Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Herzog accused Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Thursday of “rushing to a biased conclusion” after she said Israel “murdered” Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh.
Abu Akleh, 51, was killed by gunfire to her neck Wednesday morning while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of her “execution,” vowing to take the matter to the International Criminal Court. Israeli officials have declared that it is too soon to determine who fired the bullet that killed her. Defense Minister Benny Gantz was quoted telling foreign reporters on Wednesday night that it could have been “the Palestinians who shot her,” or fire from “our side.”
In an unusually strident statement for an Israeli ambassador, Herzog charged on Twitter that Tlaib was undermining justice.
“One would expect a member of Congress to support our call for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation of this tragic event, rather than rushing to a biased conclusion. Acting as the judge, jury and executioner undermines the causes of justice and peace,” the ambassador wrote, replying to an earlier tweet by the congresswoman that explicitly blamed “Apartheid Israel” for the incident.
“When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say: ‘Enough’?” Tlaib wrote.
She added: “Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability.”
One would expect a member of Congress to support our call for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation of this tragic event, rather than rushing to a biased conclusion. Acting as the judge, jury and executioner undermines the causes of justice and peace. https://t.co/2GAYC1UZjK
— Ambassador Michael Herzog (@AmbHerzog) May 12, 2022
Tlaib was likely referring in part to the recent approval by the US House of Representatives of an additional $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, her Democratic colleague, repeated the argument, tweeting: “We provide Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid annually with no restrictions. What will it take for accountability for these human rights violations?”
Attempting to reframe the conversation, Herzog reminded his followers on Twitter of the terror wave Israel currently faces, which led to the Israeli operation in Jenin in the first place.
“In the past few weeks, three major deadly terror attacks in the heart of Israel were planned, orchestrated and carried out from Jenin. The IDF went there to thwart another act of terror and was attacked by heavily armed ‘Islamic Jihad’ terrorists,” he wrote.
The Ynet news site reported Thursday evening that the Biden administration was pressuring the PA to cooperate with Israel in investigating Abu Akleh’s death, a request that the PA has so far outright rejected.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett raised concerns about the PA obstructing the investigation and hindering efforts to reach “the truth.”
The White House has called for an “immediate and thorough” probe into Abu Akleh’s death.
Born in Jerusalem, Abu Akleh spent time in the United States as a child and held US citizenship along with her Jerusalem residency card.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called Abu Akleh’s death “really horrifying,” and called for a transparent investigation.
She said protecting American citizens and journalists was “our highest priority.”
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.