Only Abu Akleh’s US citizenship is of concern to Washington

Gaza City, May 15 (Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  November 17, 2022

Israel is once again, albeit temporarily, under the spotlight for the targeted killing in May of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. This follows the revelation that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is conducting an investigation into the crime. In September, after many denials, Israel conceded there was a “high possibility” that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had killed Abu Akleh “accidentally”. Witnesses have said otherwise, and insist that the IDF had specifically targeted journalists who were reporting from Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. Investigations by human rights organizations and respected media outlets have corroborated the witness statements.

Criminal responsibility is something that Israel wants to evade, hence its reaction to the news that the FBI has opened an investigation into the IDF crime. When Israel ran its own “investigation”, the US supported the findings and adopted the Israeli narrative that Abu Akleh was merely a victim of tragic circumstances, rather than targeted deliberately for assassination.

Israel was informed by the US Justice Department that the FBI is conducting a probe. Abu Akleh carried dual nationality, so US law made this inevitable. Predictably, Israeli officials have said that they will not cooperate with the Bureau. Outgoing Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz had the gall to call the investigation “a mistake” while reminding Washington that the IDF “has conducted a professional, independent investigation.” The IDF investigating its own soldiers is, obviously, anything but “independent”, yet for Israel “independence” simply means that no other entity must interfere with its ability to act with impunity.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid repeated the same erroneous arguments about the IDF being a “moral and values-based army” while insisting that the institution thoroughly investigates “aberrant incidents”. Lapid upheld the Israeli narrative that the IDF soldier who killed Abu Akleh was defending himself from alleged terrorist gunfire. “We will not abandon IDF soldiers to foreign investigations, and our strong protest has been conveyed to the Americans at the appropriate levels,” he insisted.

Abu Akleh was a US citizen, which gives Washington leverage over opening a probe into the killing. However, the criminal investigation is tainted by the US-Israel political alliance. For the US, the investigation is only happening because of Abu Akleh’s nationality; other Palestinians killed by Israel don’t garner any US attention. Within the wider political framework, therefore, it needs to be acknowledged that the Palestinian identity of Abu Akleh is of no concern to Washington. According to Axios, the White House and the US State Department were not behind the FBI’s decision to open an investigation, which would indicate that the US government seeks to leave intact Israel’s colonial violence as a political strategy.

Israel’s refusal to cooperate is nothing new, but the US choosing to focus on criminal responsibility while eliminating the colonial politics that resulted in Abu Akleh’s murder should be noted. The investigation rests on US, not Palestinian, citizenship, which means that Abu Akleh would have been just another forgotten name were it not for her being a dual national. Clearly, the US will set its boundaries as regards the investigation into the IDF’s targeted killing of Abu Akleh, and other Palestinians will fall outside the established parameters, leaving the settler-colonial enterprise free to keep expanding over the land of occupied Palestine and killing Palestinians with impunity.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America