Remembering Shireen Abu Akleh: a museum and scholarships for new voices of freedom
A year ago, the Palestinian-American Christian journalist was killed by an Israeli soldier in a raid in Jenin. Despite a climate of impunity, her family's struggle for justice and truth goes on. “We have decided to keep her memory alive,” her brother Anton told AsiaNews. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza kill an Islamic Jihad leader, and several civilians, including three children.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist and a Christian, was killed on 11 May 2022 by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier during a military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.
For Shireen’s family, “her absence” has filled a “painful" year because "we felt close to her and she was a source of support for everyone,” said her brother, Anton Abu Akleh, speaking to AsiaNews.
“For this reason, we have decided to keep her memory alive,” especially her work “through scholarships for women who want to get into journalism.” The goal is “to help young women journalists to follow in her footsteps, to fight for press freedom, a fundamental value for which she always fought.”
A year after her death, Palestinians have honoured her work, courage and dedication to speak out against the abuses and distortions brought by Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
For Anton, “There is a kind of impunity, a double standard whenever Israel is involved. On other occasions in the past, when journalists were killed the story was covered up. For this reason, for us, family members, it is important that the guilty be brought to justice, that they answer for their acts and that what happened never happens again to other reporters.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) confirms what Anton Abu Akleh says, noting that at least 20 reporters have been killed by Israeli security forces since 2001 amid impunity that allows the guilty not to answer for their actions, with Israeli military authorities deliberately covering up and misdirecting investigations.
For the CPJ, the situation in the Palestinian territories “has had a chilling effect on reporters covering their operations, undermining press freedom”.
In the past 12 months, the Abu Akleh family, which hails from Bethlehem, has made various efforts to obtain justice, including a hitherto unheeded appeal to the White House and US President Joe Biden, and a formal complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands.
For 25 years Shireen Abu Akleh was the “Voice of Palestine” at Al Jazeera (which marked the anniversary of her death with a seminar at its headquarters in Doha) and other media. She died from a gunshot wound to the head while reporting on an Israeli military raid in Jenin.
Following protocol, she was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest, with "press" clearly written on it, when she was shot, but this was not enough. A colleague, Ali al-Samoudi, was also wounded by a bullet in the back at the scene.
Faced with a mobilisation of NGOs and activists, the Israeli military has repeatedly claimed that she was not intentionally targeted, that it was an error, not a deliberate act. At the same time, it did acknowledge that it is highly probable that an Israeli marksman got confused when firing his rifle with mounted scope that magnifies vision four times, from inside an armoured jeep.
“Shireen gave her life for a just cause and we will not allow her to be forgotten,” Anton Abu Akleh stressed. “That is why it is important to keep her memory alive, especially her work. We plan to do so with scholarships for women journalists through a foundation. In addition, a museum dedicated to her will be set up in Ramallah, in cooperation with Al Jazeera.”
Anton also insisted on her strong Christian faith, which she experienced in a "humble and reserved" way, keeping it "above all for herself. She was Christian and Palestinian; she reported the atrocities that took place in her land, supporting her people, denouncing the occupation.”
Meanwhile, the violence in Gaza goes on with even greater intensity with the latest flareup in violence reaching a level of intensity not seen in several months.
At dawn, Israel responded to the launch of more than 500 rockets from Gaza yesterday, by killing the head of the Islamic Jihad rocket forces Ali Hassan Ghali (aka Abu Muhammad) and hitting over 130 targets linked to the group in the Strip. So far, this has resulted in at least 25 Palestinian deaths, including three children, euphemistically called “collateral damage”.
“It is obvious that the Israeli government is not interested in peace and pursues its policy of killing civilians and journalists in a climate of impunity and amid the absolute silence of the international community, the European Union and the United States,” Anton lamented.
“If Shireen were alive today, I am sure she would continue to report on the violence. Now others have picked up her legacy and are running with it for her.”