‘NYT’ and State Department brazenly collaborate in Israel’s cover-up of Abu Akleh killing

Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree at the site where Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in Jenin (Majdi Mohammed - AP)

James North

Mondoweiss  /  July 5, 2022

The U.S. State Department yesterday followed the time-honored tradition of releasing news the government wants to bury over a holiday, and The New York Times played along. The U.S. admitted — nearly 2 months after Palestinian American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead — that the Israeli army was “likely responsible,” but then added that American officials “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an I.D.F.-led military operation.”

The U.S. whitewash is brazen. It’s no surprise the State Department hoped Americans were too distracted by Fourth of July fireworks to pay attention. 

There was nothing new in the State Department “report.” Earlier investigations, including a belated one by The New York Times itself, had already refuted Israel’s effort to blame “Palestinian gunmen” for the killing. So Israel, and its U.S. accomplices in deceit, then tried to focus on the actual bullet that killed the respected journalist. The American inquiry found that the bullet was too “badly damaged” to even come to a “clear conclusion” about where it originated.

The New York Times reporters acted as stenographers for the U.S./Israeli cover-up until the 20th paragraph, when they allowed Abu Akleh’s family to interrupt briefly by saying, “The focus on the bullet has always been misplaced and was an attempt by the Israeli side to spin the narrative in its favor, as if this were some kind of police whodunit that could be solved by a C.S.I.-type forensic test.”

But the most astonishing element in the U.S. whitewash was its confident view that she was not killed intentionally. Let’s look at the facts. The Israeli troops who fired were several hundred yards away. One bullet hit Shireen Abu Akleh in the head. A second one hit another journalist who was near her, Ali al-Samoudi, in the back. At least two other bullets hit the tree she was standing near. Who can believe that a trained Israeli marksman, firing wildly, would accidentally hit 2 people from such a distance? 

The Times made no effort to interview the eyewitnesses who were with Abu Akleh when she died. The Washington Post account did quote the respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem as saying that “the odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent” — but the Times has long had trouble finding B’Tselem’s telephone number. 

The only unanswered questions about the killing of Abu Akleh are:

  • Did the Israeli soldier who shot her act alone? Or was he following orders?
  • And how high up the chain of command does the cover-up go?

Unless U.S. officials actually grilled Israel soldiers, there is no way they can say the killing wasn’t “intentional.”

Once again, you have to turn to the respected Israeli daily Haaretz for an accurate story. Security affairs reporter Amos Harel isn’t afraid to tell the truth, that “on the Israeli side, it is very unlikely that a criminal investigation by the Military Police will be opened.”  And Harel summarizes:

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi live among their own people. The last thing they need now is a criminal investigation against a soldier …

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large