The FBI is investigating the Israel Defense Forces following the shooting death of Arab-American journalist Abu Akleh in a firefight last May. The decision comes after President Joe Biden waited a week to congratulate Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory in an apparent slap to the Israeli leader.
Israeli leaders and journalists are calling it a dangerous precedent and say it violates the Pentagon’s own conclusions surrounding Akleh’s death.
The IDF began an investigation into the incident despite the Palestinian Authority’s initial refusal to produce the bullet that killed Akleh and concluded that the journalist most likely was unintentionally shot by an IDF soldier. The U.S. government participated in that investigation and said it welcomed the Israeli inquiry, but this week the U.S. Department of Justice told Israel’s Justice Ministry that the FBI will conduct its own probe.
The death of Abu Akleh, who was a Christian Arab, has been used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations to fuel protests in Israel. One protest, that observers labeled ironic, occurred in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Christians are persecuted by its police force and their churches closed.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid objected that Israeli soldiers “will not be investigated by the FBI or by any other foreign country or entity, however friendly it may be,” and added that Israel had conveyed its “strong protest” against the move to Washington.
In Thursday’s edition of “The Jerusalem Post,” Senior Contributing Editor Lahav Harkov wrote, “It’s not clear what the FBI will accomplish in its investigation, considering that the agency does not appear to have access to new evidence, nor will it be able to question Israeli soldiers.”
Even more puzzling to Harkov is the apparent double standard represented by a “Most Wanted Terrorist” poster on the FBI’s website where the agency offers up to $5 million for the arrest of terrorist Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi, wanted for her role in a 2001 suicide bomb attack on a Jerusalem pizza restaurant, in which 15 people died.
Professor Eytan Gilboa of Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University told the Jerusalem News Service that the FBI investigation of the Abu Akleh death is scandalous.
“Not only is it a vote of no confidence in the IDF’s investigation, but also in the Pentagon, since the U.S. coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Lt. Gen. Michael R. Fenzel, himself welcomed the IDF’s investigation,” Gilboa said. “So this activity by the FBI is undercutting the U.S.’s own position.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice