“The Israeli military now seems to feel it has carte blanche”: Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News

Al Jazeera reporter Shireen abu Akleh was killed on May 11th covering an Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp in the Occupied Palestinian territories. According to journalist Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, her death fits into a pattern of “threats and intimidation’ by Israel against journalists trying to cover the Israel/Palestine conflict. Read more and see my interview with Burman…..

Almost as soon as the news circulated around the world that Al Jazeera reporter Shireen abu Akleh had been killed, Israel started to issue denials. At first IDF spokesperson speculated that it was “Palestinian gunmen” who had killed her, despite several first hand witnesses who testified that the shots came from Israeli troops. Later, the IDF had to walk back that rather incredible allegation, saying instead that a “thorough investigation” was necessary.

Faith in the fairness of an Israeli investigation is hard to come by given that according to the UNESCO Observatory of killed Journalists, 19 Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israel over the last two decades and no Israeli soldier has ever been punished. All the cases are still “unresolved”.

“The Israeli government (will hope) that Abu Akleh’s death will soon be forgotten by a distracted world (…) with global attention now focused on the war in Ukraine”, writes Tony Burman in an op ed in the Toronto Star.

I spoke to Burman about the ongoing campaign by Israel to prevent journalists from properly covering Israel’s harsh repression of Palestinians. “Intimidation of journalists’ was a 24/7 approach by the Israeli military”, says Burman.

Shireen abu Akleh, and al Jazeera have had the courage to stand up to intimidation by the Israeli military – and have paid a price for it. But Israel has many other ways to control the message getting out, including a system of licencing of foreign journalists (nothing similar exists in Canada) and even of military press censorship. In a 5 minute interview done in Nazareth a few years ago, freelance journalist Jonathan Cook explained to me how that works.

Israeli attack on funeral procession puts international spotlight on Israel

The spectacle of Israeli troops attacking Abu Akleh’s funeral procession as coffin bearers try to protect their own heads from Israeli batons has stunned the world.

“Shireen’s killing has helped bring the international spotlight back onto the still-unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, concludes Burman. “More ominously for the Israeli government, it may very well trigger a degree of accountability on its military forces that they have managed to evade for years.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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  1. The word “now” in “The Israeli military now seems to feel it has carte blanche” suggests that this is something new. It isn’t! On my few trips to Israel, almost all the Israelis that I talked to seemed to have been convinced (by inundation in tons of propaganda) that Palestine is an area that belongs exclusively to Jews and they are being super generous by allowing others to live there. Their generosity has its limits and if anyone annoys them, Israel feels free to discard or dispose of them. I am sure that Palestinian reporters annoy them and that means that they have no rights – not even the right to life.

  2. It’s astounding the effort Canada is exerting on it’s condemnation of vile deeds delivered by Russian conscripts on innocents in Ukraine,yet we stand mute in the light of violence shed by Israeli soldiers on a deceased human’s final ceremony.

  3. Thanks for this Peter. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the killing of this Palestinian journalist and called for an independent investigation. To my knowledge neither the Prime Minister nor Global Affairs has made any statement on the killing . A sad situation indeed.

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