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Israel has killed 20 journalists since 2001, but nobody has been held to account

May 24, 2023 at 3:39 pm

A demonstrator lifts a placard depicting slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Tel Aviv on May 20, 2023 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

On the first anniversary of the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli sniper in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, it is clear that her killing was not an isolated incident, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said. The CPJ’s report documented 20 cases in which the Israeli army killed journalists in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but has never assumed responsibility for any of them, meaning that nobody has been held to account.

Several American news agencies have conducted independent investigations into the killing of Abu Akleh, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Associated Press, as well as Dutch research collective Bellingcat, and the CPJ. They all concluded that lethal fire was launched by the Israeli army. CNN found evidence of a deliberate attack, while the research group Forensic Architecture based in London and Al-Haq human rights group in Ramallah found evidence that an Israeli soldier fired at Abu Akleh and her colleagues with the intention to kill them.

According to the military correspondent of the Times of Israel, Amir Ben David, “Months after the tragedy of Shireen’s killing, the Israeli army’s investigation concluded that there was a ‘high probability’ that one of the soldiers fired ‘by mistake’ at her during a shooting at Palestinian militants.”

In a report translated by Arabi21, Ben David said that the Israeli army killed 18 Palestinian journalists and European foreign correspondents without prosecuting any soldier or acknowledging its responsibility for the deaths. “The Israeli army,” he added, “consistently claims that its soldiers are under attack and the fatal shots are fired in retaliation… The army provides no evidence to support its conclusions. In some cases, it classifies journalists as terrorists, and in other cases, the killing of journalists is not investigated at all.”

The head of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, Guillaume Lavallee, pointed out that, “Most Israelis do not care about the death of Palestinians, even if they are journalists.” This has created a very dangerous environment for local and foreign correspondents, many of whom fear being targeted by Israeli soldiers. “If it is possible to kill a journalist with an American passport, like Shireen, without legal consequences, the rest of the journalists fear that they could easily meet the same fate.”

After the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, when nine Turkish citizens were killed on board the MV Mavi Marmara, the Chief Military Prosecutor at the time, Avichai Mandelblit, realised that a problem was emerging with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. It was feared that some Israelis, including senior officials, could be arrested, which is why the Turkel Commission was established and experts in international law were brought in from abroad. “Israel was obliged to meet international standards.”

When Abu Akleh was killed, international pressure was intense, so Israel could not employ its usual evasive strategies. It acknowledged, hesitantly, that it was not intentional, and expressed regret. However, no one has been prosecuted, because there is no incentive for anyone in Israel to be prosecuted for killing a journalist; any conviction would ruin their life. “Fifty occupations may be closed for them in civilian life for 17 years if found guilty.”

The CPJ report confirms that Israel’s targeting of Palestinian and foreign journalists is a carefully calculated political and security strategy which reflects state policy. The full report can be viewed here.

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