Al-Jazeera / May 13, 2022
Palestinians will ensure that there is justice for Shireen Abu Akleh – and thousands of others killed by Israeli forces before her.
On Wednesday morning, Palestine woke up to the news that Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian reporter for Al-Jazeera, had been shot by Israeli regime forces.
Soon after, it was confirmed that she had been killed.
Shireen and a group of fellow journalists were in Jenin, covering an Israeli raid, when they came under fire from Israeli snipers. Shireen was shot in the head. Another journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was shot in the back.
She had been wearing a press jacket and a helmet. The bullet made its way to an exposed area below her ear. In other words, the shot was very precise and clearly intended to inflict fatal damage.
Shatha Hanaysha, another journalist who was standing next to Shireen when she was shot said the bullets were “sporadic and precise”. “They only shot when one of us moved,” she explained.
As expected, the Israeli regime quickly came up with a PR strategy and claimed that Shireen had been killed by Palestinian fire. They then back peddled and claimed that it was currently impossible to ascertain who shot Shireen, and further investigation was needed. This was despite the fact that there were several witnesses to her killing, including her colleagues.
Shireen was pronounced dead in the hospital not long after the shooting. In total disbelief that she was dead, colleagues screamed at her to wake up. As her body was brought from Jenin to Nablus and later Ramallah, the streets were filled with mourners calling out her name – many of whom had never met her but knew her from her reporting.
Indeed, an entire generation of Palestinians grew up with Shireen’s face on their television screens. She covered both Intifadas, countless Israeli regime raids, home demolitions and so much more. Children, in particular girls, would mimic her closing line in adoration; “Shireen Abu Akleh, Al-Jazeera, Ramallah.”
Last year she was on the ground in Sheikh Jarrah, covering Palestinian families being violently evicted from their homes while being harassed by Israeli police and settlers. She reported bravely and formidably, bringing the Palestinian story to a global audience.
She famously said: “I chose journalism to be close to the people.” Many of those she interviewed later talked of how she spoke to them with empathy. And despite widespread distrust of journalists across Palestine, she was welcomed in every home, in every village and every town. This was because she was of the people – a Palestinian reporting to the world on Palestine. Even though the Palestinian people are in a state of shock, Shireen’s killing was not unprecedented. The Israeli regime forces have often targeted Palestinian journalists and subjected them to arrests, beatings and killings.
The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate has long documented this – since the occupation of the 1967 territories, the Israeli regime has killed an estimated 86 Palestinian journalists. More than half of those were killed since the year 2000.
Just as has been the case with previous killings of Palestinian journalists, there have been calls for an independent investigation into Shireen’s death. People are making these calls because they know too well that the Israeli regime does not investigate these crimes. It has no interest in accountability and has no fear of anyone holding them to account. Indeed, even if there were independent investigations, the Israeli regime has enjoyed full impunity in the international community for over seven decades. “Independent investigations” conducted merely to create the appearance that something is being done will deliver justice neither for Shireen nor for the thousands of Palestinians killed before her – of that much we can be sure.
But justice will come, and it will be Palestinians themselves that will ensure that it does. Today we mourn, and tomorrow we pick up the pieces of our struggle once again.
Yara Hawari is the Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network