Katie Phang, an MSNBC anchor, recently drew a comparison between the deaths of Shireen Abu Akleh and of Jamal Khashoggi. Not everyone was convinced. A report on this doubtful comparison is here: “‘Tale of Two Slain Journalists’: TV Host Equates Israel with Saudi Arabia in Bizarre Parallel,” by Rachel O’Donoghue, Algemeiner, July 19, 2022:
During her TV show last week, MSNBC anchor Katie Phang discussed US President Joe Biden’s four-day trip to both Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Opening a segment that included interviews with Peter Beinart [who opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state] and Hagar Chemali, Phang characterized the countries as “stolid [sic] US allies in the Middle East,” but then added that “both have been accused of serious human rights violations.”
She proceeded to use the deaths of journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh to drive home her simplistic analysis that the actions of Israel and Saudi Arabia are in some way comparable:
Consider the tale of two slain journalists: the former columnist for The Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi and the Palestinian-American TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Both of them, in their own way, died at the hands of the governments they were working to expose. In Khashoggi’s case, Saudi agents murdered him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul back in 2018. US intelligence agencies concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation to kill Khashoggi. Eight suspects were ultimately sentenced in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s death but the Crown Prince himself has not been held accountable for his role. President Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the murder, now Biden is set to meet with [Mohammed bin Salman] himself.
And then there’s Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed while reporting at a refugee camp in the West Bank. The US State Department conducted its own investigation and said that a bullet fired by Israelis forces was “likely responsible” for Akleh’s death. But the US also said that it found “no reason to believe” that Israel intentionally targeted the Palestinian-American journalist.
In the case of Khashoggi’s murder, there was a direct command from the Crown Prince to have Khashoggi killed. In the case of Abu Akleh’s killing, there was no intention to kill her. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time – between IDF troops and Palestinian terrorists exchanging fire on the outskirts of Jenin. It is not even clear that the IDF was responsible, although the Americans have concluded that it was “likely” that an IDF gun killed her. How they can conclude that is a puzzlement, given that the fatal bullet that the Palestinians finally produced for the Americans to conduct their ballistic analysis had been so smashed at one end – deliberately, by the Palestinians in whose sole custody it had been held – that nothing could be concluded as to the gun that had been used. How does one “conclude” anything, when the evidence is, by your own admission “inconclusive”? None of this was included in Phang’s report for MSNBC.
Phang then went a step further, implying that a letter, signed by a number of Democrat senators and addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, proved that the United States had somehow whitewashed the investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.
Dated July 12, the communique from Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) claimed that the probe into Abu Akleh’s death by the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) did “not meet any plausible definition of the ‘independent’ investigation that [Blinken] and members of Congress have called for.”…
Apparently what angered these left-wing Democrats was the failure of the American investigators to come down harder on Israel, and to ascribe motive to the “likely Israeli” shooter when none was possible to discern. How do Van Hollen et al know what the Israeli shooter – if indeed it was an Israeli, which is by no means certain – “intended” to do? Given the colossal efforts the IDF makes to avoid or minimize civilian casualties, why would an IDF soldier deliberately fire at a famous journalist, and thereby bring down the world’s wrath on Israel? It makes no sense.
Jamal Khashoggi…entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a document confirming his status as divorced so that he would be free to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz. Turkish investigators said that when he was inside the building, he was strangled by a Saudi hit squad and his body was dismembered and later disposed of.
A probe conducted by US intelligence services — declassified in February 2021 and summarized in four pages — concluded that Khashoggi’s brutal murder was premeditated and likely authorized by bin Salman.
Compare these horrifying circumstances to Abu Akleh’s tragic death in May, which occurred in the middle of a gunfight between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists during a raid in Jenin to arrest suspects following a spate of deadly terror attacks against innocent civilians.
Despite fantastical claims by the Palestinian Authority (PA), there is not a shred of evidence to suggest Israel deliberately targeted Abu Akleh or that it has sought to prevent a full and transparent investigation into her death.
Indeed, Israel quickly offered to participate in a joint probe with the Palestinians, while also carrying out its own investigations that were hampered by the PA’s refusal to turn over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for ballistic analysis.
When the PA did finally release the bullet to American authorities nearly two months later, US officials stated it was too badly damaged to conclusively determine who had fired the fatal shot, but that it was likely an accident by an IDF soldier….
Israel was so eager to have the fatal bullet examined that when the PA turned the Israelis down, they urged that the bullet be turned over to American investigators instead, who would perform their ballistic analysis as best as they could. Because of the damage to the bullet, they were unable to conclude whose gun had fired the shot, but nonetheless, illogically, they chose to conclude that it was likely an “Israeli gun” that fired the shot. If the evidence on the gun was inconclusive, why try to “conclude” anything?
Katie Phang was taken with the idea of a comparison, but she chose the wrong pair. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince, who deemed that Khashoggi had become too dangerous a critic. The real comparison to Khashoggi’s murder was to that of the Palestinian Nizar Banat, whose murder was ordered by Mahmoud Abbas precisely because, like Khashoggi for the Crown Prince, Banat had become too effective and dangerous a critic of Abbas for his corruption and despotic ways.
In contradistinction, the killing of Abu Akleh, unlike the ordered murders of Khashoggi and Banat, was unintentional and accidental. Phang owes her viewers, and Israel, an apology for drawing a comparison between the deaths of Khashoggi and of Abu Akleh. But given her left-wing anti-Israel bias, don’t expect it any time soon.