Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Don’t confuse me with facts…

May 30, 2022 | Tzvi Fleischer

Shireen Abu Akleh: A victim of the danger that all war correspondents place themselves in (Image: Twitter)
Shireen Abu Akleh: A victim of the danger that all war correspondents place themselves in (Image: Twitter)

In his article in this edition on the aftermath of the tragic death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin on May 11, veteran journalist Mark Lavie makes the observation that saying that “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts” used to be a joke but “today, it’s a reality.”

Palestinian-Australian documentary filmmaker and former ABC journalist Sherine Salama – who also once worked for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) –  provided a brilliant illustration of what Lavie was on about in a piece on Abu Akleh’s death in the Sunday Age (May 22). 

Like most Palestinian advocates, Salama takes it as given that Israeli forces deliberately made a decision to murder Abu Akleh, and her death could not possibly have been the result of an accident caused by stray Israeli or Palestinian fire during a gunbattle. 

The main argument she gives for taking this stance is insisting that she knows from her own experience that the “IDF targeted journalists, particularly when they did not want their actions caught on camera” and described Abu Akleh’s death thus: 

Shireen woke at 4:30am and joined her colleague Ali al-Samoudi at the Jenin refugee camp. They were wearing flak jackets with the word “PRESS” emblazoned on them and helmets. Shortly after arriving, Shireen was shot in the head and her colleague Ali in the back. Another journalist, Shatha Hanaysha, who was standing next to Shireen at the time she was killed, could not even help her friend because they were still under Israeli fire.

Note that she does not mention that all accounts agree that Israeli soldiers were a least 150 to 200 metres away at the time Abu Akleh was shot. 

Yet what is stunning about Salama’s account is that she not only takes it as given that Israel deliberately killed Abu Akleh, but she appears outraged that Israel called for an investigation to determine what actually happened. 

She writes: “The Israelis immediately blamed Palestinians for Shireen’s death, suggesting stray fire had killed her and calling for an ‘investigation’ of the incident,” before immediately adding “As a Palestinian, you are never allowed the opportunity to properly grieve. How can you process grief when you are constantly disbelieved, questioned and interrogated about what you’ve just witnessed with your own eyes?”

Now, obviously, Salama did not “witness with her own eyes” Abu Akleh’s death, but more than this, apparently it means Palestinians cannot grieve properly if Israel does not agree with their account of events and calls for an investigation. It is apparently anti-Palestinian to seek to obtain the facts about the incident via an investigation. 

As Lavie suggests, facts do not appear to be wanted. 

A similar attitude probably helps explain why the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused Israeli requests to hold a joint investigation or even to provide access to the bullet that killed Abu Akleh so tests can be conducted to determine conclusively whether it was an IDF rifle that fired it. Instead, the PA insisted it would conduct its own investigation – but also that it already knew exactly what it would find. 

PA Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh, who announced the PA solo investigation, said at the same time, “all indications, evidence and witnesses confirm her assassination by Israeli special units.” If al-Sheikh knows this already, it is not clear why he is bothering with an investigation at all. 

Another apparent case of “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts.”


Calls for Ethnic Cleansing/Genocide Continue

There continue to be numerous ugly and worrying calls from leading Palestinian sources not only for Israel’s elimination, but that strongly imply the elimination or extermination of Israelis or Jews. This antisemitic and genocidal language deserves to be regularly called out, because the worldview expressed by Palestinians leaders is essential background for understanding why Israeli-Palestinian peace remains so elusive:

• As noted in last month’s AIR, a Ramadan sermon by an unidentified Imam broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV on April 17 included the following phrase: “Allah, delight us with the extermination of the evil Jews, O Master of the Universe, and [the extermination] of their hypocritical supporters who have evil in their hearts.” [Source: Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)]

• On May 15, Muhammad Al-Lahham, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told Egyptian TV that the Jews “were banished from 70 different countries… this is a loathsome nation, which is founded on deception… They came to Palestine in order to erase the truth… the ideology of Fatah and of most Palestinian organisations still considers our conflict with the occupation to be a conflict over existence, not over borders. It is either us or them on this land.” [Source: Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)]

• On Hamas TV on May 16, Mraweh Nassar, the Secretary-General of the Jerusalem Committee of the International Union of Muslims Scholars, said that  “[The Quran says:] ‘You shall find the strongest in enmity towards the believers to be the Jews.’ So if we want to resolve our problems as Muslims in general, we must cut off the head of the Zionist snake…They provoke the Christians, they provoke the Muslims, they provoke the entire world. The world will not remain silent about them much longer, and they will be removed, Allah willing. It is Allah’s promise… They will never rise again, after that.” [Source: MEMRI]

• An organised crowd chant at one of the funeral processions following Shireen Abu Akleh’s death included the line, “How sweet it is to kill Jews.” [Source: PMW]

Those who glibly insist that Israeli-Palestinian peace would be easy to achieve if Israel only ended the “occupation” and pulled back to the 1967 armistice lines really need to listen to what Palestinian leaders say publicly in Arabic. 


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