Read the op-ed by our Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels in JNS.
In a recent screed published by The Intercept, reporter Alice Speri expounded on a sensational headline: “As Israel keeps killing Americans, U.S. officials give it a pass.” Four days later, in none other than France’s newspaper of record Le Monde, Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at the prestigious Sciences Po, authored a curiously similar piece: “The American citizens killed by Israel in Palestine.”
One can imagine the shock felt by Americans at reading these headlines, which came before Israel’s recent clash with the Iran-backed terror group Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The texts that followed—Speri’s clocks in at an astonishing 9,500 words—were just as stark and condemnatory as their titles.
The upshot of Speri and Filiu’s claims? Over a two-decade period, two individuals with American citizenship died, they assert, as a result of Israeli actions. One more died in a violent clash in which he joined Turkish Islamist activists seeking to penetrate the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, though Speri and Filiu leave most of these details out. Speri labels another supposed victim as “unarmed” when he was killed, even though the Palestinians’ own ruling faction credited him with a “heroic stabbing.”
These are “deep dives” of limited depth. Indeed, it is partisan activism masquerading as journalism.
The narrative presented by these articles is both simple and simplistic: The Jewish state, ballyhooed as a democratic ally of the U.S. and a beneficiary of American support, is a killer—a serial killer—who preys on American citizens. U.S. officials, the storyline insists, are acquiescent in this monstrosity.
Who are the primary victims of the bloodlust supposedly uncovered by The Intercept and Le Monde?
One is Rachel Corrie, a young woman originally from Olympia, Washington who died in 2003. The other is Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian journalist who obtained U.S. citizenship through relatives in New Jersey. She was fatally wounded by gunfire in May.
But Israel did not dispatch agents to Washington and New Jersey to kill these two women. Nor did Israelis conspire to harm them at all.
Corrie was killed after journeying to the Gaza Strip as an anti-Israel activist. She was hit by an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing structures near the Egyptian border. It was doing so as part of an effort to stop the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian jihadists who explicitly seek Israel’s destruction. Corrie was affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a self-declared “non-violent” Palestinian-led group that endorses “legitimate armed struggle”—that is, terrorism—against Israel. According to an ISM witness’s own account, Corrie approached the military bulldozer, climbed onto it, fell off and was then dragged by its shovel, which caused mortal injuries.
Akleh was killed in Jenin in Judea/Samaria. An Al Jazeera correspondent, she was there to cover an Israeli counterterrorism raid that followed a wave of gruesome Palestinian attacks that murdered 19 people across Israel. When Israeli security forces attempted to apprehend Palestinian suspects, a fierce gun battle erupted and Akleh was fatally wounded. Al Jazeera, a Qatari state-owned network whose funders do not recognize Israel, asserted immediately that “Israeli occupation forces assassinated” Akleh while she was “covering their brutality.” However, there was no proof that the bullet came from the Israelis’ position, let alone that Akleh’s death was intentional. Palestinian leaders refused to share physical evidence with Israel or conduct a joint investigation.
Of course, neither the actions nor the personal politics of Rachel Corrie or Shireen Abu Akleh dispel the tragedy of their deaths. But to suggest that their demise indicates calculated, systemic Israeli malice towards Americans is absurd. On the contrary, Israel has every reason to prevent such deaths, as it knows very well that they will be exploited to maim Israel politically. Israel expressed sadness over Corrie’s demise and left the questions surrounding Abu Akleh’s death to be answered by a full investigation.
What Speri and Filiu ignore is as significant as their wild accusations. Put simply, they engage in the wholesale omission of American victims of brutal and deliberate Palestinian violence.
Over the three decades since Israel gave the Palestinians autonomy, which eventually included a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, some 60 Americans have lost their lives to Palestinian terrorism. Here are some of their names:
Koby Mandell, 13, was stoned to death.
Malki Roth, 15, was killed in a suicide bombing in a pizzeria.
Nachshon Wachsman, 19, was taken hostage and then shot dead.
Naftali Fraenkel, 16, was kidnapped while hitchhiking and killed.
Hannah Rogen, 92, died in a bombing of a Passover seder.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, was killed in a hacking and shooting attack on a synagogue.
Marla Bennett, 24, died in a bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria. I was a student there at the time.
Kristine Luken, 44, a Christian, was bound and fatally stabbed during a hike.
Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, was stabbed to death in her own bed.
Chaya Zissel Braun died in a car-ramming attack. She was just three months old.
During the time these atrocities took place, the Palestinians received more than $6.3 billion in U.S. aid. Yet Palestinian leaders continue to be implicated in endemic, shocking glorification of violence, and they officially dispense payments to those found guilty of terrorism.
Each victim of these attacks had a past, a stolen future and a grieving family left behind.
Will The Intercept and Le Monde speak their names? Or do their lives—and the Palestinian atrocities that took them—not matter?
No less than governments, journalists must be held accountable. Truth isn’t pursued with one eye closed.
David J. Michaels is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs at B’nai B’rith International. He previously trained at the Foreign Ministry of Germany, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Embassy of Israel in Washington, Ha’aretz and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. A Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar, and winner of the Young Professional Award of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America, he holds degrees from Yale and Yeshiva University.