Thousands of mourners gathered in East Jerusalem on Friday to pay their last respects to Palestinian-American and veteran Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh. Abu Akleh, one of the Palestinians’ most beloved icons, was assassinated on Wednesday while reporting an Israeli military attack on the occupied West Bank. Abu Akleh was reporting from Jenin when, according to eyewitnesses, other journalists, the Al Jazeera Network and the Palestinian government, she was shot and killed by Israeli forces operating there.
There is rarely, if ever, justice for killing Palestinians, whether they are American or not.
After initially blaming Palestinian militants and denying responsibility, Israeli authorities said they would investigate the possibility that the shot that killed the journalist was fired by an Israeli soldier.
Like any funeral, the procession was expected to be gloomy, a moment when this beloved national figure would be buried with peace and dignity and that it would be an opportunity for a grieving people to collectively close the chapter on yet another Palestinian life that was cut short by senseless violence in a profession that shows no mercy in life or as they saw Friday, even after death.
Mourners gathered at Saint Joseph French Hospital to escort her through the old town to the Church of the Assumption for prayers and then to her final resting place in a cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
However, the Israeli police had other intentions. As I was told by colleagues close to the family, those police had informed the family that they did not want a public procession for fear it would become public order. They did not want mourners to wave Palestinian flags or participate in Palestinian chants.
Let that sink in. A nuclear-armed force, with one of the world’s most powerful armies, feared a flag-draped coffin. Israeli police wanted to prevent Abu Akleh’s family and the public from mourning publicly for the national icon and journalistic hero because they did not want her funeral to serve as a reminder of the national cause for liberation, dignity and independence.
When the mourners poured out of the house carrying the flag-draped coffin and began to sing, the police intervened to stop the procession. The video shows police attacking mourners and porters, hitting them with batons and at one point almost causing porters to drop the coffin.
Video released by police to justify the attack shows a Palestinian allegedly throwing a bottle at the police who attacked the mourners.
This is what a degrading activity looks like. It even robs Palestinians of their right to mourn, their right to express grief in whatever way that brings them comfort and closure. This is what it means to be oppressed, to submit your cultural expressions to state approval and to be subject to state violence for breaking those rules. This is what it means to be controlled, to be subdued, to be silenced by a state that shows its strength with bullets, batons, bulldozers and bombs.
But this is not new. For years, Israel has unofficially banned the expression of Palestinian identity and culture in occupied East Jerusalem for fear that such public expressions could undermine its attempt to control society and its plan to demographically change the ethnic makeup of Jerusalem and favor it. of the Jewish state. Israel’s wishful thinking is that by outlawing symbols and expressing Palestinian identity and nationality, it could permanently rip the Palestinian character from the old fabric of the city.
Imagine that same country, the country that denies the Palestinians the right to express themselves freely, is investigating and promising to bring justice to the family of the journalist whose country itself is accused of murder.
Time and again we have seen the Israeli army operate with impunity in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Time and again we have seen the Israeli army operate with impunity in the occupied Palestinian territories. No official is held accountable. No justice is done.
Also, US officials time and again condemn Israeli abuses and call for investigation, but there is rarely, if ever, justice for the killing of Palestinians, whether they are American or not.
Israel’s record of violence against journalists in particular is equally appalling. Abu Akleh may be the most high-profile journalist murdered there, but she is certainly not the first. The Committee to Protect Journalists says an estimated 19 journalists have been killed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since 1992. Many more have been attacked.
Reporters without Borders, which places Israel in the bottom half of its press freedom ranking — 86 out of 180 countries — says: “Palestinian journalists are systematically subjected to violence as a result of their coverage of events in the West Bank.”
A 2019 United Nations Human Rights Council report noted that “the commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers deliberately shot journalists despite being clearly marked as such” during the 2018 protests along the border of the Gaza Strip and Israel. The reports mention four specific individuals wearing helmets and body armor.
Spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time:“Israel completely rejects the Kangaroo Court’s biased and distorted ‘report'” calling the UN Human Rights Council a “de facto accomplice of Hamas”
However, the incidents – and stories – surrounding Abu Akleh’s death and the actions of Israeli security forces during her funeral highlight the nature of this wicked occupation.
For now, the family will have to deal not only with the murder of their daughter, but also with the dehumanization of their moment of deep sorrow in front of the world.
As we watch the horrific scenes at her funeral today, we are reminded that Palestinians, even as they mourn their dead, cannot be Palestinians.
CORRECTION (May 14: 1:40 PM ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated where mourners first gathered. They gathered at Saint Joseph French Hospital, not the family home of the late Shireen Abu Akleh.