A Tragic Death Has Brought Out All the Usual Jew-Haters and Israel-Haters | Opinion

It is an utter tragedy that Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed last week while covering an Israeli military operation.

It is also patently absurd to frame this tragedy as Israel "murdering" Palestinians with no accountability, as antisemitic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) keep insanely tweeting.

Here is what we know: On May 11, Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, along with officers in the Israel Security Authority and the Border Police, conducted a counterterrorism operation in the Jenin area to arrest several suspects as part of their investigation into the recent wave of terror attacks that has killed 19 innocent people in Israel over the past two months. During the operation, Palestinian gunmen fired indicriminately at the Israelis, who returned fire. Toward the end of the exchange, Ms. Abu Akleh, who was covering the situation for Al Jazeera, was hit by a stray bullet and killed.

(Aside: Reps. Tlaib and Omar, if you didn't condemn those terrorist attacks, but you still feel justified in claiming the Israelis were simply "raiding" Palestinians for fun, then you have no moral authority to comment here.)

Crucially, here is what we still do not know: How exactly Abu Akleh died.

The IDF immediately opened an investigation into the incident, and asked the Palestinians to work with them. Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced his "expectation for open, transparent and full cooperation in the findings," while Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that, "We have offered the Palestinians a joint pathological investigation in the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth." In response, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed that "we have and will continue to refuse a joint investigation with the Israeli authorities." The PA insisted that it would do its own investigation, but Abbas gave the game away when he also preemptively revealed that they were already sure Israel was criminally guilty. This despite the fact that the Palestinian forensic scientist who examined Abu Akleh's body actually agreed that more analysis was necessary to conclusively determine the bullet's origin.

One fact here is clear: Contrary to what the congresswomen want you to believe, Israel has simply not shirked responsibility. Indeed, the initial IDF investigation concluded that "it is not yet possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh," and acknowledged the possibility that the fatal bullet may have come from an Israeli soldier.

When it comes to potential next steps, a ballistics test could reveal additional, potentially determinative, information about the fatal shot. Israel has suggested that an American representative be present during the examination process to ensure both neutrality and transparency. The PA, meanwhile, has refused to share the findings of its own preliminary investigation.

Do any of these facts matter to Tlaib or Omar, as they shamelessly politicize the death of a woman they claim to have admired? Of course not. These two antisemites magically know what scientists on the ground, on both sides of the conflict, are unable to determine: Jews must have killed this journalist. Not only that, they must have done it intentionally. So Tlaib and Omar blindly lie to their rabid followers about the investigation, pretending that Israel kills without accountability. Again, their silence on the recent spate of terror attacks, which undisputedly did target innocents, is telling.

Shame on them. Here are some other facts that Tlaib and Omar could not be bothered to care about:

Unlike the PA, Israel has a robust and transparent judicial system with mechanisms for conducting and reviewing criminal proceedings in cases of alleged war crimes. Israel has, and does, prosecute and convict its own soldiers when they commit wrongs.

Israeli security forces stand guard after a
Israeli security forces stand guard after a West Bank Palestinian attempted to stab a police officer in Jerusalem's Old City late on May 11, 2022. CLAIRE GOUNON/AFP via Getty Images

In Israel (as in most Western nations), the military justice system is responsible for examining and investigating complaints regarding soldiers' alleged criminal misconduct. The Military Advocate General (MAG) Corps for Operational Matters specializes in handling incidents that occur during military operations. MAG Corps members are lawyers who have passed an officer's course, and have received investigative training in cases of international law violations. The Military Police are responsible for administering the law within the armed forces. Like the MAG Corps, the Military Police has authority to initiate criminal investigations into allegations of war crimes, and also conducts the actual examinations.

The Courts Martial is the judicial branch of the military justice system, including its appellate courts. The president of Israel appoints Courts Martial judges, who have term limits that guard their independence from outside command or political influence.

The existence of judicial institutions wholly outside of the military that review its proceedings also ensures that such proceedings conform to well-established legal standards. The Israeli attorney general, a civilian, oversees decisions of the military, while the Supreme Court of Israel hears cases regarding his and/or the military's determinations—often during ongoing armed conflicts. All of this—the investigations, trials and review of procedures—is part of a continuing effort by Israel to embrace within its armed forces a profound sense of equal justice under the law that is the bedrock of the State of Israel.

When asked whether Israel could be trusted to conduct a thorough investigation of Abu Akleh's death, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that of course Israel could, even citing a recent example from last June when Israel indicted one of its own Border Police officers.

In summary, Israel is ready, willing and able to take accountability for its actions, if it turns out that one of its soldiers did something wrong. It has a well-established, functioning system for obtaining information, investigating that information and prosecuting and punishing its soldiers when the evidence so warrants. Contrast that with the PA, which has, and does, exactly none of those things.

Of course, it is not surprising that the PA is still calling for Israeli accountability; as demonstrated by the PA's continued policy of paying terrorists to murder both Americans and Israelis, the PA is incapable of recognizing what accountability looks like.

Nor is it surprising that people like Tlaib and Omar would lie about this situation. Nothing is off-limits for them to cynically abuse for their own political posturing—not even the funeral of Ms. Abu Akleh herself.

Plans for Abu Akleh's funeral procession were coordinated in advance by the Israel Police, together with the Abu Akleh family. During the funeral, however, about 300 rioters prevented the family from loading the coffin onto the hearse. Instead, the mob threw rocks at police, threatened the driver and proceeded to carry the coffin by foot in an unplanned procession, all while calling for additional terrorist attacks, and chanting, "how good it is to murder Jews."

According to official statements, the Israeli Police instructed that the coffin be returned to the hearse—as did the European Union ambassador and Abu Akleh's own family members—but the mob refused. Police then intervened so that the funeral could proceed as planned, and in accordance with the wishes of the family.

Nevertheless, because there are conflicting accounts of what happened at the funeral, within hours of the incident Israel ordered yet another investigation into the conduct of the officers involved. In the malicious and misleading words of Ilhan Omar, however, what actually happened does not actually matter: What Israel did was "just cruel." Similarly, Tlaib referred to Israel helping keep the peace so Abu Akleh's family could honor their loved one as an example of "sickening violent racism."

Congresswomen, "sickening violent racism" is when you accuse people of murder because you don't like their ethnicity—which leads to dangerous spikes in hate crimes committed by people who believe your abhorrent lies. If you respect the work of journalists so much, instead of crying crocodile tears for their deaths, you might try honoring their lives by sticking to the facts for once and admitting when you said something false.

You know, accountability.

Rabbi Dr. Mark Goldfeder, esq. is the director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.

The views in this article are the writer's own.