Murder of Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces

Muhammad Hassan Aamir, Contributing Writer

On May 11th 2022 Israeli forces shot dead Al Jazeera’s journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry. She joins the fifty Palestinian journalists killed by the Israeli forces while working since 2001.


Menza Qato, a historian at the University of Cambridge spoke of Shireen in high regard. “She was the voice of Palestine to the rest of the Arab world and its diaspora” said Qato. He continued “She was the one who forced the Arab World to remember, to contend with, and to take seriously what it means to disengage from the question of Palestine”.  (The Guardian)


Professor Tom Lobe too spoke glowingly of Abu Akleh. “She had courage galore,” he said. Born in Jerusalem, “she found the United States boring” he continued. A reporter for Al Jazeera she had “a sense of everything, she knew where the danger was and was extremely well versed and informed on the scene” he remarks. 


Covering a raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, Abu Akleh was murdered in cold blood by Israeli forces. Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and body armor clearly marked “press”. A witness to the event Shatha Hanayasa corroborated this very claim. She says “We were a group 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.” (The Guardian)


Having done his due-diligence and research after looking at multiple sources, Professor Motahar echoes the words of Shatha Hanayasa. He rejects the claim put forward by Israel’s Prime Minister that “armed Palestinians shot in an inaccurate, indiscriminate and uncontrolled manner.” (Vox News)


Professor Motahar is not alone in rejecting this claim. He points to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, “whose version of the story completely contradicts the version given by the occupying power”, he continues.  


The killing of Abu Akleh invoked condemnation by the United States. The US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, called for a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances of her death. The Israeli Government said that it would jointly investigate the killing with the Palestinian Authority, but the Palestinian side declined to provide Abu Akleh’s body or share the bullet that killed her. (Vox News)


However, this enthusiasm for an investigation was short lived, as Israeli Military confirmed that they will not be opening an investigation into her death. Amos Harel, the correspondent for the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, reports that the plan for a real criminal investigation of Israeli soldiers was completely unfounded. He said that “such an investigation would provoke opposition and controversy within the IDF and in Israeli society in general.” (The Intercept)


If that was not enough, Israeli forces attacked the funeral processions of Abu Akleh. As her body left St Joseph Hospital, they attacked the funeral procession – nearly forcing the pallbearers to drop Abu Akleh’s coffin. They seized Palestinian flags from mourners and later smashed the window of the hearse carrying Abu Akleh’s body and removed a Palestinian flag. (Al Jazeera)


“The heinous attack on her funeral is beyond anything I know. In any moral/ethical system that I am aware of, respect for the dead is regarded as sacrosanct”, Professor Motahar mentions.


Professor Lobe too was distraught, labeling the attack on the funeral processions “a step too far”. He draws parallels to the United States. He continues, “Can you imagine the outrage if the Minneapolis Police engaged in such acts after killing someone”. “The Israeli Military and police fully armed and geared with tasers and guns attacking the coffin of a Palestinian American is a direct show of Israel’s impunity,” he remarks. 


Again he is not the only one holding these views. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed”.  On Saturday, the foundation of late South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said scenes of Israeli police attacking the pallbearers were “chillingly reminiscent” of what happened during the funerals of anti-apartheid activists. (Al Jazeera)

The question remains will the Israeli Military be held accountable? Professor Lobe emphasizes that Israel punishing its own forces for carrying out these killings remains out of the question. He suggests and calls for an independent investigation by the UN, B’Tselem and other fair minded and trusted groups.