US government lets Israel off the hook in Palestinian-American journalist’s death — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
State Department press release on investigation into Al-Jazeera journalist’s murder contradicts several earlier findings
The US State Department’s press release on Washington’s investigation into the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh sparked outrage and sparked laundering charges.
Nearly two months after the veteran Al-Jazeera journalist was killed, Washington announced that an investigation by the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) concluded that Israeli fire was « probably responsible ». However, the statement claimed that the evidence was inconclusive and could not say Israeli forces were to blame, contradicting various other reports that had concluded otherwise. The US government also claimed that there was « no reason to believe » that the murder was intentional and that it was quite probable « the result of tragic circumstances », to which the main Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, responded by calling the investigation a « bleach. »
« We are in disbelief » Abu Akleh’s family said in a personal statement, in which they denounced the State Department press release. Perhaps most concerning about the State Department statement is its contradictory nature; it calls for accountability on the one hand, while simultaneously disagreeing with other reports that point to Israel’s culpability and making an ill-substantiated assessment of intent. If the US government’s investigation cannot find Tel Aviv guilty or prove that an Israeli soldier fired the shot, then how can it conclude that the ‘probable’ culprit did not intend to kill Abu Akleh? ?
According to a CNN investigative report, Abu Akleh was killed in a « targeted attack by Israeli forces », implying that the evidence suggests the killing was indeed intentional. The Israeli government’s claim that a shooting occurred in the minutes leading up to the killing was apparently denied by the Washington Post’s own investigation into the incident. This is important because the Israeli military’s argument for why they say the shooting was unintentional is based on their claim that Israeli soldiers were probably trying to shoot Palestinian militants. Additionally, according to the Washington Post, “Abu Akleh and other journalists identified as part of the press would probably have been visible from the position of the IDF convoy.
The New York Times also conducted its own investigation, in which it « showed that there were no armed Palestinians near her when she was shot » and denied Israeli government claims about the number of bullets fired at the journalist. The New York Times also stated that “The bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy, most likely by a soldier from an elite unit. The United Nations investigation also came to conclusions « Consistent with numerous findings there that the shots that killed her came from Israeli security forces. »
The other troubling element surrounding the US investigation has been the White House’s flip-flop on its approach to seeking justice. When news of Abu Akleh’s death first broke on May 11, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that « the Israelis have the means and the capacity to carry out a thorough and complete investigation », and seemed to indicate that a US investigation would not be necessary. Later, however, it was reported that Israel would not investigate the killing, and then a statement from an IDF military lawyer suggested that if an Israeli soldier were to be found responsible for the fatal shooting, he would not be not guilty of any criminal misconduct « in the absence of other evidence. »
The above information should also be combined with the fact that the Israeli Foreign Ministry and various political figures distributed a video of Palestinian gunmen, after the killing, claiming that the Palestinians were responsible for the crime. The video that was being shared was quickly debunked by B’Tselem, who proved through on-the-ground investigation that the Palestinian gunmen shown in the video could not have fired the fatal shot. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that it was probably the Palestinians who were responsible, later changing his rhetoric when it became harder for him to defend that claim.
To rub salt in the wound, after Israeli forces harassed Abu Akleh’s family, police violently assaulted the pallbearers at the slain journalist’s funeral in Jerusalem. Worse still, he it emerged that the Israeli police doctored footage from the scene of their attack, to create the impression that Palestinians had thrown objects at the police, prior to the assaults on the mourners.
The USSC did not provide any details on how it was able to reach the conclusions it reached. Investigations by the UN, various human rights groups, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and others all point to Israel’s culpability, but none have been able to determine the exact intention of the Israeli soldier who fired the bullet. The US assertion that there is no evidence to suggest the attack was intentional contradicts several eyewitnesses who say it was. If the US investigation relied on allegations that Israeli soldiers were engaged in firefights with Palestinian militants (also contradicted by the investigations mentioned above), then their conclusion is questionable. Above all, the USSC’s judgment has now given Israel a convenient excuse to sweep the murder of a US citizen under the rug. Some may call it a whitewash, but what it really looks like is the United States once again siding with Israel for the lives of its own people.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.