US Journalists Renew Calls for Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh

Washington D.C.- Journalists in the United States have again called for justice in the death by Israeli forces of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, stressing the need for an independent investigation a year after her assassination.

More than two dozen reporters gathered for a minute’s silence in honor of the veteran Al Jazeera correspondent in Washington, DC, on the one-year anniversary of her murder on Thursday.

“To say that the shot came from the direction of the Israelis [military] or that there was no intent is not justice,” Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club (NPC), later said at a briefing, calling for an impartial investigation into the incident. ‘incident.

“We don’t want to live in a world where a journalist like Shireen, who has dedicated her career to the public interest, is murdered without any account or explanation.”

Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed by Israeli forces during an Israeli assault on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on May 11, 2022, posthumously received the NPC President’s Award last year.

Initially, Israel falsely suggested that Palestinian gunmen killed the journalist, before finally concluding that an Israeli soldier probably shot Abu Akleh, calling the incident an accident.

A photo of Shireen Abu Akleh on display at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on May 11 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

The administration of US President Joe Biden has repeatedly praised Abu Akleh and condemned his assassination. But despite calls for accountability, Washington has not officially conducted its own investigation into the incident and has adopted the Israeli position that the shooting was accidental.

US officials said they were pushing to hold those responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing to account by urging Israel to review its military rules to ensure similar shootings do not happen again in the future – a demand which was openly rejected by Israeli officials. leaders.

When asked if pushing Israel on the rules of engagement amounted to accountability, NPC Executive Director Bill McCarren said, “It’s not enough, but let there be no anything – and that’s where we are right now – it’s unacceptable”.

Still, he added that it was important to address the military’s rules of engagement to protect journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We want more… We want full accounting; we need to know the truth,” McCarren told reporters Thursday.

Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera’s Washington bureau chief, said it would be good if Israel were asked to change its rules of engagement if that happened, but added that the US position seemed to depend on “the ambiguity”.

“Saying that you are going to force the Israeli army to change its rules does not absolve you of the responsibility to seek justice for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh or any other journalist,” Foukara said.

Washington has rejected attempts to hold Abu Akleh’s murder accountable at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel, accused by human rights groups of imposing a system of apartheid on the Palestinians, receives at least $3.8 billion a year in US security aid.

Press freedom organizations, along with dozens of US lawmakers, have called on the Biden administration to open its own investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh over the past year.

Last November, Israeli and American media reported that the FBI had opened an investigation into the incident. But US officials declined to confirm or share information about the investigation.

On Thursday, Senator Chris Van Hollen reiterated the need for an “independent and official” investigation. “We need to get the whole truth and we need to insist on accountability,” Van Hollen said in a video message.

Citing numerous media investigations which concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces and that there was no fighting in the immediate vicinity of where she was shot, the senator said the investigations showed “inconsistencies” in Israel’s account of what had happened.

“While I was pleased to learn that the FBI is investigating his death, we don’t know the status of that investigation,” said Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland.

In a TV interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday, Van Hollen pointed to open questions about the circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh’s death that could help in the search for accountability.

“What we can examine is the specific unit that was involved in the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh and determine if any US-supplied weapons were supplied or used,” he said. .

The senator recently asked the State Department to release a new report on the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) incident for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In Thursday’s video statement, he also stressed that the USSC’s assessment is not an independent investigation, but he nevertheless insists that the report be released in its entirety and “unedited.”

“A year after his death, journalists have a duty to continue to seek the truth and the facts,” Van Hollen said. “A lot of people would like us to stop asking questions, but we cannot and will not allow dead Shireen to be swept under the rug.”

Abu Akleh’s family also urged members of the US Congress, journalists and “people of conscience around the world” to unite in demanding justice for the slain journalist.

“From the beginning, we called on the United States government to act the same way it would if another American citizen were killed overseas,” the family said in a statement.

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