DIRCO condemnation of Israel for shooting of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh without confirmation of facts, irresponsible and incendiary 

Last night (Wednesday 11 May 2022), South Africa’s DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) issued a damning statement alleging Israeli troops to be responsible for the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, in Jenin in the West Bank, during Palestinian and Israeli clashes. DIRCO’s statement was irresponsible and negligent to immediately assign blame towards Israel without waiting for confirmation of the facts. It was reckless and incendiary in the extreme to allege blame in a region where tensions are running high and easily inflamed. Such actions encourage more violence. 

According to initial findings by Palestinian forensic doctors, it is still not clear as to who fired the bullet and from where. Investigations are underway. The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) is concerned about the circulating misinformation, despite the lack of confirmation or findings from the investigation. The Jenin camp in the West Bank is where three heinous terror attacks on civilians in Israel were orchestrated and planned. The Israel Defense Forces’ actions in the area, where they clashed with heavily armed Islamic Jihad militants, were undertaken to thwart further attacks on innocent civilians.  

The Palestinian Forensic Medicine Institute Director, Dr Rayyan Al Ali, has said, “it cannot be determined whether [Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh] was killed by Israeli fire or by a Palestinian bullet.” How does DIRCO purport to know more than the Israelis or Palestinians on this issue? 

The South African Zionist Federation calls for calm and caution regarding the reporting of this tragedy, and for all media and for a government body such as DIRCO, to wait for the investigation to conclude before assigning responsibility. 

It is also highly disturbing that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to allow the bullet that hit the journalist to be examined by Israel in order to conduct a ballistics analysis, and has rejected a request to do a joint probe.  

As many as 20 journalists have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine without a word of protest from DIRCO and we call out such double standards and blatant hypocrisy. DIRCO must explain why. 

Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased journalist and the injured reporter, Ali al-Samoudi, who was with her. We believe in the paramount importance of the freedom of the press, especially in conflict and war zones. It is essential that all possible precautions should be taken to avoid risks to journalists when reporting from conflict situations, which is the policy of the Israeli government.

Rowan Polovin
National Chairman
South African Zionist Federation