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Shireen Abu Akleh’s death: It’s not about the bullet

Pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh in the streets of Jerusalem. 14 May 2022
 Osama Eid, Wikimedia Commons.
Pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh in the streets of Jerusalem, May 14, 2022. (Osama Eid, Wikimedia Commons)

The shocking and tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh drove the world’s attention back to the continuous occupation of the Palestinian West Bank by Israel.

Israeli Hasbara, as usual, was doing its worst.

Self-appointed IDF spokespersons and Hasbara-bots of different kinds were busy with damage-control and disinformation regarding whom is responsible for Shireen’s death.
Sometimes they did this by quoting reliable sources, but sometimes not so much.

Self-appointed IDF spokespersons and Hasbara-bots of different kinds were busy with damage-control and disinformation regarding whom is responsible for Shireen’s death.

Sometimes they did this by quoting reliable sources, but sometimes not so much.

The worst approach is immediately denying any responsibility or blaming it on the Palestinians before knowing the full details.

It reminds me of Russian propaganda tactics when the Ukrainians were accused by them of slaughtering their own people, either by mistake or intentionally.

In this case, of course, most of the reports do seem to suggest that the journalist was killed inl a crossfire – so the possibility of it being a Palestinian militant’s bullet isn’t unlikely. However, my issue here is not with bringing up the possibility that she was killed by the Palestinians, but with the vigour and certainty with which the online Hasbara “warriors” seem to deny Israel’s responsibility for it.

The vast majority of the debates regarding this seem to focus on who’s bullet killed the journalist. However, considering that she was killed in a crossfire, does it really matter?

Even if it would be proven that it was a Palestinian militant’s bullet that killed her, the mere fact that it could have been just as easily an IDF bullet is what really matters: After all, the discussion about the bullet owner is a discussion about chance and probability, while it should rather be about moral principles.
The truth is, that doesn’t matter who accidentally killed her, but rather who caused this, and could it all have been avoided?
If it really can be proven that it was the Palestinian militants who began shooting(contrary to what her actual colleagues say), then it doesn’t matter from which rifle she was killed – at least some portion of guilt would be on the militants(though it doesn’t absolve the IDF entirely from any responsibility, as I would later argue).
However, if the clashes began because of someone on the Israeli side with an easy finger on the trigger – then even if she was killed by the Palestinian militants, it’s still Israel’s fault as well.

It’s also important to note that Shireen’s colleagues argue that the shooting at the journalists was intentional and that it wasn’t related to the militants. I don’t know how much validity there is for these claims, considering the different videos that surface from the shooting scene, but still – their version should be treated most seriously and properly investigated.

It is a rare occasion to hear a word of praise from me towards the FM Yair Lapid, but I really liked how he suggested conducting a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation. This comes in stark contrast with PM Bennett’s first reaction: an attempt to dismiss it as most likely Palestinian militants’ fault.

Also, in any case, one could argue that Israeli forces shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I’m one of those people that believe that the occupation of the West Bank should have ended a long time ago and that the Israeli governments over the years didn’t do enough over the years in order to achieve that.
Forcing a continuous foreign military presence over a population that overwhelmingly doesn’t want it, will forever cause such frictions, clashes, and multiple casualties. Such domination isn’t sustainable in the long run and is causing a great deal of damage and pain both to the occupier and the occupied.
On the day when Shireen was killed, it was because our soldiers weren’t within our own defined state borders, outside of the green line.
I believe that as long as there’s an outgoing occupation of the West Bank – Israel would in any case bear much of the responsibility for such events. After all, if there were no Israeli soldiers there, most likely she wouldn’t have been killed this way.
As an Israeli that still remembers the experience of running to shelter from rocket attacks and the aftermath of suicide bombings – I am well aware of the legitimate security concerns that come with military disengagement from the West Bank(mistakes that were painfully learned after the disengagement from Gaza) – however, there are multiple ways to address all these concerns without sacrificing the Israeli security.

Some of the reasonable solutions include the Geneva Initiative, as well as other solutions which include federative or confederative structure.

But it didn’t stop there. The Israeli authorities sent police officers to rip off Palestinian flags at the funeral, as is seen in the video below.

This decision is emotionally crippled and counterproductive.

Shireen Abu Akleh was a proud Palestinian and a supporter of the Palestinian cause. Minimal respect towards the memory of the deceased, as well as towards her family and friends that just a day ago suffered a terrible and shocking loss, should have dictated more sensitive behaviour.

However, not only that the police harassed the people which came to pay their respects to the veteran reporter, but clashed with them later on, at some point almost causing them to drop her casket.

Other outrageous incidents were documented as well. Like this video, in which the police are seen questioning a woman in Hijab, which looks visibly distressed, and allegedly tries to force her to remove it.

Forcing a woman to remove her Hijab without a morally justified reason is a horrible act of religious intolerance. Doing it because it is in the national colours of Palestine adds a shade of oppressive ultranationalist shade to that – it’s inexcusable.

The act of harassing people over the colours that they wear reminded me of the situation in horrible dictatorships like Belarus.

Later the Israeli Police released two separate statements in which they tried to explain their side of this event, yet it’s too little and too late.

It’s really hard to miss the irony here: the Israel Police argues that they were “prepared to facilitate a calm and dignified funeral” – however, if they were really interested in doing that, they wouldn’t have sent their officials to rip off Palestinian flags from the church. They wouldn’t have pushed around the participants in the funeral.

If they had an interest in keeping the funeral peaceful, surely antagonising the already upset participants isn’t the way way to do it.

However, I hardly believe that this was done intentionally by the Police to provoke riots. I think that almost anyone who had the slightest interaction with the Israel Police, is well aware of how thick-headed and intellectually incompetent they tend to be.

It’s possible, even really likely, that some of the participants would have wanted to intentionally provoke the Police in order to make Israel look even worse in the international media. It’s hard to blame them for this, considering how information warfare and the tarnishing of Israel’s image is the strongest weapon that the Palestinians have to fight the occupation.

On the other hand, it seems that the Israeli police were really convinced that their unnecessary demonstration of force would discourage the Palestinian participants in the funeral from confronting them, instead of fueling the tensions even more.

The Israel Police now argues that the use of force that was a response to rioters that allegedly were throwing stones. So far I haven’t seen clear evidence that confirms it.

Even when inspecting the photo which they published, that supposedly proves that the participants in the funeral were throwing stones – on closer examination shows that it wasn’t a stone-throwing but most likely flag waving in the face of the police.

Usually, in such emotional and explosive events, the main objective of the Police should be to resist provocations.

If they are forced, eventually, to react with violence – it should be at a point where it can be seen clearly that there was no other choice.

From seeing the footage so far, it doesn’t seem to me like the police invested enough effort to resist provocations, but rather from the beginning behaved in a way that made the confrontation unavoidable.

To be fair, I don’t believe that it was their intention to escalate the situation – it was the result of them being extremely incompetent in handling delicate and complex situations, that cannot be resolved with brute force

About the Author
Born in Soviet Belarus, but grew up in Israel. Graduate of a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Haifa, as part of which also studied International Relations at the University of Warsaw. Lived for about two and a half years in the EU (Poland, France, Greece), and was active in European Students for Liberty.
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