Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing: Lies, investigations and videotape

Israel has been lying since the very beginning. Palestinians and Palestinians alone will tell the world the details of how and why Israel murdered another one of their beloved daughters.

Large crowd during funeral
Family and friends carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, during her funeral in Jerusalem on May 13, 2022 [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Israel has lied from the instant that Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated 11 days ago.

How do we know?

Israel’s story about what happened on the murderous morning of May 11 in Jenin and what it was going to do about it has changed more often than a baby’s diaper. Palestine’s story has remained the same throughout like one long, consistent note: Israel did it and won’t admit it.

Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, has lied. Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, has lied. The Israeli army has lied.

Bennett told the first big lie on May 11: Palestinians did it, he said. He was 99.99 percent sure. A Palestinian who couldn’t shoot straight did it. That’s what the prime minister of Israel said happened.

The same day, Lapid told the second big lie: Israel wanted to help Palestinians – the same Palestinians who Bennett already said did it – to find out who did it. Really, it did.

What patronising tripe from a former TV star who once said this about Palestinians he was now allegedly keen to work with across the divide: “We need to get the Palestinians out of our lives. What we have to do is build a high wall and get them out of our sight.”

The Israeli army told the third big lie by repeating the first big lie: its soldiers do not “target” journalists.

Apparently, the 16 Palestinian journalists who have perished since 1992 were either unlucky or stepped in front of or on an Israeli bullet, bomb, or mine. Remember, not “targets”. Unfortunate.

Bennett and the Israeli army told the fourth big lie: its soldiers were shooting at Palestinians and Palestinians were shooting at Israeli soldiers when Abu Akleh was shot in the face by Palestinians.

An Israeli human rights group promptly proved that Israel’s prime minister and the army – using a snippet of videotape to buttress their lie – had lied about precisely where Abu Akleh was in Jenin on the day of her murder.

Meanwhile, Lapid was sticking to his gratuitous lie. Israel still wanted to help Palestinians to find out who shot Abu Akleh in the face even though Bennett and the army still said Israel did not do it.

Then, on May 12, Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, more or less admitted that his boss, the prime minister, and his army had lied.

He said “our side” may have killed Abu Akleh.

The United Nations, the European Union, some US Congresswomen and men, and the White House – who were reminded that Abu Akleh was also an American – demanded a probe into who shot the revered Palestinian-American reporter.

Israel said it would “investigate”. The White House, the United Nations and the European Union seemed pleased and relieved.

Not everyone was pleased. Some US Congresswomen and men and many other less gullible people pointed out that Israeli “investigations” tend to be cover-ups. An “independent” investigation – whatever that means – was necessary.

Bennett and Lapid went mute.

Later on May 12 Israel reportedly “confiscated” the guns of several soldiers. By May 19, the Israel military said it had identified the weapon that may have been used to shoot Abu Akleh in the face while she was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press” in big, bold white letters.

Israel also said it needed the magic bullet that felled Abu Akleh to try to match it to the rifle.

No, Israel doesn’t.

First, the Israelis could, in a rare gesture of good faith and cooperation, just as easily hand over the rifle to the Palestinian Authority for analysis. How’s that for a novel idea that the New York Times hasn’t, predictably, considered?

Of course, Israel won’t. Palestinians cannot be trusted. Only Israelis can find and tell the truth.

Second, we have been told, more often than Bingo players have said “Bingo”, by wind-up apologists – who also happen to be politicians, diplomats, journalists or think-tank “experts” – that Israel has the “most moral army in the world”.

Let’s, for the moment, accept that familiar big lie. Israel has, for the moment, the most moral army in the world. Everyone got it?

The word “moral” suggests – implicitly and explicitly – that Israeli soldiers are models of probity and honesty. They’re saints – if you will forgive the imprecise religious analogy.

OK. Simple. Israel can ask the saint who fired that gun in Jenin early on the morning of May 11 one question: Did you shoot Shireen Abu Akleh in the face while she was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press” in big, bold white letters?

One question. One answer. End of “investigation”.

A member of the most moral army in the world is going to tell the truth. Right? I mean that’s what saints do. They tell the truth. Come clean. Own up. Do the right, honourable and moral thing. No magic bullet required.

Like you, I doubt the question was asked or ever will be.

Perhaps defence minister Benny Gantz is lying, too. Perhaps there is no gun. Perhaps the Israelis made it up to keep the Americans happy. To give their prostrate pals at the State Department and White House something, anything so they could say: “The Israelis are making good progress. We trust them.”

Turns out, the State Department and the White House have belatedly discovered that it’s the Israelis who cannot be trusted. Welcome on board.

On the very day Gantz announced his people had likely found the gun, the Israeli military said that there would not be an “investigation” after all.

An “investigation” into which Israeli soldier shot Abu Akleh in the face might upset Israelis. It could, the Israeli military said, provoke “opposition”.

Opposition to what? The truth?

Not to worry. On May 20, after confirming its authenticity, Al Jazeera reported on the disturbing contents of a one-minute and forty-two-second video that captured the scene shortly before Abu Akleh was murdered.

The video corroborates Palestinian witness accounts. There was no “exchange” of fire. That, as witnesses said, was an Israeli lie. There was, instead, calm and quiet. People were milling about, talking and laughing. Abu Akleh and her colleagues were preparing to get to work.

Then, single shots in quick succession. Six in all. People scurry. Another volley of single shots. Screaming. Shouting. “Shireen”. The camera pans and tilts up. Nearby, Abu Akleh lay in a ditch, face down.

Ah, we know why Israel abandoned its phantom “investigation”.

The pictures, unlike Israel, do not lie.

But like Israel’s cocksure prime minister and preening foreign minister, the State Department, the White House and the US embassy in Israel have gone mute.

America’s best pal in the Middle East has given, in effect, the White House, the Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to Israel, a double-barrelled middle-finger salute about the murder of an American citizen.

Their response to date: Silence.


A bunch of Congresswomen and men have written a letter urging the FBI to investigate the murder of Abu Akleh.

Kudos to them. Also delusional.

A bunch of journalists have written a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to investigate the murder of Abu Akleh.

Kudos to them. Also delusional.

In time and quite rightly, Palestinians and Palestinians alone will tell the world the details of how and why Israel murdered another one of their beloved daughters.

It will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.