‘Accountability requires action’: Shireen Abu Akleh’s family meets with Blinken

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  July 27, 2022

Family members of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reiterate their calls for an independent investigation into her death.

On July 26 family members of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and reiterated their calls for a thorough investigation into her death. Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces two months ago.

Abu Akleh’s family has previously expressed public skepticism about the U.S. government’s response to the killing. Earlier this month members put out a statement accusing the Biden administration of undermining their “efforts towards justice and accountability” and working to protect Israel from consequences.

Blinken tweeted about the meeting, but did not mention Israel at all in his remarks. “Today I met with the family of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, whose fearless journalism earned her the respect of audiences around the world,” he wrote. “I expressed my deepest condolences and commitment to pursue accountability for her tragic killing.”

The late journalist’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, shared Blinken’s tweet and wrote, “Accountability requires action. We look forward to a US investigation that leads to real consequences. Shireen was my aunt and the voice of Palestine and she was killed by an Israeli soldier. #JusticeForShireen.”

In a public statement the family called the Justice Department to launch an independent investigation and for the Biden administration to honor previous requests for transparency. Lina Abu Akleh expanded on these demands in an interview with NPR. “We reiterated our demands and our frustrations considering the Fourth of July statement [in which the Biden administration acknowledged that an IDF soldier probably fired the gun but that it was unintentional] that was released,” she said. “We expressed our frustration that we felt neglected. We felt abandoned. We felt that this report that was released was not an investigation. It did not hold the perpetrators accountable. On the contrary, it was damaging to the truth and to multiple news outlets and the U.N.’s report that released and that clearly showed evidence. We asked for transparency. We asked to receive all the information regarding the report. How was it conducted? And most importantly, we asked for an independent and a transparent U.S.-led investigation.”

A State Department press briefing occurred at the same time as the meeting. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Blinken was using the “opportunity to underscore for Shireen’s family our deepest condolences on her tragic death and to reiterate the priority we attach to accountability – something we continue to discuss with our Israeli and Palestinian partners as well.”

Price was asked about the family calling for an independent investigation multiple times, but did indicate that the administration supports such a measure. He referenced the July 4th statement case and reiterated the need for accountability. When asked about the time frame of the probe, he also couldn’t provide answers. “Well, we do want to see an investigation that is thorough, that’s credible, that’s transparent,” said Price. “And part of that – an investigation that is credible – there has to be an element of timeliness to this. We do understand that sometimes these elements are – run at cross purposes, timeliness and thoroughness, but we want to see an investigation that is both timely but is also thorough and that, importantly, concludes in accountability.”

During his recent trip to the Middle East President Biden sidestepped a request to meet with Abu Akleh’s family and made no public comments about the investigation while traveling. While Palestine advocates have expressed anger over the White House’s inaction, multiple Democratic congress members have sent letters to the administration calling for an independent investigation. While in DC Abu Akleh’s family members also met with progressive lawmakers to discuss the situation.

“Today I welcomed the family of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to offer my condolences, hear about Shireen’s life & work, and join them in urging Secretary Blinken to launch a thorough U.S. investigation to ensure accountability for her death. #JusticeforShireen,” tweeted Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).

Lina Abu Akleh tweeted a video of her thanking Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) for her support. “Thank you so much for being here,” Jayapal told her. “I think this is something that every American should care about and, frankly, everybody in the world that believes in democracy, believes in accountability, believes in free press. We mourn the loss of Shireen … this is not how it should be and I’m going to do everything, as chair of the Progressive Caucus and a congresswoman who cares about human rights to make sure that we help you in every way we can for justice and for accountability.”

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss