One year ago, on May 11, 2022, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed as she covered an Israeli Defense Forces raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Her death sent tremors throughout Palestine and the Arab world, where she was beloved as a truthful and thoughtful chronicler of their lives.
Shireen, who was born into a Palestinian Christian family, was a seasoned correspondent who had been reporting for more than 27 years. She was not one to take unnecessary risks. She always wore her flak jacket and helmet, clearly marked PRESS in the front and back. However, as Shireen and her producer walked ahead of a few other journalists, a barrage of bullets was fired directly at them. Shireen was fatally shot in the back of the head; her producer was also shot in the back but has recovered from his wounds. Other journalists in the area testified that there was no active gunfire or presence of Palestinian resisters when the shots rang out. However, an IDF truck was in firing range with highly trained sharpshooters ready to act.
The IDF immediately denied that they were responsible for the shooting. After investigations by CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, AP and B’Tselem conclusively showed that the shots had come from an IDF soldier, Israel recanted. However, to this day, they continue to claim that it was “unintentional.” Yet, it is an undeniable fact that “voice of Palestine,” as Shireen was often called, was silenced by an IDF bullet.
Not even in death could Shireen receive the respect she rightly had earned, nor could her family find any consolation in honoring her with a dignified funeral. Instead, pallbearers and other mourners were confronted by baton-wheeling Israeli soldiers intent on disrupting the funeral procession. At one moment, their violence became so extreme that the casket teetered and almost hit the ground.
The international community expressed sympathy for the loss of life and “concern” over the soldiers’ behavior. And then they turned away. Once again, no commander, soldier, or government was held accountable. Impunity reigned.
When the Pax Christi International delegation to the Holy Land met with Shireen’s family in February (photo at right), we heard how the international community’s silence had compounded their pain. A year later, no one has been held responsible – for Shireen’s death or the horrific disrespect shown to her and the family as they gathered to bury her.
It is time for the international community to demand justice for Shireen. It is time for the United States to demand that those responsible for the killing of an U.S. citizen be held to account. To not do so makes them complicit.
A few suggested actions are:
- Watch a short biography of Shireen here.
- Tell Shireen’s story.
- Light a candle and hold in prayer the family and friends of Shireen Abu Akleh who, one year later, are still asking for accountability and for justice.
- Include prayers and hold silent vigils in your community for justice and for an end to the occupation of Palestine.
- Send messages of solidarity and prayer to Shireen’s family via her family member in our Pax Christi partners in Bethlehem — use this email.
- Download and print this photo of Shireen (courtesy of Pax Christi England & Wales) and take a photo of yourself holding it, then post on social media, using the hashtag #JusticeForShireen.
- Contact your member of Congress to demand that the U.S. government call Israel to account for the unlawful killing of Shireen by a member of the Israeli military, and for the perpetrator to be charged. Ask for justice for Shireen and her family. Use the article above as a template for your letter/email. Please let us know if you receive a reply.
There is no time limit on these actions – we can pray and act until there is #JusticeForShireen.
>> See also: On May 4, 2023, World Press Freedom Day, in response to questioning from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), an Administration official acknowledged the need for accountability in the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.