Israeli Official Claims Anger at Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh Is Rooted in “Anti-Jewish Racism”

Israel’s antisemitism envoy says only racism can explain the “hateful” reactions of Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Bella Hadid.

NABLUS, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2022/05/14: Palestinian students hold pictures of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a protest condemning her murder at the Al-Quds Open University in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Palestinian students in the West Bank city of Nablus held images of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a protest this week over her killing during an Israeli raid. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Israel’s special envoy for combatting antisemitism, the actress Noa Tishby, suggested this week that three prominent American Muslims were motivated by “anti-Jewish racism” when they condemned the fatal shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist killed during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.

Tishby, who was appointed to the post by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last month, argued in a conversational but deeply misleading social media video that only racism could explain why the killing of Abu Akleh — by gunfire that witnesses said came from an Israeli position — generated so much anger.

Pointing to an annual report from the International Federation of Journalists, Tishby noted that Abu Akleh was just one of more than 2,600 journalists to be killed in war zones since 1990. She also said that Abu Akleh was the only one of 12 Al Jazeera journalists on the list to have been killed in Israeli-occupied territory.

What Tishby did not say is that Abu Akleh is just the latest of more than 50 journalists to have been killed in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories since the early 1990s. “Despite this shocking figure,” IFJ’s current president, Younes M’Jahed, wrote in the 2015 edition of the report, “not one investigation conducted into the actions of the Israeli army concluded that there was any wrongdoing or fault, and certainly no one has been held accountable.”

“Facing up to the killing of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli army, which enjoys political support inside Israel and internationally,” M’Jahed added, “will require making better use of remedies available through international law, humanitarian law, and the laws of democratic countries to demand effective investigations and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Tishby went on to claim that no one watching her video could name any of the other dead journalists — apparently expecting an audience made up entirely of people who had never heard of the well-reported murders of Marie Colvin and James Foley, to take just two examples. (And by referring only to deaths in “war zones,” Tishby framed the discussion to entirely erase the waves of revulsion that followed the killings of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya, and the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.)


A screenshot of an Instagram post by the International Federation of Journalists in 2020.

Photo: IFJ, via Instagram

The only reason for the outrage over the killing of Abu Akleh, Tishby insisted, was a double standard applied to Israel that is “purely rooted in sometimes subconscious antisemitism, anti-Jewish racism.”

According to Tishby, that explains why none of the other fatalities in war zones had prompted “such vitriol, hateful, horrific reactions and rhetoric,” like that from “the international community, social media celebrities and the United Nations towards Israel.”

As she made this claim, the examples that flashed on screen were condemnations of the killing from three prominent Americans — Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Bella Hadid — all of whom are Muslim. Tishby made no reference to this fact and offered no explanation as to why she had singled out only criticism of Israel from Muslim Americans, but the effort to cast their anger as the product of ethnic or religious bigotry was clear.

Despite Tishby’s claims, there was nothing racist in the criticism of Israel over Abu Akleh’s death in the comments on news reports from Tlaib, Omar, and Hadid that flashed by on screen. All three held Israel responsible, but they did so after witnesses had already said that the fatal shot was fired by an Israeli soldier. Subsequent video evidence has only made that seem more likely.

“When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say: ‘Enough’?” Tlaib wrote in the supposedly racist section of a tweet that was highlighted in Tishby’s video.

“She was killed by the Israeli military, after making her presence as a journalist clearly known,” Omar tweeted.

“Shireen dedicated her life to exposing Israeli military violence — and it is ultimately what killed her,” Hadid wrote on Instagram. “She revealed Israel’s policy of letting its soldiers get away with murder,” the American model, whose father is Palestinian, added.


A screenshot of an Instagram post by Bella Hadid, an American model whose father is a Palestinian refugee from Nazareth.

Bella Hadid, via Instagram
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