By Rebecca Piassek
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
A Palestinian journalist was shot dead and five others were reportedly injured by gunfire during protests along the Gaza border last week.
Israeli defense officials have since come out to claim that the slain journalist, Yaser Murtaja, was actually working undercover as a member of Hamas.
“We are dealing with someone who was active in the security apparatuses work on a daily basis and did much to help them,” one official said in a report published Tuesday morning.
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization, and has been the governing authority of the Gaza Strip since 2007. Hamas contains both a social service branch and a military branch, with much of its work being focused against Israel.
According to Hamas’ military branch, known as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas aim is to “To contribute in the effort of liberating Palestine and restoring the rights of the Palestinian people under the sacred Islamic teachings of the Holy Quran, the Sunna (traditions) of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the traditions of Muslims rulers and scholars noted for their piety and dedication.”
Palestinian organizers have been leading a series of protests along the Gaza Strip, close to the Gaza-Israel border, demanding that Palestinian refugees be permitted to return to what is now Israel. These protests have been met with great resistance from Israel, who refuses the return.
Murtaja’s death sparked controversy and condemnation from both other countries and other journalists; many, including Israel’s National Journalist Association, are now pressing the leaders of the Israel Defense Forces to open an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting. However, Defense Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman has remained firm that Murtaja was a Hamas activist and that Israel did no wrong.
The IDF stated last Friday that the IDF “does not intend to shoot at journalists.”
Palestinian-Israeli relations have always been tense, but Murtaja’s death comes at an especially significant time. Israel has been increasingly aggressive in its defense as of late; actions both along the Gaza border and among other Middle Eastern countries, including supposed airstrikes in Syria targeted at Iranian militants, have brought Israel to international attention.
Israel’s unwavering defense of their claim that Murtaja was a member of Hamas, not a journalist, is in line with this international attitude– an attitude that is aggressive, firm, and ready to stand its ground, both literally and figuratively. Especially as it appears that Palestinian-Iranian-Syrian relations are strengthening, it is imperative for Israel to maintain a fierce international image.
However, appearing too fierce on the international stage may actually harm Israel and lead to an increased level of violence for which it may not be prepared. While it is in Israel’s best interest to appear strong and ready to defend itself, the country should not appear as if it is trying to start a war in the already messy region.
Israel’s public statement was perhaps as good as it could have been given the international uproar. While the statement defended Israel’s actions, it also acknowledged that the IDF would investigate the case further. Regardless of whether or not the IDF actually follows through with their promise, acknowledging the investigation requests makes the country diplomatic even in the face of its enemies.
At a time when countries around the globe are condemning the shooting of Murtaja, diplomacy and strength are Israel’s best options to move forward.
Rebecca is a freshman journalism and government & politics major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.