The National / July 26, 2022
Family members press US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for independent investigation into Palestinian-American reporter’s death.
The family of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist killed in May during an Israeli raid in the West Bank, demanded an independent investigation into her death in an in-person meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.
“We are here to demand justice for Shireen,” Lina Abu Akleh, the journalist’s niece, said outside the State Department building in Washington.
“Nothing short of a US investigation that leads to real accountability is acceptable, and we won’t stop until no other American or Palestinian family endures the same pain we have,” she said in a tweet.
Ms Abu Akleh said Mr Blinken had committed to being transparent with the family and that they expect to be continually updated.
They also demanded an in-person meeting with US President Joe Biden and for the Department of Justice to launch a new investigation into her death, Politico first reported.
“Since the president didn’t come to us in Jerusalem to hear first-hand our grief, outrage and concerns regarding his administration’s lack of response to Shireen’s extrajudicial killing, we decided to come to him,” Abu Akleh’s brother Tony, niece Lina and nephew Victor said in a statement.
“We hope that our time in Washington this week will bring us closer to justice and accountability for Shireen.”
Speaking to Politico, the Abu Akleh family said the “least” the Biden administration could do was launch an independent, credible and transparent investigation, which Lina Abu Akleh claims it has not done.
“If we allow Shireen’s killing to be swept under the rug, we send a message that the lives of US citizens abroad don’t matter, that the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation don’t matter and that the most courageous journalists in the world, those who cover the human impact of armed conflict and violence, are expendable,” the family statement reads.
A US statement earlier this month said a bullet from an Israeli soldier was “likely responsible” for the journalist’s death but forensic analysis overseen by the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority found there “was no reason to believe that [the killing] was intentional”.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Mr Blinken was “deeply appreciative of the opportunity” to meet with Abu Akleh’s family.
“Not only was she an American citizen, she was a reporter whose fearless pursuit of the truth earned her the profound respect of audiences around the world,” Mr Price said, adding that the US considers accountability in the case a “priority”.
In a letter sent to Mr Biden and Mr Blinken, the Abu Akleh family demanded that this statement be retracted and for the White House to support the family’s efforts to ensure accountability.
“The administration’s July 4th statement was an affront to justice and enabled Israel to avoid accountability for Shireen’s murder,” the family said.
In a separate investigation, the UN said its findings showed the Al-Jazeera journalist had been killed by Israeli forces.
A group of US senators have also pressed the White House to answer questions on how the administration plans to ensure an investigation into Abu Akleh’s death is transparent and independent.
Abu Akleh’s family this week will also meet members of the US Congress, including Rashida Tlaib and Chris Van Hollen, Politico reported.
Kyle Fitzgerald – Washington for The National
Shireen Abu Akleh’s family meets with Blinken, renews demands for justice
Middle East Eye / July 26, 2022
Family members of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday to renew demands related to her killing during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
Lina Abu Akleh, the veteran reporter’s niece, said on Tuesday afternoon that she and other members of her family were in Washington and met with Blinken.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed the meeting during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, saying that Blinken was meeting the family and would reiterate the need for accountability.
“Part of this meeting is providing the secretary an opportunity to convey messages to them – it will be a message of condolence. There will be a message of the priority we attach to accountability going forward,” Price said.
“But this offers also equally an opportunity for the secretary to hear from the family, to hear their important perspective, to have a dialogue back and forth.”
“Although he made some commitments on Shireen’s killing, we’re still waiting to see if this administration will meaningfully answer our calls for #JusticeForShireen,” she wrote on Twitter after meeting Blinken.
Lina also reiterated that the family wanted a meeting with President Joe Biden, which she said would show “Shireen’s case is a priority for this administration.”
Blinken told the family that protecting US citizens is his duty, according to Lina.
However, “nothing short of a US investigation that leads to real accountability is acceptable, and we won’t stop until no other American or Palestinian family endures the same pain we have,” she wrote.
The meeting in Washington follows a call from Abu Akleh’s relatives for a meeting with Biden when he visited Israel and the occupied West Bank earlier this month. The Biden administration instead offered the family a meeting in the US.
“Since the President didn’t come to us in Jerusalem to hear first-hand our grief, outrage and concerns regarding his administration’s lack of response to Shireen’s extrajudicial killing, we decided to come to him,” the Abu Akleh family said in a statement on Tuesday, first reported by Politico.
Meetings with US Congress members
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on 11 May during an Israeli raid in the town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
The State Department concluded earlier this month that gunfire from Israeli positions “was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh” but dismissed the incident as the unintentional “result of tragic circumstances”.
Despite multiple investigations by independent media outlets concluding that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces, the State Department’s statement said the investigation was “inconclusive” and also emphasised the Israeli raid was a response to “a series of terrorist attacks in Israel”.
Eyewitness accounts, including from Middle East Eye contributor Shatha Hanaysha, stated that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli fire.
The US assessment was condemned by both the family as well as Palestinian activists, who accused the administration of trying to bury the truth of her killing.
The Abu Akleh family, according to Lina, will spend their time in Washington also meeting with lawmakers who she thanked for being willing to take the time to speak to them.
Since Abu Akleh’s death, there have been multiple congressional efforts to call for a US-led investigation into the killing, both in the House and the Senate.
“It’s worth noting that, to date, 24 US senators and 57 members of the House of Representatives have called on the Biden administration to initiate a thorough, credible, independent, and transparent US investigation into Shireen’s killing, and we are grateful to every single one of them,” the family said.
“We will be meeting with some of these members this week, and we thank them for making time to discuss next steps around Shireen’s case.”