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Even before Shireen Abu Akleh’s blood had dried, her death was exploited.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a veteran reporter who had worked for Al-Jazeera for over 20 years. She was an iconic figure in Palestinian media, trusted by Al Jazeera’s tens of millions of viewers in the region and throughout the world. On May 11, clearly identified as a member of the press, and wearing a defensive vest, she was killed while covering a firefight between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and armed Palestinians during Israeli counter-terrorist activity in Jenin, in the West Bank. Another Palestinian journalist, producer Ali Samoodi, was wounded and is expected to make a full recovery.
Reports of how she died are conflicting, and I remain unconvinced by official statements, press accounts and the social media from both sides. Initially, Israel tried to deflect any accusations of responsibility and claimed that Abu Akleh had been caught in crossfire or wild fire by Palestinian gunmen; but then Israeli officials backtracked and said that she may also have been hit by errant fire. Palestinian eyewitnesses insist that the killing was “sporadic and precise,” the work of Israeli snipers. Videos released by the two sides are contradictory.
Rayyan Ali, a forensic pathologist at Al Najah University in Nablus where the autopsy was conducted, told Al-Monitor that “it is not possible to make any statement about who bears responsibility,” because details of the weapon and ammunition used have not been fully examined by experts.
I do not believe that either a Palestinian or an Israeli investigation would be credible. Only an independent investigation conducted by a third party could provide credible answers. We will not have them unless that happens, and it probably won’t. What we do know for sure is bad enough: A journalist was shot in the head while bravely doing her job. A courageous woman was doing her best to provide us all with the truth as she understood it, and we don’t know who killed her. Democracy everywhere was hit, but we may never know how or why.
The value of the life of a journalist doesn’t matter very much in a post-truth world. And so the politicians, pundits and activists lined up according to their usual and predictable positions, ready to make political, ideological and rhetorical gains off the death of a woman.
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