Opinion: Journalists covering war zones know they are putting themselves in harm’s way, just like Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh did; regardless of who fired the deadly shot, UN, State Department and Washington Post, owe us an apology for unsubstantiated accusations

Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin on Saturday, died while doing her journalistic job while covering events in the proximity to a gun battle between IDF forces and armed Palestinian militants in the Jenin refugee camp.

Her death was unfortunate, but also a possible outcome of reporting from war zones. Thus, I call on ministers, police officials and military commanders, to stop beating their chests, hold their heads high and ignore all the unsubstantiated accusations.

אבו עאקלה וגופתה לאחר הירי בג'נין
Shireen Abu Akleh after being shot in Jenin (Photo: AFP)


We do not know whose bullet killed Abu Akleh, and will likely not know in the near future. But that is of no importance.

Contrary to the incitement from the Palestinian side, Abu Akleh was not murdered by Israel and was not targeted by the IDF. I suppose the same is true for the Palestinian gunmen, whose fire was not directed at her.

Any reporter who covers wars, and many of us have – me included, knows that they are putting themselves in harm’s way. Abu Akleh was well aware of that fact and spoke of it often. It is an occupational hazard.

Unfortunately, reporters are killed all over the world in war zones. Some 20 journalists have been killed covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past 30 years. In 2021 alone, a total of 45 reporters were killed in conflicts all over the world, and in 2020, some 65 journalists died.

In the past 30 years, 1,523 members of the press were killed covering armed conflicts in Iraq, Mexico, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Some even died in Europe and the United States. Still, they courageously go out to report from warzones, just as Shireen Abu Akleh had done.

A photographer covering troops during fighting
A photographer covering troops during fighting (Photo: Shutterstock)


The IDF chief of staff, therefore, should stop his search for those who fired the fatal shot, and should say publicly that the military regrets her death, but in battle such incidents can happen.

The military should also say although the identity of the shooter remains unclear, the IDF certainly did not “murder” the reporter as has been claimed by Palestinians, which is just vicious propaganda.

There is no place for an apologetic tone. In fact, Israel should change its defensive tone by an offensive one.

Israelis should attack the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which rushed to condemn Jerusalem for Abu Akleh’s death, but forgot to condemn the killing of two female journalists in Mexico, which occurred two days earlier.

And with all due respect to our American friends, when the State Department Spokesperson Ned Price demanded an investigation into the events and called for accountability, Israel should have asked if he had demanded the same determination for so-called justice when journalists were killed covering American wars in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan?

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC (Photo: AFP)


Israel should also demand from the Washington Post, which published articles claiming the IDF was responsible for the killing in Jenin, to produce evidence supporting their accusations – beyond the baseless assertions of the Palestinians. We should also demand an apology.

As for Israeli police’s conduct at Abu Akleh’s funeral, they were just trying to avoid rioting from getting out of hand. They requested from the reporter’s brother to refrain from nationalistic chants and slogans during the procession, which they feared could cause violent outbursts, but the family ignored the request.

When the crowd in the procession began throwing stones and waving Palestinians flags – officers were forced to act in order to prevent mass rioting.

What the world saw, however, were images of Palestinians carrying the coffin of a local hero, which was covered by the Palestinian flag, while fighting off black clad baton-waving police forces.

מחאה מחוץ לבית החולים בירושלים בו שמורה גופתה של שירין אבו עאקלה
Jerusalem police clash with mourners during Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral (Photo: AFP)


Such images only served to increase angry social media posts around an already volatile event. That was advantageous to the Palestinian narrative and in hindsight – should have perhaps been avoided.

But the officers on the ground were preoccupied with protecting the public order and preventing a snowball effect of violence.

So, it is time to end self-recrimination and apologetic justifications as well as attempts to clarify and promises to investigate.

Abu Akleh’s death was the fault of no-one, and if blame must be directed anywhere, it should be put on those who use this tragedy to promote their propaganda.

As reported by Ynetnews