On May 10, 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh and her team of reporters were covering the Israeli Occupation Force’s raid of a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, a city in the West Bank, Palestine. Though the entire team wore their press gear: a blue bulletproof vest and a blue helmet which both read the word “PRESS” on them in clear and large white letters to make themselves identifiable to Israeli forces, Abu Akleh and her team were distinctly targeted for the sole reason of being Palestinian journalists and media figures. Her colleague, Ali Al-Samoudi, was shot in the back and is now in stable condition, and Shireen Abu Akleh was shot right beneath her helmet, showing the deliberate intention to kill. It’s important to call attention to Israel’s attempts at silencing Palestinian voices and to highlight the hypocrisy of the United States, which prides itself on being the voice of freedom.
Abu Akleh gained fame amongst the Palestinian people during her coverage of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel, in 2000. Her work with Al Jazeera, the Middle-East’s biggest news source, and her daring and brave coverages of the Palestinian struggle against the apartheid state of Israel were celebrated by supporters all across the globe. For Palestinians, Shireen Abu Akleh’s name became the face of news as a whole as three generations regularly sat together around their televisions to watch her reporting. Though they were so familiar with seeing her face on the screen, her presence within the community was just as prevalent. Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israel are not at all scarce, but her legacy and her attempts to show the world the truth of Israel’s atrocities are what make this particular one even more heart-wrenching. She was a voice for the people that Israel desperately sought to silence.
In response to reports of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, the office of the prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, was quick to try to blame her death on Palestinian people, saying, “Palestinians in Jenin were even filmed boasting ‘We hit a soldier; he’s lying on the ground’. However, no IDF soldier was injured, which increases the possibility that Palestinian terrorists were the ones who shot the journalist.” However, witness testimonies directly disprove this outright lie.
Palestinian journalist, Shatha Hanaysha, witnessed Abu Akleh’s death firsthand. In recounting the horrors of that moment, she explained, “We made ourselves visible to the soldiers who were stationed hundreds of meters away from us … to make sure they knew we were journalists … When no warning shots were fired, we moved uphill towards the camp. Out of nowhere, we heard the first gunshot … Another bullet pierced Shireen’s neck … When I tried to extend my arm to reach her, another bullet was fired … It was an Israeli sniper that shot at us,” Hanaysha explained. All those present at the scene of her murder gave credible reports consistent with Hanaysha’s.
Furthermore, multiple investigations found that the Palestinian resistance fighters were nowhere near Abu Akleh and her crew. Instead, they were approximately 985 feet away from the area. Bennett’s statements continue a pattern in Israel’s handling of similar circumstances: Israel tries to blame everything on the Palestinians, and if that’s not possible, they “call” for an investigation that will lead nowhere and simply shift attention away from them as perpetrators of violence so that they can continue inflicting more aggression against the Palestinian people. Although they publicly called for an investigation, on the day of her funeral, the IOF attacked Palestinian mourners, even going as far as beating her pallbearers and causing her casket to hit the floor.
Israel’s slaughtering of Abu Akleh marks yet another push toward the erasure of the Palestinian people. Since 2000, over 45 journalists have been killed by Israel, and at an even more astonishing number, over 300 Palestinian people in total were killed by Israel in 2021 alone, a fifth of them being children. This begs the question: As Israel continues this genocide and as they continue pushing their efforts of the ethnic erasure of the Palestinian people, how is it that these crimes go unpunished?
The United States has been anything but unbiased in covering the Palestinian struggle. Though circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh’s death, and countless other deaths at the hands of Israel, are as clear as day, American media sources use any sort of opportunity to portray contextual ambiguity and to present this genocide as a “two-sided conflict.” On May 12, The New York Times posted an article titled “Al Jazeera Journalist Is Killed During Clashes in West Bank” and soon corrected it to “Al Jazeera Journalist Is Killed in West Bank” after public outrage, yet it still completely omitted the fact that she was killed by Israeli snipers.
Other sources followed with passive titles like this, such as the Associated Press News saying “Al Jazeera reporter killed,” and dismissed facts as mere claims. At the time of writing, numerous articles covering Israel’s beating of Palestinian mourners are currently dismissing it as a clash of violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces, though countless videos show Israeli soldiers to be the sole instigators and perpetrators.
As Israel continues to hide beneath the gilded title of a “democracy,” in reality, it is an apartheid regime that has been pushing for the genocide of the Palestinian people since 1948, and the U.S. has been enabling it. Though it is indirect, all U.S. citizens have blood on our hands, for taxpayers give billions of dollars yearly to fund these atrocities. So as Israel continues to persecute the Palestinian people by murdering them, demolishing their homes and imprisoning them, the least we can do is call attention to it and to put pressure on our government, representatives and the United Nations to do something about it — not turn a blind eye by simply dismissing it as yet another foreign country in “conflict.”