One month on, still no justice in sight for our beloved Shireen

Family and friends carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank (Ammar Awad - Reuters)

Jalal Abukhater

Al-Jazeera  /  June 11, 2022

But this does not mean there is no hope. There is.

One month has passed since the assassination of beloved Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military in Jenin.

An entire month has passed, but many of us in Palestine are still struggling to accept that Shireen is no longer with us, that she is no longer here to give a voice to our struggle, that we will never hear her iconic sign-off – “Shireen Abu Akleh, Aljazeeeera, Filasteen” – ever again.

As I try to process this immense loss, as I count the days since I received that initial notification about her death, I repeatedly ask myself: Are we getting any closer to achieving justice for Shireen?

Sadly, one month on, the answer to this question is a resounding “no”.

Indeed, justice for Shireen is still as distant as it has always been – as distant as it always is for every single one of the Palestinian victims of Israel’s decades-long systematic and murderous violence.

But this does not mean there is no hope.

There is.

Shireen’s killing mobilized the Palestinian streets in ways I have never seen before.

Her funeral was one of the longest, and best-attended, in the recent history of Palestine – it spanned three days and approximately 100km (62 miles). People from all corners of our occupied and violated homeland rose up to pay their respects and demand justice for Shireen.

Shireen’s coffin was first carried across the Jenin refugee camp, where she was murdered, before making its way to Al-Najah National University in Nablus for a ceremonial military funeral.

In Ramallah, mourners took to the streets to bid her farewell long before the beginning of the official ceremony at Al-Muqata’a, the presidential headquarters. In Jerusalem, the streets were filled with thousands carrying Palestinian flags in her honour. Despite the brutal violence inflicted on mourners by Israeli occupation forces, Jerusalemites persevered and remained locked together for hours to make sure the city Shireen loved the most showed her the respect she deserved.

Shireen was the daughter of Jerusalem, the daughter of Palestine. She spent a lifetime telling the true story of this land to the world. And even in her death, she managed to bring us all closer together, and increase our commitment to our struggle for freedom, dignity and justice.

None of us expects the Israeli forces who murdered Shireen to admit to their crime or seek atonement. None of us is naive enough to believe her killers – not only those who pulled the trigger, but also those who created the conditions for her assassination – will be held to account for what they did to her, and the Palestinian people.

But the outpouring of love and solidarity Shireen’s murder triggered in Palestine still gives me hope that despite all the brutality inflicted on us by the Israeli occupation, Palestinians are moving together towards building a better future and finding freedom.

As expected, Israel first lied about what happened in Jenin on the morning of May 11, 2022, and then refused even to investigate what we all know was a cold-blooded assassination of a journalist on duty, citing “political complexities”.

We had testimonies by several Palestinian journalists and witnesses, plenty of video evidence, and lots of experts weighing in. They all agreed that it was Israeli fire that killed Shireen. CNN went even further and after analyzing all the available evidence, all the possible scenarios, all the bullet markings left at the scene, concluded that Shireen was killed in “a targeted attack” by Israeli forces.

But no evidence in the world was enough to stop the Israeli propaganda machine. Israel continued with its campaign to muddy the waters and gaslight Palestinians. It kept claiming that it is not possible to know what happened, that even if it was an Israeli bullet that killed Shireen, it was somehow the fault of Palestinians.

And people believed these lies. Or at least chose to parrot them back because it was politically convenient to do so. Even America’s so-called “paper of record” recently claimed that “the world still knows very little about who is responsible for [Shireen’s] death”.

This is, of course, a lie. The world knows who is responsible for her death. Israel knows who is responsible for her death. And, most importantly, we Palestinians know who is responsible for her death.

Shireen was killed by Israel. She was killed for doing her job. She was killed because she was a journalist telling the story of Palestine. She was killed because she wanted to give a voice to the residents of Jenin and all the other Palestinians brutalized by Israel’s occupation forces.

There may be no justice in sight. But even in death, Shireen is giving us hope. Her legacy is strengthening our resolve to carry on with the fight. Her memory is encouraging budding journalists across Palestine to continue her mission and expose the ugliness of Israel’s occupation.

Since the killing of Shireen on May 11, Israeli forces have killed 12 other Palestinians in the occupied West Bank alone. This number includes 18-year-old Thaer al-Yazouri, killed in al-Bireh, near Ramallah; 17-year-old Amjad al-Fayed, killed in Jenin refugee camp; 16-year-old Ghaith Yamin, killed in the city of Nablus; 15-year-old Zaid Ghneim, killed in Bethlehem; 17-year-old Odeh Odeh, killed in the village of Al-Midya near Ramallah.

I am listing their names because, just like Shireen, these young Palestinian lives lost to senseless Israeli fire also deserve justice.

Israel will continue to do everything it possibly can to muddy the waters, to try and gaslight Palestinians into thinking that it is not Israel that is responsible for the deaths of Shireen, Thaer, Amjad, Ghaith, Zaid, Odeh and countless other Palestinian innocents.

Justice for them may not be in sight, but after witnessing the outpouring of love and solidarity that followed Shireen’s murder, and experiencing how each Israeli bullet that takes a Palestinian life strengthens the Palestinian resolve to resist, to remember and to fight on, I am more hopeful for the future today than ever before.

Some media outlets claim one month after Shireen’s assassination there is “relative calm” today in Palestine. But there is no “relative calm” for Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal occupation. We are all bound by our duty to Shireen and others we lost to Israel’s senseless violence to resist, to speak our truth, to keep fighting.

Jalal Abukhater, a Jerusalemite, holds an MA in International Relations and Politics from the University of Dundee