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While I grieve the death of a Palestinian journalist, I reject every Biden attempt to dictate IDF rules of engagement amidst active terrorist threats

IDF isn’t perfect, but it’s repugnant for the Biden administration to paint Israel as the aggressor that doesn’t care about innocent civilian lives in a war zone

A picture of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh is displayed at the Al-Jazeera headquarters building in Doha, Qatar, May 11, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Imad Creidi)

JERUSALEM—This week, after a several month investigation, the Israel Defense Forces acknowledged while it is impossible to determine with absolutely certainly who fired the bullet that killed a Palestinian journalist, “there is a high possibility that Ms. (Shireen) Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire.”

The incident occurred during an IDF gun battle with Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank city of Jenin on May 11.

Abu Akleh, a reporter for the Al Jazeera satellite news service based in Doha, Qatar, was covering the fight from the angle of the terrorists – and in close proximity to them – as they fired automatic weapons and hurled explosive devices at Israeli forces.

As ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported Tuesday, the IDF report found that Abu Akleh was hit “during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”

“Additionally, it is important to emphasize and clarify that throughout the entire incident, IDF gunfire was fired with the intent of neutralizing the terrorists who shot at IDF soldiers, also from the area in which Ms. Shireen Abu Akleh was present,” the army said in a statement. “Another possibility which remains relevant is that Ms. Abu Akleh was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen.”

"The decision was based on the findings of the review, which determined that IDF soldiers only aimed fire at those who were identified as armed terrorists during the incident," the IDF said. "As such, there was no suspicion that a bullet was fired deliberately at anyone identified as a civilian and in particular at anyone identified as a journalist."

Three points: 

  • First, the IDF has no choice but to arrest terrorists in the West Bank who are plotting attacks against Israelis. If the Palestinian security forces would do the job, the IDF wouldn’t have to. But Israel cannot leave its security in the hands of Palestinian Authority forces who don’t do nearly enough to police their own side.

  • Second, the IDF was absolutely right to investigate the death of Abu Akleh and to be honest in conceding that, while they cannot say for certain, it very well could have been an IDF bullet that killed her.

  • Third, I grieve for any journalist killed in the line of duty, and I grieve for the family and friends and colleagues of Abu Akleh – a Palestinian-American who, as our reports have noted, grew up in Jerusalem and was part of the Greek Catholic community. The Bible commands us to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Regardless of this woman’s personal political views, or the fact that she worked for one of the most anti-Israel media outlets on the planet, her death is a tragedy and it deeply saddens me. I’m praying for all who loved her that the Lord would comfort them, and that the Lord would help them not turn to bitterness and hatred against Israel.

  • Fourth, I completely reject every attempt by the Biden administration to dictate the IDF’s rules of engagement; to make it seem like the IDF is not the most professional and careful military in the region in terms of protecting the lives of civilians, and/or to make it seem in any way that this was a deliberate act by the IDF. Indeed, I find such efforts repugnant and unworthy of Israel’s closest ally in the world. This week, State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel said the Biden administration would “continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement and consider additional steps to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies in the future.” And, as the Times of Israel reported, “The Biden administration has for months been pushing Israel to review and potentially reform its open-fire policies, which include call to a suspect to halt, firing into the air, and only using deadly force if a soldier feels threatened. The requests have been made during calls US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held with Israeli counterparts.”

Israel never threw the U.S. under the bus for the accidental deaths of civilians by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Nor did Israel do so in Serbia when the Clinton administration accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

War is ugly. Innocent people get killed. Even journalists, when they get too close to a firefight.

This is tragic. Painful. But certainly not the policy of the United States military or the Israeli Defense Forces to kill civilians, much less journalists.

President Biden portrays himself as Israel’s best friend, a “Zionist” himself.

But this week, he sure doesn’t look like it.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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