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Shireen Abu Akleh: Not White Enough


Shireen Abu Aqleh, a Palestinian-American Journalist reporting for Al Jazeera became a household name on May 11, when the Israeli Army shot her dead while reporting from Jenin, Palestine. She was wearing a Press vest and standing amongst journalists in what seems to be a direct hit, as if the Israeli Army was gunning for her kill. 

Her cold-blooded murder should have resulted in an outrage amongst the international media community, especially amongst the bastion of free speech – west. Instead, what we have is a deafening silence within western media. As if this doesn’t matter. Especially given the fact, according to the Palestinian Authority Israel has killed forty-five journalists since 2000. That amounts to two journalist every year. Yet somehow these overwhelming number of journalists being killed in what seems like a targeted attack do not matter. Yet, the west still claims to be the torchbearers of freedom of speech and independence of journalists. 

Western leaders are just as guilty of this blatant hypocrisy which envelopes the western media. We are certain that had this been a Ukrainian journalist killed by a Russian soldier the narrative and outrage would have been completely different led by the so-called champions of democracy – the western leaders – which would than be parroted and spun by the Western media.  

Western newsrooms generally love martyrs—men or women whom they can market to their readers as perfect victims. Shireen Abu Akleh, though not one to turn the other cheek, certainly fit that profile: a 51-year-old Palestinian Christian woman with an American passport who was killed while wearing a clearly marked press vest. Even so, because of who killed her, Abu Akleh’s very public death and “perfect victimhood” was up for debate.”

However, when Abu Aqleh was murdered by an Israeli sniper. Instead of capitalizing on this opportunity. The western media started spinning the Israeli narrative. New York Times, leading the charge on deceiving the public spinning the false narrative that she was caught in a crossfire between Israeli Soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, and was hit by a bullet fired by Palestinian gunmen which they later redacted.  

If that was not enough, the callous attack on pallbearers by the Israeli soldiers during her funeral should have irked their conscious. Unfortunately, no tweet or a weep by the western media. 

The background on Israeli Army storming her funeral was another opportunity for the western media to highlight how oppressive and abusive this so-called only democracy in the Middle east is. The Israeli government restricted the attendance only to Christians, anti-colonial chants were banned. Abu Aqlehs family rejected the restrictions and heavy-handed Israeli Army was given the green light to storm the funeral. 

“CCTV footage released by Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Sheikh Jarrah shows Israeli forces storming the medical center and beating Palestinians inside, including patients and hospital staff. Some officers smashed the back window of the hearse and stole the Palestinian flag covering the coffin. They then attacked the pallbearers so rabidly that the casket almost fell to the ground.”

“As this happened, the BBC, CBS News, and others reported “clashes” and “tussling” at Abu Akleh’s Jerusalem funeral—despite the overwhelming visual evidence of Israeli occupation forces raiding the hospital and assaulting the mourners in broad daylight.”

Who was Shireen Abu Aqleh? And why it was necessary to assassinate her? She was a Palestinian-American Christian. According to the Guardian newspaper at least did manage to publish her obituary. 

“In early 1987, on the eve of the first Palestinian intifada, Shireen Abu Aqleh left her family home in East Jerusalem and crossed the Jordan valley to begin university in Amman. It was a familiar journey for a young Palestinian with her life ahead of her: leaving her homeland for an education and to find her place in the world.”

“Abu Aqleh’s first career choice – architecture – was fleeting. After a semester she chose journalism, and transferred to a vocation that would build her name and establish understandings across the Arab world during an acclaimed 25-year career, which ended by the side of a West Bank road earlier this month as she covered an Israeli raid.”

“By the time of her death, at the age of 51, the journalist had come to be known as the voice of the Palestinian conflict. Reporting for Al Jazeera for most of that time, she had become a go-to voice, an advocate for the people of Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinians scattered across the region and beyond.”

Journalism was her passion because it would allow her to bring the voices of her people to the world. she started her journalism career with a radio station Voice of Palestine, as a broadcast journalist. She was picked by Al Jazeera in 1997. She quickly became a thorn, constantly pinching Zionists with vested interests. 

She became a household name during the second Intifada, not only at home and beyond. She was relentless in her pursuit to be the voice of her people and passionate about her job. “She was an attraction for Palestinians, because she was saying what we wanted to say and we didn’t know how to say it,” said her friend, the activist Muzna Shihabi. “She was on good terms with everyone. From the refugee camp to the Palestinian Authority to regular people in Ramallah.” 

As a East Jerusalem resident was able to move between Israel and West bank freely. “She longed to cover the freedom of Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israel and the reunification of the Palestinian political blocs, Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Fatah, which holds sway in the West Bank.”

“In life and in death Abu Aqleh remained central to the war of narrative.”

As far as the collective deafening silence amongst the pallbearers of freedom of speech was summarized by a newspaper, The Nation “When it comes to Palestine, the sacred laws of journalism are bendable. Optional even. Passive voice is king. Omitting facts is standard. Fabrication is permissible. Journalists become stenographers, and reporters become state secretaries. The courageous industry that proudly boasts of speaking “truth to power” is actually just a bullhorn for the powerful—if, that is, the villain is Israeli.”

Western democratic leaders and their hypocrisy and indifferent attitude towards the Palestinians and granting absolute impunity to Israel is the source and cause behind Western media’s deafening silence.