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The tale of two Arab journalists killed by gunfire in Israel

Such violence has been increasing for years, plaguing Israel and its Arab community in particular

Arab Israelis hold signs with a picture of murdered journalist Nadal Ijbaria (Photo: Bldtna/Facebook)

Last week, the news in Israel included major headlines of the deaths of two Arab journalists – at different times, in different locations, under different circumstances and unrelated.

But the circumstances, accusations, and double standards are glaring and need to be discussed. 

It’s been four months since Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in Jenin. Following a lengthy investigation, Israel confirmed she was likely killed, unintentionally, by an Israeli bullet. 

Apart from her unfortunate death, the problem is that – even before the blood dried, before she was buried and before any facts were confirmed – the Palestinian Authority (PA) and world media immediately blamed Israel without proof of culpability. The fact that the PA rushed Abu Akleh’s burial and would not provide the actual bullet that killed her for forensic investigation, only led to suspicion that there was something to hide. Placing the blame on Israel became a convenient way to ‘milk’ her death as another Palestinian “martyr.”

Israel did not deny that an Israeli bullet may have killed Abu Akleh, but also did not acknowledge specific responsibility simply because the facts were unknown. After a lengthy and credible investigation, Israel indicated the journalist was likely shot by an Israeli soldier, inadvertently, when she was caught in the heat of a battle with Palestinian Arab terrorists.

It’s never good to have to admit responsibility for such a thing, but as a democracy where the rule of law is the rule, at least Israel maintains the integrity to do so. In its statement about Abu Akleh’s death, the IDF acknowledged, “There is a high possibility that Shireen was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.” 

Like many journalists trying to cover a story, or be in a place to get the best scoop, many put their lives at risk. In the case of Abu Akleh, it seemed that not only did she only put herself in harm’s way, but that she was there, camped out, waiting for violence to begin as if she had been tipped off to do so. Otherwise, how would she have been in the right place at the wrong time, and killed in the crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian Arab terrorists? 

Another Arab journalist died in Israel earlier this month – but you may not have heard about this incident. 

Nadal Ijbaria covered violent crimes in Israel’s Arab community, which has become an epidemic. Ijbaria was shot in his car after leaving a mosque in his Galilee hometown. An investigation is underway, but initial reports indicate he was killed by another Arab, while his father told the media that Ijbaria had reported threats on his life in the past.

With national elections coming up in November, again, one hopes that the Arab Israeli public will support those trying to bring about change and make the streets safer. It is Israel’s responsibility, but requires a lawful public willing to participate in a solution, rather than just blaming Israel for their problems. 

According to UNESCO, 55 journalists were killed internationally in 2021, and more than 60 journalists have already been killed in 2022. Looking objectively at the frequency of death of – and relative danger for – journalists around the world, why is it that no one demands countries to investigate, much less release the names of those responsible? Why is the world, and its media, not up in arms (pun intended) about the death of these dozens of other journalists?

With some 120 journalists killed in the past two years alone, UNESCO lists a total of one in “Palestine” (Abu Akleh), and now one in Israel, which is so recent it has not made their list.  

Leading the world in the deaths of journalists are Mexico (28); Ukraine (10); Pakistan (9); Afghanistan (8); India (7); Brazil and the Philippines (5); Bangladesh, Colombia, DRC, Myanmar, and Yemen (4); and Haiti and Honduras (3). That’s 99 dead journalists barely reported once, let alone for months on CNN, BBC News and certainly not on Al Jazeera. 

Nor does this include those incidents where journalists are wantonly and widely harassed and arrested. Think about it. As tragic as her death was, Abu Akleh was a Palestinian reporting for Al Jazeera – both with a long history of bias and dishonest reporting. Yet she had free unhindered access as a journalist throughout Israel, even representing a media outlet that’s anti-Israel. 

Israel’s army and society have extensive checks and balances, operating according to international and domestic laws, never with the intent to harm civilians. That’s not to say mistakes are not made. When the U.S. did its own investigation of Abu Akleh’s death in July, it “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF... operation against…Palestinian Islamic Jihad which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.” 

In fact, Israel has affirmed this, not covered it up. Nor did Israel blame the terrorists who hid behind Abu Akleh, drawing IDF fire. 

Journalists are civilians and, of course, should never be harmed – and certainly not targeted. But there are generally risks involved, with the added element of operating alongside and embedding themselves among terrorists who use them as cover. Surely Israel did not target Abu Akleh on purpose, or specifically because she was a journalist. Claims of this being a targeted assassination are absurd. 

So, why is it that the death of Al Jazeera’s Abu Akleh has been reported more than any other journalist in the world all year…still making news, and yet, the death of another Arab-Israeli journalist has barely gone reported?  

The answer is simple: There’s a double standard with Israel being blamed even before facts are known, and somehow that’s acceptable, even in the media. At the same time, those reporting these allegations are not putting themselves in danger on the frontlines, as Abu Akleh did. However, they certainly do kill their own credibility when blaming Israel for killing Arabs without evidence.

When it comes to the killing of an Arab-Israeli reporter by other Arabs, it’s not reported outside of Israel at all. And yet, the fact that there is a plague of Arab-on-Arab deaths in Israel – accounting for more than the total number of journalists killed this year internationally – points to a deeper problem in Israeli society. Israel needs to take charge and do much more to clean up the streets and illegal weapons in its Arab community. 

But it’s not reported widely because Arabs killing Arabs is not only not considered news, but is disturbingly acceptable to the media. 

And it's not something that can be blamed on Jews.

ALL ISRAEL NEWS is committed to fair and balanced coverage and analysis, and honored to publish a wide-range of opinions. That said, views expressed by guest columnists may not necessarily reflect the views of our staff.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].

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