Washington D.C.- The United States Department of State often He says that “has no higher priority than the safety of American citizens abroad.”
But on Wednesday morning, the Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh he became the second American this year to be assassinated by Israel, a major recipient of US military aid and Washington’s closest ally in the region.
State Department spokesman Ned Price was quick to condemn the murder and call for an investigation, but later in the day confirmed that Washington trusts Israel to investigate itself and will not call for an independent investigation.
Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said the calls for an investigation are “empty gestures” if the investigation is left to Israel.
“You cannot ask the Israelis to investigate themselves when they have abused human rights for more than 70 years and expect them to come to a different result than they have after all these decades,” Abuznaid told Al Jazeera. .
“These are atrocities that the international community has witnessed over and over again, whether caught on live footage or not, and we have never seen accountability.”
On Wednesday, Price said repeatedly when pressed by reporters at a State Department briefing that Israel has the “means and capacity to conduct a thorough and thorough investigation” into the assassination. by Abu Akleh.
Said it’s important to Washington for Abu Akleh legacy that must be honored responsibly. “Those responsible for Shireen’s murder must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Price told reporters.
But recent incidents show that when Israel conducts investigations into misconduct by its own forces, the result is rarely meaningful accountability, Palestinian rights advocates have said.
of the Israeli government initial reaction to the murder of Abu Akleh, despite multiple eyewitness testimonies that Israeli forces shot her, was to blame “armed Palestinians” for shooting the journalist.
“History and action have shown that Israel cannot be trusted to investigate its own war crimes and human rights violations,” Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Committee Against Discrimination (ADC), told Al Jazeera. .
“We demand an independent investigation, free from political pressure and influence from US and Israeli interests.”
In January, 78 years old US citizen Omar Assad suffered a stress-induced heart attack after Israeli forces arbitrarily detained, bound, blindfolded and gagged him.
At the time, the State Department also called for a “thorough criminal investigation and full accountability” in the case.
In February, the Israeli military called the incident a “clear lapse of moral judgment” and announced administrative disciplinary action against the battalion involved in Assad’s assassination but without criminal charges.
At the time, the State Department suggested that it expected more from the investigation, saying that the United States continues to “discuss this troubling incident with the Israeli government.”
But since then, US officials have said almost nothing about the killing of the elderly US citizen. Asked for an update on the case on Wednesday, a State Department spokesman shared comments that Washington had released earlier this year expressing condolences for Assad’s family.
Meanwhile, US officials have continued to praise Israel. And this year, Washington increased its $3.8 billion annual military assistance to Israel by an additional $1 billion to “replenish” the Iron Dome missile defense system after the May 2021 conflict with Gaza.
When Israel bombed the Associated Press building and Al Jazeera in Gaza during that conflict, the State Department requested additional details to support the Israeli claim that the tower was being used by Hamas operatives.
To date, the US administration has not condemned the bombing of the gaza building accommodation from media offices or provided an assessment as to whether it was warranted.
On Wednesday, Price was asked about the attack on the building a year ago in the context of Israeli attacks on the media and the killing of Abu Akleh. He said: “We expressed our concern that journalists were at risk, that their offices were attacked,” adding that those concerns remain with us today.
Maya Berry, executive director of the American Arab Institute (AAI), a Washington-based think tank, said calls for an investigation are welcome, but it is the outcome of such investigations that matters.
“The question is what happens next?” Berry told Al Jazeera. “That’s the key here. What will they do next? Do we expect the Israeli forces to investigate themselves and find that there was a ‘moral lapse in trial’ or that no mistake was made?
The Biden administration has maintained that Israel is equipped to investigate its own alleged war crimes, an argument used against Palestine’s push for a International Criminal Court investigate Israeli abuses.
For his part, Berry denounced the lack of US accountability towards Israel, even as it abuses US citizens.
“Sadly, because we give Israel an exception in its treatment not only of American citizens, in its human rights abuses, but certainly when it comes to its treatment of Americans, it will not come to a rational explanation of what it is allowed to do with impunity, against the interest of protecting Americans and certainly against our own American interests abroad,” Berry told Al Jazeera.
As a candidate, Joe Biden promised a more impartial approach to the conflict in outreach efforts to Arab and Muslim American voters, despite categorically ruling out conditional aid to Israel.
“Joe Biden believes in the value of every Palestinian and every Israeli,” Biden said. campaign he said on his platform for Arab Americans in 2021. “He will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy.”
Variations on that comment. still surface in statements from the State Department and the White House. Yet Palestinian rights advocates say Biden has done little, apart from resuming some humanitarian aid to the Palestinians: change the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump on Israel-Palestine.
Amer Zahr, a Palestinian-American comedian and president of New Generation for Palestine, an advocacy group, said the killing of Abu Akleh was a “targeted killing.”
“The lukewarm response from our State Department confirms what we already knew: The Biden administration cares no less about the lives of Palestinians, American or not,” he told Al Jazeera.