Those who make baseless claims that Israel targeted slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh “are themselves culpable for violence against Israelis”, decorated British officer Colonel Richard Kemp told The AJN this week.
Colonel Kemp has commanded troops on the front lines in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, experiencing firsthand the realities of battle.
In an exclusive interview, Kemp outlined that when the Israel Defence Force operates in a place like Jenin, they come under attack “almost invariably”.
“They were in a very dangerous and difficult situation with fire coming from many different directions. Any situation like that does lead to confusion and very often does lead to inadvertent casualties,” he said.
“The journalist could have been shot by the IDF or by Palestinian terrorists. It could have been either way.”
Kemp said his inclination is that she was more likely shot by a Palestinian.
“The IDF, when they’re accused of something like this, they carry out an immediate and thorough investigation. If that investigation shows their own people were responsible, they always admit that and they then do a more detailed investigation to establish whether it was a criminal action or just an accident,” he said.
He added that the video footage suggests that Palestinian terrorists were shooting and then claimed someone was killed, and since no IDF soldier was killed, that “leads to the possibility that they killed that journalist”.
In addition, he said that in the video the terrorists are seen “shooting randomly in many different directions, often spraying wildly”.
The other point is the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to hand over the fatal bullet.
“Isn’t the question really: Is there a reason why they haven’t done that, does it suggest that it was one of their own people?” he posited.
“Also the Palestinian Authority’s coroner in a medical examination confirmed that it wasn’t possible to say [it was] either side which killed her.”
Kemp lamented that respectable politicians and human rights groups have, without evidence, blamed Israel for the Palestinian-American journalist’s death.
“It’s always the case when there’s an incident of this sort, automatically Israel is to blame. And it’s really dangerous, because it’s not based on any kind of facts or evidence. It’s based on hatred for Israel,” he said.
“These sort of accusations are not just rallying cries, they also result in deaths. They will cause attacks against Israelis. They will cause demonstrations against Jews around the world. Irresponsible condemnation of Israel does result in encouraging terrorist action and violent protests against Israel, against Jews.
“So it is absolutely despicable, and those responsible people who have condemned Israel for killing the journalist are themselves culpable for violence against Israelis.”
Addressing the melee at Abu Akleh’s funeral, where footage showed Israeli officers allegedly attacking Palestinians, Kemp said that again, “very few people know the exact facts”.
“[But] it’s very clear to me that an agreement was made between the Israeli police and the family as to how the funeral was to be conducted and secured. And then the Israeli police were attacked by a Palestinian mob and the coffin was hijacked,” he said.
“Obviously, the optics if you just look at the video footage … are very damning for Israel, but that’s not the truth. That’s not the reality. We obviously have to await the detailed investigation which Israel is carrying out.
“But on the face of it, from my perspective, the Israeli police were trying to maintain order, trying to protect themselves, trying to maintain the integrity of the funeral at the family’s request, and it was disrupted and violently hijacked by a Palestinian mob.”
He said there had been even more condemnation of Israel for that “by respectable people who should know better”.
“An ambassador or politician or human rights group leader, someone like that … people listen to them,” he said.
“And those people who want to destroy Israel use their comments to incite violence. So making comments like that without having the truth, without knowing the reality, is grossly irresponsible.”
Kemp was in Australia this week on private business. He took time out of his schedule to speak to students at Jewish day schools in Sydney and Melbourne. The visits were coordinated by UIA.