On May 11th 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh, a senior Palestinian correspondent whose name dominated the news, was shot dead by Israeli forces while covering an illegal Israeli occupation invasion into Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank under the administration of the Palestinian National Authority.
Israel’s assassination of Abu Akleh ignited angry protests across the globe—all the while Israel denied killing one of Palestine’s most prominent journalists.
Abu Akleh was a household name in the Arab world and an invaluable voice for Palestinians. She was born into a Christian family in Jerusalem in 1971 and studied architecture before venturing towards Journalism at Yarmouk University in Jordan. Upon graduation, she traveled back to Palestine and worked for a number of media outlets such as the Voice of Palestine Radio and the Amman Satellite Channel. A year after Al Jazeera Media launched, Abu Akleh joined the news channel as one of the Qatar-based, Arabic-language network’s first field correspondents. Thereafter, she rose to fame for her brave coverage of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.
Abu Akleh was famously known for saying, “I chose journalism to be close to the people. It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I could bring their voice to the world.”
She lived by her words, as Abu Akleh was known to fearlessly cover key events in the Palestinian struggle for freedom—events that constantly put her life at risk. During her career, she covered Israel’s brutality against Palestinians as well as the famous jailbreak of six Palestinians from a maximum-security prison in northern Israel in 2021. Abu Akleh further covered regional news, notably the war in Lebanon back in 2006.
“Shireen was a trailblazer, an inspiration for us all,” said Dalia Hatuqa, an Al Jazeera journalist and close friend of Abu Akleh.
Moments before she was killed, Abu Akleh was on a mission to expose Israeli raids in the city of Jenin in the occupied West bank when an Israeli military bullet hit her head. During the fatal attack, she was wearing a blue flack jacket with words PRESS clearly etched on the back.
Al Jazeera News Network responded with profound rage and released a statement calling her killing a “blatant murder” and “heinous crime.” The Network accused Israeli forces of targeting the veteran journalist with live fire and assassinating her in “cold blood.”
Initially, the Israeli army vehemently denied deliberately killing Al Akleh and even offered a joint investigation. However, international outrage from both Arab and Western countries later compelled Israel to admit responsibility. Israel later released a statement noting there was “high possibility” Abu Akleh was shot and killed by a sniper while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in May.
International efforts have miserably failed to hold Israeli forces accountable, but the death of Abu Akleh has sparked a flame across the globe, uncovering the reality of Israel’s atrocities on Palestinian soil. Abu Akleh’s murder has taken Israeli oppression to new depths by exposing the Occupying Body’s disregard for freedom of the press and journalists’ rights.
Hatuqa notes: “Years of seeing justice not being served for Palestinians tells me we shouldn’t expect much [from officials]. But if we focus on whatever silver lining there is, I’d never seen anything like the turnout at her funeral … It showed how loved and respected she was.”
Abu Akleh was also a US citizen, and according to PressTV, her family met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken following a report by the US department of State claiming that Abu Akleh’s killing was not deliberate. The report did not fare well with the international community, let alone the Abu Akleh family, as the Biden administration was “skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by the Israeli forces,” as reported by PressTV.
“We, the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, write to express our grief, outrage and sense of betrayal concerning your administration’s abject response to the extrajudicial killing of our sister and aunt by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while on assignment in the occupied Palestinian city of Jenin in the West Bank,” the family said in a letter addressed to Blinken.
“Your administration has thoroughly failed to meet the bare minimum expectation held by a grieving family – to ensure a prompt, thorough, credible, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation that leads to true justice and accountability for Shireen’s killing,” the letter further read.
The family even tried to meet with President Joe Biden, albeit unsuccessfully. Shireen’s brother Anton Abu Akleh mentioned that no Israeli office had ever reached out to the family. “We didn’t speak to any Israeli official and they didn’t try to speak to us. Israel has to first recognize that this was an intentional killing … We don’t know how they came up with something called ‘unintentional’ or ‘mistake.’ Even when there is a mistake, someone should pay the price,” he said.
More than 50 US lawmakers have called for an investigation into Abu Akleh’s murder, and over a hundred leading artists from around the world are demanding Israel to take full accountability. While the International Criminal Court has initiated an investigation into the war crimes by Israel in both the West bank and the Gaza trip, Israel denies the court’s jurisdiction, conveniently calling the war crimes probe ‘unfair’ and ‘anti-Semitic.’
A year later, justice for Shireen Abu Akleh is yet to be served as her perpetrators continue to occupy and kill the Palestinian people she spent her whole life helping—until her last breath.
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