Who Shot Shireen Abu Akleh?
Many news organizations don't know. Witnesses do.
On Wednesday, Shireen Abu Akleh, an American reporter for Al Jazeera and one of the network’s most visible faces working in Palestine, was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank. Abu Akleh was shot in the head; her colleague and producer, Palestinian journalist Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back and is in stable condition.
So who shot them?
Forbes doesn’t know:
The State Department doesn’t know, but someone (?) is investigating it:
The easy answer to this question is, as the Post reported and as Al Jazeera made very clear, that Israeli soldiers shot and killed a journalist while she was reporting on their military occupation of the West Bank.
The circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death are still unclear — she was certainly near an area where a gunfight occurred between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, and the chaos of violence means that often inexplicable or illogical things happen. I understand that now, not 24 hours since the crime, some news outlets with lofty burdens of proof may feel the need to hedge their bets a little. This is, you will note, exactly what the Washington Post did, and many outlets have also hinted at, buried deep in their pieces: that all available evidence suggests Abu Akleh was shot by Israeli forces and potentially that she was deliberately targeted.
Here is a clip of Samoudi, the Al Jazeera producer, speaking to reporters after being shot:
In interviews, multiple eyewitnesses — including two journalists who were standing next to Abu Akleh — disputed Israeli assertions that she was killed during crossfire, saying the area was relatively quiet just before Abu Akleh was shot.
“It was dead quiet,” one of the journalists, Ali al-Samudi, who was also injured by gunfire, said in an interview from his hospital bed.
This is the correct way to report on Abu Akleh’s death. Claims by all parties involved are presented in the context of the available evidence that supports them. The claim with the most evidence to support it leads the piece, giving viewers the most realistic and clearest picture of what happened, the best glimpse at the truth that we have thus far. The Post’s standards of evidence are just as high as any publication in the world’s, and yet they have managed to frame their story in a clear and unequivocal way. Witnesses to Abu Akleh’s death say she was shot in the head by Israeli forces. That should be enough to lead every publication in the world’s coverage of this story.
The alternative only lends credence to perspectives like this, per the Times of Israel (emphasis mine):
“But even if soldiers shot at — or, God forbid, hurt — someone who was not involved, this happened in battle, during a firefight, where this Palestinian is with the shooters. So this thing can happen,” Israeli military spokesperson Ran Kochav told Army Radio.
Kochav described Abu Akleh as “filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians. They’re armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so.”
The organization Kochav represents has never been shy about eliminating threats. It’s clear, in this case, that they considered Abu Akleh to be one. What isn’t clear is why so many of Abu Akleh’s colleagues give that perspective more deference than the one she died to present.