In Palestine, to stand with the truth makes you a target

Gaza City mural (Ashraf Amra - APA Images)

Ahmed Abu Artema

Mondoweiss  /  May 12, 2022

Israeli hostility toward journalists makes sense once you understand the nature of this colonial state. The continuation of Israeli apartheid is only possible by fighting those who reveal the truth.

On Wednesday May 11th, 2022, Israeli occupation forces killed veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin Camp while she was reporting on an Israeli aggression there.  Journalist Shatha Hanaysha who was with Abu Akleh when she was shot shared what she saw: 

“We were a group of journalists all wearing press vests. Shireen was wearing a press vest and a helmet. The person who shot her hit her in an area not covered by the helmet. We were standing across from a building where Israeli snipers were stationed. The soldiers were opposite to us. They could see us as we stood facing them. We deliberately stood in an area where the soldiers could see that we were wearing our vests. Shooting began after we arrived at that place, so it was impossible for us to leave. If they didn’t want to kill, they would’ve shot before we got to a place which was hard to withdraw from. What happened was a clear act of killing journalists.” 

An Al-Jazeera producer was also injured in the same incident. Ali al-Samoodi gave his testimony of the attack as well:

“During coverage we make sure that the occupation soldiers can clearly see us because we can’t work if they don’t see us. We’d be endangering our lives. We reached the area and waited until Shireen arrived, then we wore out protection vests and proceeded together. We stood opposite the soldiers in the open area so that the soldiers could see us from every angle. They clearly saw us and identified us as journalists, not resistance fighters.”  

Al-Samoodi’s testimony invalidated the Israeli propaganda about the killing, which blamed Palestinian fighters. He added:

“We can’t enter any area with armed clashes. When we got to the area, we looked and made sure there were no resistance fighters or confrontations. The area is very dangerous and no resistance fighter or civilian can enter it because they would get killed. We stood across from them for five minutes, then we proceeded slowly but they attacked. Three shots rang out. The second bullet hit me directly and the third bullet hit Shireen.”  

Shireen Abu Akleh is a household name that has been known by millions of Arabs for the past 25 years due to her work as a journalist for Al Jazeera. Her name, voice, and presence have been linked with the suffering of the Palestinian people and the continuous crimes of the Israeli occupation.

On her Facebook page, and just three days before she was killed, Shireen posted this:

In this post she shared the death of Um Kareem Younis, a Palestinian mother who had waited 40 years for her son Kareem who is imprisoned in Israeli occupation prisons. Only eight months before his upcoming release, Um Kareem died. She died without achieving her dream of holding her son outside the Israeli prison.  

This is what being a Palestinian journalist means—to be the spokesperson of your people’s pains and a voice for the agonies and aggression that befall them from living under occupation for decades.  

This is how the stories of Palestinian suffering are intertwined. This is what being a Palestinian journalist means—to be the spokesperson of your people’s pains and a voice for the agonies and aggression that befall them from living under occupation for decades.  Almost every Palestinian home has a sad story whether a killing, a handicap, an imprisonment, a demolition, or a deportation.

After 25 years of her reporting the news, Shireen’s fans were shocked yesterday that she herself had become the news. Shireen isn’t the first victim of Israeli occupation, but she is the most recent on a long list of thousands of Palestinian victims since the racist Zionist colonial attack on Palestine began.  

Shireen also isn’t the first Palestinian journalist to be killed on duty. The Israeli occupation has killed at least 46 journalists since the year 2000, and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says 86 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967.

And in May 2021, Israel made headlines when its occupation warplanes shelled the Al-Jalaa building which housed dozens of international press agency offices while knowing all along the nature of the offices there.  

The Israeli hostility toward journalists makes sense when one understands the nature of this colonial state. How can a state that was established upon and promoted the false premise that there is no Palestinian people reconcile with a people whose mission is to reveal the truth! The continuation of the Israeli occupation state’s colonial policies is only possible by fighting those who reveal the truth.  

From the moment this stark crime against Abu Akleh took place it became an immediate source of concern for the occupation state because it contradicts the enormous efforts and resources it employs to humanize its army, and whitewash the occupation state to portray it as a normal democratic country that promotes human rights.  

Since the killing, Israeli state spokespersons have adhered to the policy of: ‘Lie, then lie then lie until people believe you.’  Israeli occupation Minister of Defense Benny Gantz claimed that preliminary investigation results show that the Israeli army didn’t fire at the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The spokesperson of the Israeli army purported the presence of Palestinian militants and that they were the ones who shot the journalist. 

The lies that follow every crime that makes international headlines has become customary Israeli behavior. Palestinians heard these lies after the crime of murdering the Palestinian child Mohammed Al-Durra in 2000 as he held on to his father, and after the killing of the paramedic Razan al-Najjar in the Great Return March in 2018, and after the shelling of Al-Jalaa building in 2021 in Gaza. After committing these crimes Israel tries to obfuscate the facts, diminish its responsibility, and claim that the Palestinians kill one another.

  In addition to Al-Samoodi’s testimony, B’Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights investigated the killing and also debunked the Israeli army’s version of events. 

And even while some Israeli representatives were trying to absolve themselves of the crime, other statements from Israeli officials constituted an implicit admission of guilt.  

Avi Benyahu, a former spokesperson of the Israeli army stated, “Suppose that Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli army fire. There’s no need to apologize for that.”  

Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir said, “When ‘terrorists’ fire at our soldiers in Jenin, the soldiers must retaliate in full force even in the presence of journalists in from Aljazeera in the area—who usually stand in the army’s way and impede their work.”

  The Israeli occupation’s spokespersons are trying to draw us into irrelevant details, but Gvir’s lies must be recognized because they are dangerous, and ultimately justify the targeting, and killing, of journalists even when they are identified.  

Therefore, we must always remember the bigger picture of what’s taking place in Palestine. That is, there is a racist and colonial power embodied in the state of Israel which has been committing systematic crimes for seven decades against the indigenous people who have lived here for thousands of years. Its goal is to displace our people and to kill their will to resist.

Journalists like Shireen Abu Akleh and Yasser Murtaja; and the paramedic Razan al-Najjar, and the American activist Rachel Corrie and thousands of others have stood by the people whose rights have been violated. The only ones who have felt injured by their humanitarian and professional work is Israel.

Ahmed Abu Artema was born in Rafah, Gaza Strip, in 1984; he is an independent Gaza-based writer and political activist, and the author of ‘Organized Chaos’; he is one of the original founders and organizers of the Great Return March and is currently a member of the group Palestine Without Borders