The US probe into Abu Akleh’s death: Accessories to murder

It is no surprise that the US investigation on the origin of the bullet that killed the Al Jazeera journalist turned out to be ‘inconclusive’.

Shireen memorial
Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree and a portrait and flowers create a makeshift memorial on May 19, 2022 at the site where Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on May 11, at Jenin, the West Bank, Palestine [Majdi Mohammed/AP]

America’s diplomats are accessories to the murder of an American citizen – Shireen Abu Akleh.

I know that. You know that. They know that. And, of course, Palestinians know that.

America’s diplomats will never admit publicly that they are accessories to the murder of a fellow American by an Israeli soldier on May 11, 2022. But that is what they are – accessories after the fact.

If the delicate functionaries at the State Department are offended or worse, outraged, by my indictment – tough. I’m offended and outraged that an Al Jazeera journalist was shot in the head for doing her job and her killer will not only get away with it, but was celebrated by giddy, flag-draped religious fanatics as a “hero” for murdering a Palestinian.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his complicit company never intended to fulfil their duty as diplomats – protect, defend and win “justice” for an American citizen who was shot in the head by killers in fatigues working for a foreign power.

Instead, Blinken and the complicit company have done what America’s diplomats have always done when Israel evicts, jails, tortures, shoots and bombs innocents in occupied Palestine again and again – protect and defend an apartheid state again and again, no matter the weight or breadth of its guilt.

As a corollary to this, from the moment Abu Akleh was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier and left face down in a ditch, America’s diplomats, including Secretary Blinken, have been party to a sick, but predictable, pantomime.

I know that. You know that. They know that. And, of course, Palestinians know that.

America’s diplomats, including Secretary Blinken, will never admit this publicly, as well. But that is what they have done from May 11 to today. They have pretended to care – hand on heart – about who murdered Abu Akleh and employ the immense might and influence of the US government to hold the killer of an American citizen that they were solemn-oath-bound to protect and defend to tangible account.

We have witnessed a sorry performance by duplicitous diplomats who know how to lie with such ease and practised gravitas.

It is plain to anyone outside the Ivy League careerists who populate “Foggy Bottom,” that Blinken and complicit company do not consider Abu Akleh an American citizen worthy of their time, energy or interest.

She was, after all, also a Palestinian. America’s diplomats have always judged Palestinians – girls and boys, women and men, journalists and labourers – as expendable and forgettable human fodder.

I know that. You know that. They know that. And, of course, Palestinians know that.

As a fitting measure, I suppose, of just how expendable and forgettable Shireen Abu Akleh was, America’s diplomats, including Secretary Blinken, reduced the established, incriminating circumstances of her murder to a cryptic, three-paragraph footnote on Monday.

The footnote oozes with even more state-sanctioned evasions and lies delivered with the imprimatur of the Department of State’s official seal.

The first evasion concerns the bullet that pierced Abu Akleh’s skull.

On July 2, Al Jazeera reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had “handed over” the bullet to “US forensic experts” for examination after it received “guarantees” that Israel would not be involved in the analysis.

Two days later, Blinken and complicit company wrote: “After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the US Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet …[because] the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.”

How convenient.

Blinken and complicit company did not provide any details about who conducted the “extremely detailed forensic analysis,” where the “extremely detailed forensic analysis” was conducted, or what constitutes an “extremely detailed forensic analysis.”

I gather we are obliged, at this point at least, to take the word of Blinken and complicit company on this lethal score.

I don’t. You shouldn’t.

My doubts about the sincerity of the “extremely detailed forensic analysis” were confirmed when a copy of the “extremely detailed forensic analysis” was not attached to the three-paragraph footnote.

Such an instructive shame, that.

The identities, experience and expertise of whoever conducted the “independent, third-party analysis” were kept secret by Blinken and complicit company. The unnecessary secrecy only compounds my profound doubts about the questionable integrity – to put it charitably – of the so-called “extremely detailed forensic analysis”.

In any event, despite the PA’s act of good faith, could anyone in the United States – working on behalf of Blinken and complicit company – be deemed an “independent, third party” when Israel is implicated in yet another horrendous crime?

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, was right when she dismissed the “extremely detailed forensic analysis” as, in effect, a cobbled-together-in-a-hurry bit of exculpatory tripe.

“I suspect it took the key parties more time to reach agreement over the wording of the statement than actually investigate the killing,” she tweeted.

The Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, was as blunt as it was correct when it described the “extremely detailed forensic analysis” as a “US-backed Israeli whitewash”.

Blinken and complicit company found that while it was “likely” that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was shot “from IDF positions”, that sheltered soldier didn’t aim to shoot the Palestinian American reporter in the face as she wore a helmet and body armour marked with PRESS in big, bold white type.

Nope. Her sudden, violent death was a “tragic” by-product of the world’s most moral army fending off Palestinian “terrorists” who were a long way from where Abu Akleh was standing in Jenin that morning.

Blinken and complicit company insist that they arrived at their reality-defying “conclusions” after reviewing what the Israelis said had happened and what the Palestinians said had happened.

Now, who did Blinken and complicit company side with? Surprise! The Israelis.

Their three-paragraph exoneration of America’s best pal in the Middle East is a near-verbatim facsimile of the former Israeli government’s shifting “explanations” of what took place in Jenin early on May 11.

Stripped of the bureaucratic embroidery, taken together, various “senior” Israeli officials have said the following: OK. Maybe we shot her. By the way, we found the gun used to shoot her. It’s in Israel. But we didn’t mean to shoot her. There were terrorists in Jenin. We’re not terrorists. Anyway, she got in the way. It’s “war”. It’s tragic. Too bad, so sad.

Apparently, Blinken and complicit company were so persuaded by Israel’s bankrupt, lie-laced version of events, that they didn’t bother to read or rejected outright the exhaustive reporting of several, largely Israeli-friendly US-based news organisations that determined that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired from where Israeli special forces were shooting.

Unlike Blinken and complicit company, the United Nations, CNN, the Washington Post, the Associated Press – and belatedly, and, no doubt grudgingly, the New York Times – pointed an institutional finger at Israel as the sole culprit and perpetrator.

None of it mattered because, for Blinken and complicit company, Abu Akleh’s life and death did not matter.

What matters is President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel – with a perfunctory stop in the West Bank – next week.

The prickly business of Abu Akleh’s killing had to be dealt with. Blinken and complicit company think they have dealt with it in three miserable paragraphs.

They’re wrong.

I know that. You know that. And, of course, Palestinians know that.

Soon, President Biden will be reminded of that, too.

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