As if Israel’s deliberate, brutal murder of the Palestinian journalist and AlJazeera Arabic correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was not enough, the whole world had to watch in shock and agony while mourners at her funeral were shoved and beaten by Israeli riot police while they bore her coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag. The pallbearers bravely withstood the onslaught of baton-wielding soldiers showing not the least respect for the dead, managing to keep the coffin afloat even as their heads bled.
Considering that Abu Akleh also held a US passport, and that the White House was reportedly involved in obtaining Israeli assurances that she would be allowed a peaceful funeral, it was unlikely that the occupation army should kidnap her body as they have done with scores of Palestinians killed in clashes with the Israeli army – to punish their families and add to their grief. The ugly reality of which Palestinians are fully aware is that basic respect for sanctity of death is not in the playbook of the Israeli occupation army. What was more important for the Israeli soldiers was to prevent the Palestinian flag from appearing in the skies of occupied East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine.
Many Palestinians were quick to point out that Abu Akleh was among 31 people killed by Israeli security forces in recent weeks, allegedly to put an end to what seemed like a renewed wave of attacks by individual Palestinians targeting Israelis. Besides Abu Akleh, a Palestinian woman and two bystanders were also shot dead by Israeli occupation troops near Jenin. However, what adds to the atrocity of the crime is that Abu Akleh was killed while carrying out her job as a journalist, having taken all the necessary precautions required of journalists working in areas where the exchange of fire, rockets and tank shells is akin to morning greetings.
The US State Department Spokesman Ned Price, called Abu Akleh’s killing “an affront to media freedom everywhere.” Together with the European Union and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the US urged an “independent probe and a transparent investigation” into the incident, a call echoed by nearly all Arab and Muslim-majority countries, where countless people were heartbroken by Abu Akleh’s assassination with a sniper bullet in the head. “The investigation must be immediate and thorough and those responsible must be held accountable,” Price added.
Besides killing Palestinians, a fundamental element of the Israeli occupation playbook is lying. As soon as Abu Akleh was shot dead, top Israeli officials rushed to blame Palestinian gunmen who were allegedly resisting an Israeli raid in Jenin. Evidence provided to support such a claim was so false and fabricated that the same officials had to backtrack only a few hours later. The second stage of justifying the lie was to state that Israeli officials were not sure who assassinated the Palestinian-American reporter, Palestinians or Israelis. Aware that the truth will certainly come out, by the time Al-Ahram Weekly went to print the Israeli claim was that an Israeli sniper might have mistakenly, unintentionally killed Abu Akleh.
Speaking to AlJazeera, Shaza Hanaysha, the terrified Palestinian journalist who was seen trembling next to Abu Akleh as the latter’s body lay on the ground, unable to touch her for fear that another bullet might follow the first, said: “We were a group of journalists wearing press gear, and Shireen was even wearing the helmet. So it is obvious that the one who shot her meant to hit an exposed part of her body. This is an assassination.” She added, “even after she fell to the ground the fire did not stop, and none of us were able to reach her. An AlJazeera producer, Ali Samodi, who was shot in the back said, “we were there to cover the events in Jenin Camp. All of a sudden [the Israelis] opened fire at us, they didn’t ask us to leave or stop. The first bullet hit me, the second hit Shireen… There were no resistance fighters around us. If there had been, we wouldn’t have been in that area.”
In April, UK-based lawyers with the International Federation of Journalists filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing the Israeli occupation army of “systematic targeting of journalists.” At least 144 Palestinian journalists have been wounded by Israeli forces across the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2018. They were hit by live fire, rubber bullets, as well as stun grenades, tear gas, and beaten with batons, according to Reporters Without Borders. Shireen served her people for nearly three decades by exposing the truth about Israel’s ugly, racist practices as an occupation force. She continued to serve her people even after her assassination, uniting the Palestinians who mourned her death, and showing the entire world what the Israeli occupation is all about.
May her martyr’s soul rest in power.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.