Poster honoring the fallen journalist

The assassination of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, while she was covering an Israel Defense Force incursion in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, has sent shock waves throughout the world. Shireen was a well-known and respected reporter for Al-Jazeera. She and three other reporters were pinned down by Israeli snipers. She was wearing a helmet and press jacket that clearly identified her as a PRESS when Israeli forces shot her in the face. Another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was shot in the back, but is reportedly in stable condition.

There is additional outrage that Israel propaganda attempted to blame her murder on a Palestinian gunman. Video released by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem documented the exact location the armed Palestinian – depicted in a video distributed by the Israeli army – fired and the exact location in which Shireen was killed. The GPS coordinates of the two locations and aerial photographs of the site demonstrate that the shootings could not possibly be the gunfire that hit Shireen and her colleague.(1)  Al-Samoudi and other journalists at the scene said there were no Palestinian fighters present when the journalists were shot and stated that the Israeli soldiers shot at them “directly and deliberately.”(2)

Sadly, this is not an isolated event. Israel routinely targets journalists, politicizes the killing by shifting blame, and has no accountability for the crime. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) have submitted a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court.  The complaint details the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists on behalf of four named victims – Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh – who were killed or maimed by Israeli snipers while covering demonstrations in Gaza. All were wearing clearly marked PRESS vests at the time they were shot. The complaint also details the targeting of media and bombing of the Al-Shorouk and Al-Jawhara Towers in Gaza City in May 2021 including the cases of Alam News, Al Hayat Newspapers, Mayadeen Media, Al Bawaba 24 and others.(3)

There are also dozens of Palestinian journalists held behind occupation bars, including Bushra al-Tawil, jailed without charge or trial, under administrative detention.

It is important to note that the Jenin Refugee camp is in the West Bank and Jenin is situated in Area A which by the Oslo Accords is under full Palestinian control. The West Bank been occupied by Israel since 1967. Per these accords, Israeli forces are prohibited from entering the area, though that prohibition has regularly been ignored by Israel since 2001.

Shireen Abu Akleh is an icon of Palestinian courage of resistance. She died as martyr to the truth and is deserving of respect and honor. Piling outrage on outrage, at her funeral that was attended by thousands, Israeli police violently attacked the mourners carrying her casket. According to The Intercept, “Israeli police said they attacked the procession because mourners waved Palestinian flags and chanted nationalist slogans. An official Israeli police account shared drone video to support the authorities’ claim that two of the mourners had thrown rocks at them. But a comparison of that video to ground-level news footage showed that the police video had been edited to remove the initial police charge and slowed down to make it seem as if a man who just waved his arms in frustration had thrown something at the officers.”(4)

Shireen Abu Akleh was born in 1971 in Jerusalem to a Christian Palestinian family with roots in Bethlehem. She studied at the Rosary Sisters’ High School in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem. She then studied architecture at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, but her love for her land and people led her to switch to journalism. She transferred to Yarmouk University in Jordan, where she graduated with a degree in print journalism. She returned to Israel determined to bring out the voice of the Palestinian people. She launched her career with the UN Refugee Agency, the radio service of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, a satellite channel in Amman and Monte Carlo Radio. In 1997 she began with Al Jazeera and was the satellite channel’s Palestinian correspondent until she was murdered.(5)  She said, "I chose journalism to be close to people, and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to change the situation. But at least I managed to bring Palestinians' voices to the world.”

She was one of the brave Palestinian voices who covered Israel’s deadly incursion on the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. Last year she wrote about that experience: “To me, Jenin is not a one ephemeral story in my career or even in my personal life. It is the city that can raise my morale and help me fly. It embodies the Palestinian spirit that sometimes trembles and falls but, beyond all expectations, rises to pursue its flights and dreams.”  (6) 

1) Documentation of Palestinian gunfire, distributed by Israeli military, could not have possibly been the one that killed Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.  May 11, 2022.

2)  The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.  Columbia Journalism Review.

3) Press Release: ICC case filed over systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists.

4) Israel Admits It Might Have Killed Journalist, Attacks Her Funeral.  Robert Mackey.  The Intercept.  May 13, 2022. 

5)  Shireen Abu Akleh Was More Than a Journalist. She Was a Palestinian Symbol.  Sheren Falah Saab.  Haaretz, May 11, 2022.  Shireen Abu Akleh was more than a journalist. She was a Palestinian symbol - Palestinians -

6)  Israel Kills Another Report:  RIP Shireeen Abu Akleh.  Israel-Palestine News.  If Americans Knew.