By ZEV COHEN The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran, well-known and popular journalist working for Al-Jazeera while covering an IDF operation in Jenin on the West Bank, ignited a firestorm of mutual accusations, claims, and counterclaims. Palestinians and their supporters, as well as Abu Akleh’s employer, see it as a given that she was deliberately targeted and murdered by the Israeli forces.
The IDF initiated an internal investigation but at first said, as did Prime Minister Bennet, that there was a high probability that the journalist was hit by wild and indiscriminate gunfire by armed Palestinians. Since then, a more balanced version has been issued, supported by the first results of the IDF investigation, namely that Abu Akleh might have been hit accidentally by Israeli gunfire or by shots from the armed Palestinians. The situation was exacerbated by the horrific attack by Israeli police on the funeral procession of Abu Akleh.
As usual, the tendency among the Israeli public and media is to circle the wagons, deny the possibility of IDF culpability and accept the IDF spokesperson’s pronouncements as holy scripture. The prevailing narrative is that whoever fired the fatal shot, Palestinian terror is in effect to blame for necessitating IDF action in Jenin. Abu Akleh, it is said, bears responsibility for her death by putting herself in harm’s way to slander the IDF on behalf of the “anti-Israeli” Al Jazeera. Variations on this theme are probably instinctive to most Jews in Canada and elsewhere But at this point, the only indisputable fact is that nobody knows who shot Abu Akleh. Since the chances of a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation, not to mention an international inquiry, are minimal at best, the truth will probably not be established. The parties will stick to their versions to gain propaganda points.
The death of Shireen Abu Akleh was highlighted in the media and in the public square due to her celebrity but the injuring and killing of anonymous Palestinians in the occupied territories by the IDF or by settlers is no rare occurrence. It is usually defined by the IDF as a reaction to terrorism of one kind or another and shrugged off by the Israeli public and media. The only mayhem that temporarily gains attention in Israel, causes anger and fear, and generates calls for more substantial collective punishment is when Palestinians carry out acts of terror against settlers on the West Bank or on infrequent occasions in Israel itself. This time though, certain factors raised the temperature – Abu Akleh was a woman working for an international news organization (albeit the “devilish” Al-Jazeera) and, above all, was an American citizen. This severely limits the ability of Israel to slither away from the unpleasantness. Although Israel has brought the science of explaining away the horrors of occupation to near perfection, it is, in this case, forced to assuage the anger and accommodate the demands of its great supporter and benefactor, the United States.
The deaths of Palestinians and Israelis in horrifying circumstances are just another day at the office in this neck of the woods. They are the trees that prevent the players from seeing the forest – a fifty-five-year oppressive occupation with no end in sight. Sadly, all the parties involved are invested and are willing partners in the endless continuation of the status quo. Israel will pay any price to hold on to and control the occupied territories. It exploits both the violence generated by Hamas and its hold over the corrupt and collaborationist Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue its policies of “managing the conflict.” It needs Hamas and will never try to eliminate the organization as it has often threatened to do, were it even able to. Hamas times and calibrates its attacks against Israel and incites violence on the West Bank to solidify its rule over Gaza and obtain perks (Qatari cash in suitcases) in return for quiet and the freedom to undermine its opponents, Abu Mazen and the Fatah leadership. It will never attempt an all-out war against Israel that might endanger its power and privileges. And Abu Mazen/Fatah/PA just want to continue raking in money, protect VIP privileges offered by Israel and enjoy the illusion of power under Israel’s umbrella.
Israelis and Palestinians are therefore condemned for the foreseeable future to more cruelty, more death, and more moral and practical corruption. All are doomed, to paraphrase the recent speech of IDF commander Kochavi, to be sacrificed like Isaac on Mount Moriah, but no replacement ram will miraculously appear, and they will not be saved by God’s grace. Only they can save themselves by coming together and choosing a different path. Don’t hold your breath.
Zev Cohen is a former Winnipegger who made aliyah many years ago. In information Zev sent to us in August 2021 he noted that he had served “in the IDF – 3 years compulsory and an additional 7 as a career officer. Saw some of the Yom Kippur war and its aftermath at close hand. Left the army with the rank of Major.”