There must be no whitewash over Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing

The shameful killing of 51 year-old Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh happened a month ago. Most likely she was shot by an Israeli sniper, with initial claims by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) that a stray Palestinian bullet might have hit her having been largely discredited.  An Israeli investigation is under way, but has provided no answers yet.

A human tragedy for her family and the Palestinian people, Abu Akleh’s killing follows that of Jamal Khashoggi, callously dispatched by Saudi Arabia in 2018, and according to the Palestinian Authority, the deaths of 45 other Palestinian journalists killed since 2000.  

If we don’t yet know for sure that an IDF soldier shot her, we do know what happened the following day.  Her funeral was disrupted in an astonishing display of disrespect by the Israeli State.  Palestinian flags are not illegal in Jerusalem, but Israeli law allows police to seize flags displayed in places where they might lead to violence.  The flags on Abu Akleh’s coffin did indeed lead to violence.  It was perpetrated by an angry mob of Israeli Police, who aggressively waded into the crowd, hitting people with wooden batons, including those carrying the coffin. 

In this premeditated act, instead of trying to distance themselves from the killing, the Israeli authorities dishonoured even Abu Akleh’s dead body.  

These events should be a watershed for Israel.  Killing journalists to silence dissent is the province of despotic regimes, not a law-based democracy like Israel.  The world cannot and should not tolerate it, not only because we need to uphold the rule of international law and the right of journalists to protection while they report from conflict zones, but for the Israeli people themselves.  Right-wing governments thrive by having an enemy with which to brainwash their populations into supporting a “strong” and in the case of Israel, a military-dominated regime.  This is a right-wing government by any liberal standard – notwithstanding the fact that the largest party in the coalition (Yesh Atid) is an Observer Member of Liberal International!  Israelis must reject a whitewash over Abu Akleh’s killing, and demand from their leaders that real justice is served.  The Israeli people will only be seen by the rest of the world as truly strong when they end the oppression and domination of the Palestinian people. 

* Andy Daer is a member of the Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire and Vice Chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

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10 Comments

  • John McHugo 14th Jun '22 - 4:37pm

    Thank you, Andy, for an article that is very much to the point.

    Baroness Hale is the former president of our Supreme Court who is best known for reading out the court’s unanimous decision that Boris Johnson’s purported prorogation of parliament was illegal. In the Balfour Project’s conference on the rule of law in Israel and Palestine last year (https://balfourproject.org/why-the-rule-of-law-matters-rt-hon-baroness-hale-of-richmond/), she said that on a visit to Jerusalem in 2019 she was shocked to discover that “the West Bank Palestinians had given up on the [Israeli] Supreme Court because they felt it was no longer able to protect them.”

    Israel cannot be allowed to be judge and jury in this case or to obstruct the investigation. Our party has a duty to use all its influence to make sure that this does not happen.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jun '22 - 6:00pm

    Andy you correctly allude to the fact Israel is law based. You are fair here. That a rogue or criminal member of a force, be that police or military, kills, by accident or deliberately, is no reflection of a whole force, quite apart from, a whole country.

    This terrible action is, as you say, one that ought have truth, and thus justice, be the result. I at least for now, am prepared to say that a coalition, broadly representative of more than just right wing adherants, must not be viulified when as yet we have not found out what took place.

    Lapid has a lot about him we need, like Ed Davey has, to realte to. He is far more mainstream than the previous or current pm of Israel and so yes, by all means insist on no whitewash, but lets engage with moderates there too.

  • Martin Gray 14th Jun '22 - 8:47pm

    Considering the IDF was responsible for the deaths of over 2000 Palestinian civilians including a thousand + children in 2014 & a further 67 children killed in 2021 ..
    The Israeli govt has no shame when it comes the deaths of Palestinian men women & children …So don’t hold your breath as regards a journalist…And the West looks on with hardly a whimper of condemnation..
    Some governments can act with absolute impunity …Israel being one..

  • @Lorenzo, of course you are right that this killing was done by an individual, not a country or an entire people. But the state of Israel has to take responsibility for the police charging into the funeral procession wielding batons and throwing stun grenades, a response to Shireen Abu Akleh’s death which remains shocking and indefensible.
    It is for the people of Israel to end the dehumanising treatment of Palestinians and to demand the same from its police force and the IDF, and if an IDF sniper was to blame for shooting Shireen, to call for justice from the judicial process. But as John McHugo says, there is also a duty on all of us to press Israel not to obstruct the investigation.
    These events are tragic, but could play a part, if people of goodwill use the opportunity, in bringing about realisation that the oppression of the Palestinian people is wrong, has always been wrong, and must end.

  • @Lorenzo,

    You write, “That a rogue or criminal member of a force, be that police or military, kills, by accident or deliberately, is no reflection on a whole force, quite apart from, a whole country.” As an abstract proposition, that is certainly true.

    Shireen Abu Akleeh was buried in Jerusalem, her native city. The occupation authorities would almost certainly not have allowed her funeral to go ahead there if she came from another part of the West Bank. She was killed in Jenin, also on the West Bank. Throughout the occupied territories, Israel practises apartheid as defined in international law. Do you seriously dispute that? [I am not asking you to go into the question of whether Israel also practises apartheid within its own sovereign territory – that is a separate discussion].

    Do you seriously think the Israeli occupation forces police in either East Jerusalem or Jenin by consent? Aren’t the Israeli security forces a major part of the problem, irrespective or whether they actually fired the bullet that killed her? It is not a question of “a rogue or criminal member of a force”. Can’t you see that?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jun '22 - 10:45pm

    Andy, John, I do get what you say. I merely explain why I think we need to work with moderates on all sides.

  • Aside from John McHugo’s questions above about the IDF individual, unit, and wider Israeli society on journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s premeditated killing (firing into the clearly marked camera crew, who carefully informed and agreed with the IDF where they were located), this article also draws attention to the aftermath of her killing by the Israeli Police’s storming of her coffin.
    To ask Lorenzo- I hope an easier question to agree that cannot be reasonably justified- What was the rational, lawful, “reason” for this action- clearly not taken by an individual- but a whole Police unit? It’s hard to deny it was anything less than a provocative, petty-minded, completely unnecessary action.
    And it at least reveals that the members of that Police unit who charged at the coffin and its bearers hold a higher bond between themselves than the civilians surrounding them that they are purportedly to protect.
    And what of a social apparatus that fosters a culture of “them” and “us” to the extent that the whole of the Israeli Police unit all acted as one against the civilians? Their aggression at her funeral is an overt display of sectarianism discrimination, which has to come from wider social attitudes embedded within the state structure and illiberal roots.

  • John McHugo 16th Jun '22 - 8:39am

    @Lorenzo,

    I am glad we are in agreement about the need to work with moderates on all sides. But there is also a need to stand up and shout with a loud voice for the rights of all sides in international law to be respected and implemented, as well as the human rights of all individuals. Unless that is done unequivocally, the extremists on both sides will win. I hope you feel able to subscribe to this general proposition, too.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jun '22 - 4:53pm

    Tomas, John, agreed, but the origins of this are as yet to be investigated, and indeed must be.

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