‘Martyr for Palestine’ – Journalist’s death used as PR opportunity

“Dozens of journalists have died in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria in recent years, but this journalist’s death has become a symbol for the Palestinians.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The slaying of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has already proved to be a public relations disaster for the Jewish state.

An initial autopsy report stated it was impossible to determine whether IDF troops or Palestinian terrorist fatally shot the journalist, who was caught in a firefight between the two sides during a gun battle in Jenin on Wednesday morning.

The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to allow Israeli or independent investigations into the journalist’s death has also raised eyebrows.

But the narrative that Israel brutally murdered the journalist in order to silence her has already been widely promoted in Arabic language media, and A-list celebrities and influencers have also pushed that version of events via their social media channels.

Arab media, A-list celebrities push a narrative

Anti-Israel supermodel Bella Hadid was quick to attribute blame to Israel, reposting Arab news articles calling the killing a deliberate assassination to her 51 million followers on Instagram.

Hadid wrote an original caption for a post praising the journalist, calling Abu Akleh a “martyr for Palestine” and asserting that the Israeli government would soon cover up their responsibility for her death.

Actress Susan Sarandon charged on Twitter that Israel “executed” Abu Akleh, and rhetorically asked how long Americans would remain silent “while our ‘allies’ kill journalists for telling inconvenient truths?”

Embattled Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would take up Abu Akleh’s slaying with the International Criminal Court.

That pledge is notable, considering that Abbas is not generally considered to be a supporter of press freedom.

The wildly unpopular octogenarian leader faced widespread calls to resign and massive street protests last year after Palestinian security forces brutally beat to death a journalist critical of his administration.

‘Can a Christian be a martyr?’

Dr. Edy Cohen, a prominent Arab affairs commentator and professor at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center, told World Israel News that Abu Akleh’s killing is a powerful PR tool for the Palestinians.

“Dozens of journalists have died in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria in recent years, but this journalist’s death has become a symbol for the Palestinians, who say ‘the Occupation killed her, because she was a truth-teller.’ And that’s the conversation on social media, that Israel intentionally targeted her,” he said.

“This is because Al Jazeera supports the Palestinians, who turned her into a shaheeda [Islamic female martyr], even though she was a Christian…

“By the way, on [Arabic language] social media, suddenly the questions ‘can a Christian be a shaheed?’ ‘Should we say [an Islamic] mourner’s prayer for her, even though she was a Christian?’ are trending,” he added.

Some noted that as Palestinians paraded through Jenin on Wednesday afternoon with Abu Akleh’s body on a stretcher, her hair had been covered in a hijab-like manner with a keffiyeh. In her day-to-day life, Abu Akleh did not cover her hair.

Cohen said that the journalist’s slaying was an invaluable opportunity for Palestinians to further their narrative, especially as Arab countries have warmed to Israel and international humanitarian aid has focused on Ukraine.

“Once again, the Palestinians want to say that they’re under occupation, that Israel is the most brutal [regime] in the world and kills anyone who [reports] ‘the truth,’ according to them,” he said.

‘We need to fight for the Zionist narrative’

Maor Tzemach, chair of the Your Jerusalem NGO, told WIN that the Palestinian Authority was seizing upon Abu Akleh’s death as a tool to both gain international security and whip up anti-Israel sentiment among Arabs with Israeli citizenship.

“The PA is cynically exploiting Abu Akleh’s death and using it for an incitement campaign [against Israel], both in the international media and within Judea and Samaria,” he said.

When speaking about her death, the public “should remember that she was walking around a battle zone with armed Palestinians who were engaging in a firefight with IDF troops,” he said. “Israel asked for a joint investigation swiftly, in a straightforward manner, [but that request] was immediately rejected by [Abbas], using excuses based on lies.”

Tzemach said the PA was looking to ride a general wave of anti-Israel feelings among Arab Israelis, which was seen during last year’s widespread rioting in mixed Arab-Jewish communities.

“This is part of a ‘Palestinian-ization’ effort towards Arab Israelis and eastern Jerusalem,, to encourage them to adopt a Palestinian national identity, to fight Israel and identify with the Palestinian narrative,” he said.

In March 2022, terrorists with Israel citizenship murdered six Israelis in two separate attacks in one week, with four slain in the southern city of Beersheba and two murdered in the northern city of Hadera.

“I see these processes in a very worrying light, the Palestinian-ization of the Arab street in east Jerusalem midst be stopped,” he stressed.

“It requires us a society to accept that we’re in a reality where we need to fight for the Zionist narrative, for the Jewish state, otherwise it will lead to an unprecedented security and national disaster.”