April 17, 2024

Scream for Shireen Abu Akleh Until Your Voice is Hoarse

In May of this year, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) murdered Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in cold blood.

Employed by Al-Jazeera as a field correspondent for over 20 years, Abu Akleh became known as the voice of Palestine through her coverage of the Israeli occupation.  Over her decades of journalism, Abu Akleh reported on such events as the Second Intifada and the battle of Jenin – becoming a household name.

On the day of her death, Akleh was wearing a blue vest with the word ‘Press’ marked in clear bold letters.  She was covering an IDF raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank.  It was an Israeli sniper, who from some distance away, fired the shot the shot that killed Abu Akleh.  The armour piercing bullet – standard issue for IDF troops, penetrated the journalist’s skull.  She was pronounced dead at the Ibn Sina Hospital.

In a pathetic display of aggression from the occupying force, Israeli police raided Abu Akleh’s home amid a gathering of Palestinian mourners, confiscating flags and preventing the playing of any ‘nationalist songs’.  Weeks later, at Abu Akleh’s funeral – Israeli soliders beat mourners as they carried her coffin.  Even in death, they could not let a freedom fighter know peace.

The murder of Shireen Abu Akleh was very simple.  So why is it that so many pretend that it wasn’t?

In June, the New York Times published an op-ed article titled ‘Who Killed Shireen Abu Akleh?’.  Its central argument was that the real culprit behind Abu Akleh’s murder remains somehow in dispute.  This is despite as the article itself references, key Israeli military spokesmen have gone on the record to suggest that the IDF likely were responsible.  It even quotes Rev Kochav who claims that journalists are legitimate military targets, for the crime of being ‘armed with cameras’. 

The Times was just one of the many media outlets peddling poorly written apologia to muddy the waters in, what any sane person should immediately recognise as, a war crime of the highest order.  The media establishment joined as one in an almighty chorus of passive voice, whatboutism and soft Israeli propaganda.  

The reason behind this is that the normalisation of Israel and its war crimes is a project shared across the halls of executive political power to the offices of media institutions like the Times.  Israel remains a key strategic ally to the United States for its power projection into the Middle East – and elites of all kinds share in the efforts to protect its legitimacy.

The instinct to let the endless tide of injustices against Palestinians wash over you is an understandable one.  The constant headlines and news images of houses being bulldozed and bombed, become somehow commonplace.  Caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of our own lives, we allow ourselves to slide into complacency.  Sure – perhaps every couple of months something like the Sheikh Jarrah evictions of last year or Abu Akleh’s death will offer a glimpse into what genuine resistance against the apartheid state might look like, but quite soon after it’s back to the norm.  The Palestinian plight becomes reduced once again to a numbing series of images on your television screen.

But that what it the apartheid state is banking on.

The truth that we must never let ourselves forget is that Abu Akleh – like every child starved by the Israeli blockade in Gaza, every peaceful protestor shot dead at the border – was murdered for the simple crime of being born Palestinian.  The project of the modern Israeli state is built upon the genocide of the Palestinan people and it demands their blood to expand its colonial presence in the occupied territories.

We must continue see the terrible clarity of Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinian people.  Crimes like continued illegal expansion, the stranglehold on Gaza, and the ruthless political killings of journalists, must spur us to act with unwavering dedication to the cause of Palestinian liberation.

Co-Editor of Togatus and socialist troublemaker.