact, the PA is now effectively hiding the bullet from everyone.  Why would they do that?  The question answers itself.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: