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Remembering Shireen Abu Akleh

She signed off to the heavens...

Jerusalem24– We lost the voice of Palestine, the voice of truth.

Today we hosted a special episode featuring Shireen Abu Akleh, veteran journalist of Aljazeera, a part of our collective memory as Palestinians, someone we grew up looking up to, a Palestinian who put her people before her and dedicated herself to her cause. A hero, a strong woman, a journalism icon killed and executed by the occupation forces.

For my generation in particular, Shireen’s name and soothing and cool voice rings memories of our childhood of the 2000 second Intifada (uprising). She was the reason many of us went on to study journalism… sitting and watching Aljazeera for hours as kids and repeating after her, “Shireen Abu Akleh – Aljazeera”… We would sometimes use our names as a sign-off…

Many of us, myself included, still can’t process that we lost Shireen – a figure most of us only knew from TV, but that somehow made her way to become a part of our families and households.

On Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at 6:15 am… we lost a part of ourselves.

Rest in power and peace, Shireen Abu Akleh – Aljazeera.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to Vibes on 106.1 and I’m your host Nadeen Alshaer.

[…] Today we express our deepest condolences to Shireen’s family, Aljazeera, the journalism body, and Palestine. We lost the voice of Palestine.


Marwan Bashara – the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera, took it upon himself to write about Shireen, and his personal views.

Marwan writes… “I am not ready to speak about Shireen in the past tense. Not today. Perhaps not ever.
Shireen has covered the cruelty of the Israeli occupation for decades, only to be the victim of its utter bloody madness; madness she spent a lifetime exposing.

Ms. Abu Akleh is a household name in the Arab world. Faraway but omnipresent in countless homes from Rabat to Riyadh.

A seasoned journalist, she has been that brave voice from Palestine echoing through the world. Where seasonal reporters come and go, she has been there day in day out, year after year, face to face with the occupiers of her homeland, giving a voice to voiceless Palestinians.

Shireen has had that steady voice – a soothing, credible voice. Always calm, cool, and collected even when faced with the most horrific circumstances and bloodiest scenes.

Which is more often than is imaginable, alas.

There is something modest but magical about the way she has strolled down the streets of Palestine and gone through the alleys of its refugee camps, talking to the world with such eloquence; such clarity, and confidence.
Always factual and objective. And yes, always measured. Never losing her nerves.
Astounding.

A war journalist, she nonetheless has a charitable aura about her. Incredibly humane in the midst of an inhumane setting. She is a passionate reporter, where her passion reflects an enviable mélange of love and pain for her suffering homeland.

It is befitting that Shireen was born in the heart of Palestine, in Jerusalem, just after the 1967 Israel war and occupation. Hailing from a Bethlehem Christian family, she studied journalism, but first worked at UNRWA and later at MIFTAH, promoting dialogue and democracy, before turning to full-time journalism.

In 1997, Shireen became a dedicated reporter, a Jazeerian, who for a quarter of a century shined a light on a dark era, always generous with her time, never holding back.

A fixture of the Arab media scene, among the giants of the profession, she gave Al Jazeera its distinct color, and helped it deliver coverage from the very heart of the Arab world.

She has been a war reporter, yes, but for decades, Shireen has also been an investigative journalist – covering crime scenes, collecting evidence, gathering clues, and exposing criminals.

It is surreal to watch old newsreels showing a young Shireen speaking with calm confidence and reflecting on how she has come of age under occupation, or should I say, on top of occupation – an inhumane occupation that has already lasted more than half a century and that has no end in sight.

Let us not clutter Shireen’s memory with cliches and conspiracies about her death.

Shireen does not do cliches.

She is the victim of Israeli occupation, regardless of who or which soldier pulled the trigger. As if killing her in the morning was not enough, Israeli security had to raid her house in the afternoon. Why? Because that’s who they are. As for the rest of us, her fans, friends and family, let us honor her the way she has long honored us, solemnly and with love.
Shireen, in Arabic, means “fresh beauty”. So, she has been.

Today, we mourn Shireen, tomorrow we scorn her killers.”


Shatha Hanaysha, a local journalist who was standing next to Abu Akleh when she was shot, also told Al Jazeera that there had been no confrontations between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army. She said the group of journalists had been directly targeted.

“We were four journalists, we were all wearing vests, all wearing helmets,” Hanaysha said. “The [Israeli] occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots being fired. The army was adamant on shooting to kill.”


Christine Rinawi, journalist and friend of Shireen Abu Akleh, wrote a post about her, we’ll be sharing what her friends, Aljazeera colleagues and Palestinians wrote about Shireen the Human…

“Shireen Abu Akleh lost her parents at an early age, and has one brother and his family.
In her departure, all of Palestine, Arabs and the free people cried for her, her funeral procession stopped in every village on the way from Jenin to Nablus to Ramallah, and people stopped in their cars on the side of the road and participated in the funeral at every point. Reporting and covering Palestine using her voice over the course of thirty years, Shireen, our people, Christians and Muslims, prayed to her side by side, and each one with his own prayers.

Shireen was mourned by journalists who covered hundreds of funerals of martyrs and documented the people’s pain and conveyed it with their words, reports and coverage, suddenly their tongues were linked and they were unable to express and they became the martyrs…

The angel of the press, and not only its lady, a painful affliction for her friends who were like family, and for the family of her office of Aljazeera who have been with her for 25 years, deep sadness fills the chests of her colleagues who worked with her in the fields.

Rinawi shared a picture of Shireen in Bab Al-Amoud saying, “This is Shireen in bab alamoud, which we love; We say goodbye to the body, but your soul remains, and the message of Sherine Abu Akleh remains. May your soul rest in peace and mercy.”


Faten Elwan, a close friend of Shireen Abu Akleh and journalist is joining us now to talk about her friend’s personal life:

Please tell us about Shireen, the one behind the scenes?

Shireen behind the scenes is the most senstivie person. And a smuch as sounds quiet and calm in front of the camera, she’s a funny, hilarious person.You can never go to her for help or advice or anything without getting a full analyzingof how to solve a problem. She’s a kind-hearted caring person, not emotional but she knows how to support you without emotionally supporting you. I don’t know if this is easy to understand.

Shireen was targeted even after making herself along with other journalists clear to the Israeli army as Press, but she was targeted and executed through a bullet in the head right under her ear, what do you have to say about that?

It’s just the same ugly face of occupation that you keep seeing on and on and on. We went to the place where she was shot, or assassinated at, like the way the bullets came in, the way the soldiers were coming in on the other side… like, it’s a target to kill. And you can never miss a person that is a wearing a vest with press, in the daylight, and just pretend that we didn’t do it, maybe someone else did it.

Faten, can you recount stories of your coverage with Shireen?

Shireen always hated how, what I call “getting close to the story” in which I put myself in a danger situation. And so she always hated that and always insulted me in the field for not thinking about my safety. And when I got shot three times she always ended up having a fight with me because I put myself in a danger zone. For me it was just getting close to the story. And now I’m losing her, like, Shireen covered the [second] Intifada, the invasion, and all the crazy situations that Palestine went through, and she was never shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, not a rubber bullet even. She always knew how to protect herself and protect people around her, and her basic idea was “I have a team, of a father or daughter or son, and I’m not willing to jeopardize my safety or their safety.” And her base was, she put herself in the end, as long as the cameraman or the crew doesn’t put herself in danger. So this is Shireen. This is Shireen. She was the most careful person on earth but we lost her in the blink of eye.

We’ve also heard from many of her friends how she had the most contagious laugh.

Yes. She’s still doing it while she’s away. So Shireen is a calm person, that, she will tell a joke and put this smile, this sweet little smile, and just say “Okay, I just made you laugh”.

What advice would you give to young journalists working in the field, what kind of precautions they have to take?

Well honestly the advice I want to give them is, just be journalists. And don’t be afraid. Because I’ve been hearing voices over the last few days saying “I don’t want to be a journalist anymore now that I’m scared.” Shireen lost her life because she is– if Shireen, the most careful person on earth, lost her life, then how are we going to be safe? And then I said like, no, you don’t go that way, you be a journalist, you crack the story, you put the story out there – and this is the legacy of Shireen that needs to be going on.

What do you have to say to the international community who is failing the journalists it’s supposed to protect?

To be honest I have nothing to say at this moment, I have nothing to say but stay there, do the job, because– I don’t know what to say, to be honest.

Any message you would like to send to Shireen now?

To Shireen? She’s still here so I don’t have to– to Shireen, just keep smiling. That’s it.


Politician Hanan Ashrawi, who’s been interviewed by Shireen on different occasions tweeted, “Shireen Abu Aqleh—a wonderful human being, a remarkable journalist, a dear longtime friend—was shot & murdered by the Israeli occupation army. The heart breaks. Palestine grieves. Rest in peace & power & love.”

Nicola Perugini, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh shared the following on Twitter… “The killing of Shireen Abu Aqla isn’t an “incident.” It is part of Israel’s systematic targeting of journalists (55 killed since 2000) to silence those who tell Palestinian experiences of colonial dispossession. This is the Gaza media tower exactly 1yr ago.”

Actress Susan Sarandon took to Twitter describing Shireen’s killing as an Execution adding, “with a shot to the head by Israeli snipers while wearing her helmet & bulletproof vest that said PRESS on in. How long will we continue remaining silent while our “allies” kill journalists for telling inconvenient truths?”

Aljazeera senior journalist and colleague of Shireen, Elsy Abi Assi tweeted, “The Israeli forces assassinated #شيرين_ابو_عاقلة, wearing a helmet and body vest, with a clear press on it. When she was killed, there were no clashes, only gunfire from the Israeli forces, according to the witnesses. Justice for Shireen needs an independent investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Queen Rania Al Abdullah mourned the death of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was assassinated by the Israeli Occupation forces during their raid on Jenin refugee camp today, Wednesday. Her Majesty wrote on her official page on Twitter, “Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh repeatedly put her life on the line to bring her people’s stories to light. Her killing is a crushing blow to truth and justice, but no bullet can kill a cause or crush a people’s spirit. May she rest in peace.”

Palestinian American congresswoman, Rashida Talib, said that Shireen Abu Akleh was “murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding from our country with zero accountability.”


Israeli authorities have officially requested to conduct a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority into the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Hussein Al-Sheikh, leader of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs, announced this morning.

Al-Sheikh serves as the primary contact with Israeli authorities regarding civilian matters in the West Bank.

Al-Sheikh stated that the PA had refused the collaboration and would conduct its own independent investigation. The PA intends to share the results with Abu Akleh’s family, the USA, and Qatar.

Human Rights organizations including B’Tselem have cast doubt on the credibility of any forthcoming investigation conducted by the Israeli authorities.

“It’s very unlikely that Shireen or the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel will receive justice,” Salem Barahmeh, the Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, told Jerusalem24. “Often there’s no investigation. There’s no proper form of accountability or justice.”

Palestine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said his country will “not accept” an investigation by Israel into the killing of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, and that he holds the Israeli army responsible for the “assassination” of the veteran journalist.

“The story of the Israeli side does not hold water, it is fictitious and it is not in line with reality and we do not accept to have an investigation on this issue with those who are the criminals,” Mansour told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

“We expect that an investigation takes place. Our desire and position is that it has to be internationally credible,” he said, adding that there must be no involvement by Israeli authorities.

“Some are asking the ICC [International Criminal Court] to conduct this investigation; that would also be acceptable to us. There are a variety of options. The most important thing is that the Security Council speaks with one voice against such a crime, against the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh,” Mansour said.
“The Israeli military forces are responsible for her assassination.”


Moving on to human rights organizations…

Palestinian legal and human rights organization Al-Haq has released the preliminary findings of their investigation into the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

The organization based their findings on a detailed timeline of events they constructed based on witness statements, video evidence, and geolocation tools, as well as autopsy results and preliminary ballistics examination.

“We were able to conclude that the bullets fired in the direction of the Palestinian journalists were indeed shot by the Israeli occupation soldiers and not the [Palestinian] resistance fighters,” the report said.

Al-Haq based this conclusion on the known location of the Palestinian gunmen, which was out of line of sight of the journalists at the scene, as well as the location of the Israeli snipers. Al-Haq also asserted that the type of ammunition extracted from Abu Akleh’s body is only available to Israeli forces and cannot be found among Palestinian militant factions.

The report also explained that the shots were taken in succession rather in a continuous manner, suggesting the shooter was not discharging their weapon blindly but rather was trained on their target.

“According to the facts of the preliminary investigation, what happened to Shireen Abu Akleh qualifies as premeditated murder. This is a war crime that falls within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.”
The report further relayed that the group of journalists were clearly visible to the Israeli soldiers, and stayed in place for a number of minutes in order to allow the soldiers to identify them as press before proceeding to enter the field to begin their broadcast.

