Investigation Called for in Journalist’s Death

By: 
Marshall Blesofsky
Shireen Abu Akleh

In late May Congressman Allan Lowenthal was one of 57 Congresspeople, all Democrats, who signed a letter stating:

“As Members of Congress, we are deeply concerned by the death of Ms. Abu Akleh. Journalists worldwide must be protected at all costs. The U.S. State Department called [her] death ‘an affront to media freedom.’ We welcome the actions and statements taken so far by the U.S. Department of State supporting a thorough investigation.

Shireen Abu Akleh was an American citizen, distinguished journalist and anchor for Al Jazeera television. She was a Palestinian-American who at the time of her death was covering a raid by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on a refugee camp in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

The Jenin refugee camp was established by the United Nations when Palestinians were exiled from the new state of Israel during the 1948 war. The result was the expulsion and flight of 700,000 Palestinians to the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

In the 1967 Six-Day War Israel conquered Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the remaining land which had been set aside by the UN General Assembly in 1947 for a Palestinian state. Israel has been occupying and ruling this territory for more than 50 years.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 journalists have been killed in the West Bank since 1992. The killing of Abu Akleh has been investigated by CNN, which analyzed multiple videos and sound recordings as well as interviewing eyewitnesses. A forensic expert analyzed the data, which clearly show that no armed Palestinians were near these journalists and the shots were fired by Israel Forces at approximately 200m from the journalists.

Up until the War in Ukraine, Israel has been the major recipient of US military aid. Since the founding of the state of Israel, Congress has approved $236 billion of military aid. This is more than all other countries receiving military aid combined.

Amnesty international, two other human rights organizations and recently the United Nations have all determined that Israel is an apartheid state. Palestinians living in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are subjected to various levels of discrimination in employment, housing, health care and many other aspects of their lives. Many are arrested and even killed by the Israeli Defense Force.

It is time for Congress to look at the billions of US dollars in aid, currently a minimum of $3.8 billion a year and tie that aid to the human rights situation in Israel and Occupied Palestine, as required by the Leahy Law and international agreements. A letter from Congress is a step in the right direction. The fact that this letter does not call for conditioning military aid to Israel on its adhering to US and international human rights law highlights how limited a step this is.

Dennis Kortheuer, an emeritus history professor from Cal State Long Beach and the Secretary-Treasurer of People for Palestinian-Israeli Justice said: “Alan Lowenthal writing a letter is a positive step I suppose. Still, I can’t help being sad and pissed that a US citizen has to be murdered by the IDF for elected officials to take such a stand.”

It is time for Israel to be held responsible for its decades of disregard for Palestinian lives and for the United States, Israel’s primary ally, to hold Israel accountable as required by law.

Marshall Blesofsky is a long-time peace activist and is on the Steering Committee of Long Beach Area Peace Network and a member of Democratic Socialists of America.

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