On May 11, Al Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a dual Palestinian-American citizen, was killed in Israel while standing alongside terrorists during a gunfight between Israeli forces and Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters in Jenin. In July, at the behest of the Biden administration, a U.S. State Department-led investigation determined that the bullet which hit Abu Akleh was badly damaged, thus preventing a “clear conclusion.” The findings further affirmed that the gunfire likely originated from “IDF positions.” The statement, issued by State Department spokesman Ned Price, found no reason to believe that Abu Akleh’s killing was intentional but rather the “result of tragic circumstances.” An examination and forensic analysis of the bullet conducted by Israel’s Defense Forces similarly revealed a “high probability” that Abu Akleh was killed by accidental Israeli gunfire.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was tasking the FBI with reopening the probe into Abu Akleh’s death. The DOJ’s decision follows months of Democrats insisting that the U.S. administration assign the FBI to independently investigate the May 11 incident. For many Democrats, a swift closing of the case fails to conform with the party’s coalescence around condemning Israel. Rather than agree to the conclusions reached by U.S. and Israeli investigators, the DOJ instead acquiesced to the demands made by 57 House Democrats and half of their liberal Senate colleagues, who called for direct FBI involvement into the unintentional killing.
And while the Biden administration sought to assuage concerns by communicating to its Israeli counterparts that the determination to restart the case did not come from the White House, the timing of the decision presents a murkier picture. The DOJ informed Israel of its intention two weeks after November’s electoral success of Israel’s right-wing parties. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu received a boost from religious politicians like Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose renouncement of past associations with the far-right Kahanist movement did not preclude Democrats, like New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, from preemptively warning Netanyahu against forming a government comprised of “right-wing” extremists.” Put simply, an Israeli government refusing to comport with the progressive values adhered to by this administration will enter into an unsettled diplomatic fray. Menendez’s warning shot, coupled with Democrats encouraging the FBI to investigate Israel, highlights that the trending narrative propagating dissonance with the Jewish state is one that freely reverberates within Democrat ranks. Correctly calculating the political motivations behind the FBI investigation, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and congressional officials told the Washington Free Beacon that Congress would probe the “anti-Israel bias and politicization at the FBI.”
Perhaps most disturbing is that the DOJ’s actions are occurring in tandem with the U.S. administration compensating Palestinian intransigence. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, at least 54 Americans have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, including Ari Fuld, a Jewish father of four who was stabbed to death in 2018 while at a bus stop in Israel’s Gush Etzion Junction. In 2016, American Army veteran Taylor Force was murdered in Israel during a Palestinian terrorist stabbing spree. To stop U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) pay-for-slay program, which rewards terrorists and their families with hefty stipends for murdering innocents, former U.S. president Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act in 2018 which cut U.S. funding until the PA ceased its terror profit system. Yet immediately after taking office, Biden restored U.S. support for the PA to almost $300 million, with another $150 million reserved for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
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Despite Palestine Media Watch exposing Abbas’ recent praise of Palestinian terrorists, Biden continues to treat the PA politician as a grandfatherly figure committed to peace through bankrolling his dubious activities while apprising Israel of plans for fresh investigations. Further advancing its ties with the PA, the administration informed Congress last month that it is elevating former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli-Palestinian affairs Hady Amr to the newly created Washington-based position of Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs. For some, the move is a stepping stone to fulfilling Biden’s goal of reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Amr, founding director of the Brookings Doha Center, expressed his admiration for the Palestinian uprising against Israel by once writing , “I was inspired by the Palestinian Intifada.”
News of the DOJ probing IDF involvement in Abu Akleh’s killing was met with protest from Israel’s top military and political brass, with outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid promising that “no foreign body will interrogate our troops.” Israel accurately senses that this latest incident involving the FBI investigation is not rooted in seeking justice. Instead, the DOJ is taking a page out of the Biden political playbook that supplants pressuring Israel with placating progressives.
Irit Tratt is a writer who resides in New York. Her work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Algemeiner, JNS, and Israel Hayom.