The White House Will ‘Press Israel to Review Policy’ in Response to American Journalist’s Murder

by | Sep 6, 2022

The White House Will ‘Press Israel to Review Policy’ in Response to American Journalist’s Murder

by | Sep 6, 2022

The Joe Biden administration said it will continue to press Tel Aviv to review its policies after the Israeli government issued a report saying its forces likely murdered Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She was reporting on a raid in the West Bank when she was shot in the head while wearing a bulletproof press vest. 

Abu Akleh was killed at the Jenin refugee camp in May. Initially, after her death, Tel Aviv claimed she was killed by Palestinians. However, that narrative was quickly debunked by Israeli human rights groups. One Israeli official said the Palestinian-American journalist was killed because she was “armed with a camera.”

Video of the murder showed Shireen and several of her colleagues all wearing bulletproof gear labeled ‘press’ when Israeli soldiers opened fire. Another journalist was wounded and the soldiers continued to fire as he and others attempted to give aid to Abu Akleh. 

Several Western media outlets carried out independent investigations and found that Israeli soldiers killed Abu Akleh. The White House has called for accountability without directly condemning Tel Aviv. 

Last week, Israel issued a report saying one of its soldiers likely shot Abu Akleh in the face inadvertently. “There is a high possibility that M. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF (Israeli army) gunfire,” the investigation found. However, no Israeli soldiers will be held accountable for the murder, as the report concluded “there is no suspicion that a criminal offense was committed.”

In response to the Israeli investigation, the Abu Akleh family stepped up public pressure on the White House to take action against Tel Aviv. “Today, the Israeli government and military released a statement that tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility for killing Shireen Abu Akleh, our aunt, sister, best friend, journalist, and a Palestinian American,” the relatives said, adding “Our family is not surprised by this outcome since it’s obvious to anyone that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. However, we remain deeply hurt, frustrated, and disappointed.”

Last month, Axios reported that the State Department had urged Tel Aviv review its policies in the West Bank. An Israeli official said no request was made at the time, going on to say that even if Washington had made such a request, Tel Aviv would reject it. “Israel is a sovereign country and the rules of engagement save lives,” the official said.

The Biden administration reiterated that request on Tuesday, with State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel saying “We will continue to press Israel directly and closely at the senior-most levels to review its policies and practices on this to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again in the future.” 

While it is uncommon for Washington to make any statement critical of Tel Aviv, the requested policy review is unlikely to place any real pressure on Israel. The White House has not officially condemned Israel for the murder of an American journalist. After Abu Akleh was killed, President Biden traveled to Israel where he proudly declared himself a Zionist. 

Biden said the US relationship with the Jewish State is “bone-deep,” and, speaking for the “vast majority” of Americans, stated emphatically that we are “completely devoted to Israel’s security without any ifs, ands, or buts – without any doubts about it.”

In 2020, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said Tel Aviv had killed 46 Palestinian journalists since 2000. During Israel’s assault on Gaza last May, which killed more than 250 people including almost 70 children, Israeli forces notoriously bombed towers housing international media.

About Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman

Kyle Anzalone is news editor at the Libertarian Institute, assistant editor at and co-host of Conflicts of Interest. Connor Freeman is a writer and assistant editor at the Libertarian Institute, and co-hosts Conflicts of Interest.

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