On September 5, the IDF released its report on the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Its findings are here: “Gantz Rebuffs US Call to Review IDF Rules of Engagement After Abu Akleh Killing,” by Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner, September 7, 2022:
On Monday , the IDF released a report concluding that there was a “high possibility” that Abu Akleh had been accidentally killed by the IDF on 11 May in the West Bank city of Jenin during a counter-terrorism operation. The IDF added that during the exchange of fire, “widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers (…) that lasted for almost an hour.”
Israeli officials said that Abu Akleh was never identified as a journalist and that “at no point was there any intentional gunfire carried out by IDF soldiers in a manner intended to harm the journalist.” The report concluded that there was “no suspicion” of a criminal offense in the matter and did not rule out the possibility that she had been killed by Palestinian gunmen.
After the Israeli government released its report on the death of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the American government was quick to insist that Israel should “review” its rules of engagement. Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz at once rejected the American demand.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday rejected any outside “political involvement” in determining the Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement, rebuffing a US State Department request that the IDF review its procedures following the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
“The IDF’s Chief of the General Staff, and he alone, determines, and will continue to determine the rules of engagement in accordance with our operational needs and values of the IDF,” Gantz said. “These instructions are implemented in a strict manner by soldiers and their commanders. There has not been, and there will not be any political involvement in the matter. IDF troops have my full backing in their mission to protect the citizens of Israel.”
For the America government to presume to lecture Israel on “rules of engagement” is maddening, giving how scrupulous Israel has always been in attempting to minimize any harm to civilians — a scrupulosity that the American armed forces do not always exhibit. As Colonel Richard Kemp, who served in four wars as a British army officer, has noted: “Israel has the world’s most moral army.”
Elder of Ziyon has posted, from the website Axios, a list of journalists killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2005 by the American military. Those deaths were apparently never subject to the kind of investigation given by Israel to the death of Abu Akleh. One might have supposed that such a long list would have made the Bidenites hold their tongues instead of scolding Israel for what the Jewish state has admitted was “probably” the fault of one of its soldiers but was, it hastened to add, not intentional.
Here is an excerpt from that list, with commentary by Elder of Ziyon:
Is the US in a position to lecture Israel about rules of engagement and protecting journalists in wartime?
Based on statistics from the US occupation of Iraq, not at all.
No less than 13 journalists were killed by US troops in Iraq from March 2003 to August 2005, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The details show a pattern of apparent recklessness and impunity that is worse than anything Israel has ever done, with investigations either finding no fault, or not released, or not done to begin with.
Tareq Ayyoub, Al-Jazeera, April 8, 2003, Baghdad: Ayyoub, a Jordanian working with the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, was killed when a U.S. missile struck the station’s Baghdad bureau….
Taras Protsyuk, Reuters, and José Couso, Telecinco April 8, 2003, Baghdad died after a U.S. tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where most foreign journalists were based during the war….
Mazen Dana, Reuters, August 17, 2003, was killed by machine-gun fire from a U.S. tank while filming near Abu Ghraib Prison, outside Baghdad, in the afternoon….
Ali Abdel Aziz and Ali al-Khatib, Al-Arabiya, March 18, 2004, were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad….
Asaad Kadhim, Al-Iraqiya TV, April 19, 2004 and his driver, Hussein Saleh, were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara….
Maha Ibrahim, a news producer for the Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, was shot and killed by U.S. forces fire in Baghdad as she drove to work, June 25, 2005….
Ahmed Wael Bakri, a director and news producer for Al-Sharqiyah, was killed by gunfire as he approached U.S. troops June 28, 2005 according to Ali Hanoon, a station director….
Waleed Khaled, a soundman for Reuters, was shot by U.S. forces several times in the face and chest as he drove with cameraman Haidar Kadhem. Four days later the U.S. military confirmed its troops had killed Khaled….
That is a lot of journalists killed, most of them while the US was following its own rules of engagement. Have those rules been reviewed by an independent investigation?
I’m not saying that the US rules of engagement are inadequate. Some of the incidents appear to be very problematic. But those rules are certainly not more stringent than Israel’s.
It is insolent for the US to demand Israel review its policies without showing any proof that the US has something to teach Israel about walking the line between the safety of its soldiers and the safety of civilians. On the contrary – the US sends its own experts to Israel to learn how to minimize civilian casualties during battles, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has praised Israel for not only that but also for adjusting and learning from experience to always do a better job.
Those thirteen journalists killed by American fire, during just two years of the Iraq conflict, with none of the soldiers involved — while supposedly “following American rules of engagement,” was ever adequately investigated or held to account, should raise an eyebrow. And given that history, shouldn’t Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan resist the temptation to lecture Israel on the need for the Jewish state to investigate its own rules of engagement? The IDF never stops reviewing those rules, to make sure Israel is doing all that it can to minimize civilian casualties.