At that moment, according to eyewitness testimony from the camp, a Palestinian gunman started shooting towards the soldiers, and the soldiers immediately started firing in the direction of the journalists.
The journalists who tried to retreat were pinned down by gunfire. Ali Samoudi was hit in the back and Abu Akleh was hit in the head immediately afterwards. The gunfire continued while a resident of the camp attempted to evacuate Abu Akleh and fellow journalist Shadha Hanaysha.

The report stressed that all members of the press we were wearing clearly-marked press and safety gear.
In conclusion, Al-Haq stated that the killing of Abu Akleh by Israeli forces constituted “a war crime” in contravention with of a number of international laws, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Human Rights group Amnesty published the following, saying that:

“The alarming escalation in serious violations comes at a time when top Israeli officials have threatened further violence against Palestinians. Since the current escalation of violence, Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, have made repeated statements that incite violence and encourage the use of unlawful force in addition to giving orders to shoot Palestinians who pose no imminent threat. Other politicians have also openly incited violence, highlighting the extent of Israel’s institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians. While Palestinian authorities in the West Bank have condemned all Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, spokespeople for some Palestinian armed groups have encouraged such attacks.”


“States around the world have a moral and legal responsibility to take immediate action to put an end to the continuing crimes perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians to maintain the calamity of apartheid. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should set the course for justice, truth and reparation to end the impunity that encourages these ongoing crimes,” said Saleh Hijazi [Amnesty Deputy Regional Director for the MENA region].


Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud abbas paid condolences as Shireen’s body lay in the presidential headquarter, and said that this crime will not go unpunished and the PA will head to the ICC. President Abbas refused a joint investigation with the Israeli occupation saying it is the one who killed Abu Akleh.


Ayman Mohyeldin, an American Egyptian MSNBC host, said that “The killing of journalists […] must be condemned and investigated not by the countries accused of allegedly killing them, but by independent bodies who claim to uphold free speech and the right to a free press as fundamental human rights.


She was fearless but she was also human… Shireen Abu Akleh’s colleague and close friend Dalia Hatuqa remembers the impact she had on the Arab world, and how she inspired a whole generation of women to become journalists.

“When you talk about Shireen, you talk about someone whose presence is felt in every home and heard in every home. She was fearless, but was also human, and there were times when she was scared, when encountering difficult situations. The only difference is that she pulled through, she pushed through, she was there in every town, every Palestinian town, village, alleyway, refugee camp. Everybody knew her name, everybody welcomed her.”

“She wanted to do the stories that no one else wanted to do, and she gave a voice to a lot of people who we otherwise wouldn’t have heard from. A lot of women grew up, I would say, you know, holding a hairbrush in front of a mirror and pretending to be Shireen, you know, “Shireen Abu Akleh – AlJazeera – Ramallah”. And I know that a lot of women want to follow in her footsteps.”

“Everywhere we went people would stop her in the streets, wanting to take a picture or wanting an autograph and she would happily oblige. Like the rest of Palestinian journalists, you know, she was targeted. It’s hard to do that job. It’s hard to carry that torch, so to speak, and I think that Shireen did that very well and she paid for it with her life.”

“I remember during the height of the second Intifada soldiers would go around Ramallah, and they would mimic her, and they would shout from a bullhorn her famous closing lines: “Shireen Abu Akleh – AlJazeera – Ramallah” – and I can’t help but feel they just took away that voice.”


Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, said the killing was part of a systematic approach by Israeli towards journalists covering the occupation.
“It’s, of course, not a one-off event, we know that Israeli forces systematically have used excessive force. This is an event that needs to be understood in the context of this systemic practice and the killings of many other Palestinian journalists,” he said.


Let’s take a listen to her niece and what she had to say.
“Shireen wasn’t just my aunt, she’s also my best friend, my second mom, my companion, she was my everything. She’s someone I’ve been looking up to ever since I was a kid, watching all of her reports. And I never imagined, I never thought this day would come where the news would be about her and she won’t be the one who’s covering the news.”

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 5 years of experience in the field of reporting and presenting. Currently works as a reporter and presenter/producer for PBC and Jerusalem24. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna

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