Family of slain American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh urges Biden to launch probe
CHICAGO: The brother of slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh called on President Joe Biden Wednesday to immediately investigate the killing of his sister saying “someone must be held accountable.”
Anton Abu Akleh, who is also an American citizen, and lives with his wife in Jerusalem, said no action has been taken so far to determine who killed Shireen, 52, while she was with other journalists covering an Israeli raid on the northern West Bank city of Jenin on May 11.
Abu Akleh said he was moved when he heard Biden, a week before his sister was killed, declaring forcefully “we must do more to protect and sustain independent media and to hold to account those that seek to silence voices essential to transparent, trustworthy, and responsive governance” in defending journalists being killed in Ukraine.
But he said he is shocked that more than four weeks later, nothing has been done.
“I would beg him (Biden) to stop these double standards. I think Israel should be — or whoever shot Shireen — should be held accountable. That is what we need. It is his duty as the US president to protect all Americans in the US and overseas,” Abu Akleh said.
“The United States is the most powerful country in the world. And looking at Americans getting killed, while covering stories abroad or reporting from abroad is not acceptable. As the US president I would urge him to take immediate action. Israel gets the most aid, more than any other country. I am sure that if this was any other country, they would have sanctioned it until someone is held accountable and is brought to justice. That’s the least he could do. We need justice for Shireen.”
Appearing on “The Ray Hanania Show” Abu Akleh said he received assurances from several US officials who offered condolences to the family at their home — including US Ambassador Tom Nides, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and officials of the US Consulate in Jerusalem — that an investigation would be launched to identify the person or party responsible for the death.
Abu Akleh said if an American journalist had been killed anywhere else in the world there would be an immediate investigation, accountability and consequences.
“We wanted, we asked for an independent US investigation. Shireen is an American citizen. She is a journalist. In the beginning of May we heard President Biden asking for the freedom of (the) press. And we expect the US to initiate a just probe for the assassination of Shireen, as an American citizen, as a journalist, as a Christian,” Abu Akleh said.
“I can’t say I am satisfied. Yes they did speak with us. They supported us. We got calls from everyone. But we need something solid. We want justice for Shireen. That’s what we need. Accountability. Whoever did this must be held accountable. This can’t go on. Not just for Shireen only but for other Americans, other journalists covering (events) in occupied Palestine. There should be something formed and there should be a decision taken by this administration to prevent any future killings of Americans. I am sure if this happened somewhere else, they would have acted immediately. Or if this was an Israeli journalist, I am sure there would have been lots of things. Even sanctions would have been imposed on whoever did it.”
On June 6, US Senators Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, and Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, sent a letter to Blinken demanding an investigation and stating: “The killing of a US citizen and of a journalist engaged in the work of reporting in a conflict zone is unacceptable … All over the world, journalists pursue truth and accountability at great personal risk. Press freedom is a core American value, and we cannot accept impunity when journalists are killed in the line of duty. We insist that the Administration ensure a full and transparent investigation is completed and that justice is served for Ms. Akleh’s death.”
He called on Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to act, not only to determine who killed his sister but to stop the violence and prevent more killings.
“I would love to speak with him (Bennett). You know I would tell him as a Palestinian you have to have peace and you have to be strong enough to have peace. You are doing nothing, you are just increasing the radicals here in Israel and also increasing the radicals on the Palestinian side. The Palestinian side is losing hope every day and that is not good,” Abu Akleh said.
“You could … at least do something good for your people, for the region. Stretch (out) your hand for peace and (you) will find many Palestinians who are interested in peace. Enough. There is no need to keep this killing cycle going on. Both sides are suffering from this. Anyone can do these things. Anyone can do war. You can see what’s happening in Ukraine now. Why don’t you be a strong man and just achieve something and do something for both nations. It is not going to be easy, but it can be done.”
Abu Akleh said he and his wife and family were “shocked” when Israeli police beat mourners during the funeral procession.
“We were shocked to see all this police gathering closing roads. We had very much difficult times entering the hospital, we as a family. Friends, all Palestinians came from everywhere to mourn Shireen and to escort her to the church. And then all of a sudden when we took out the casket from the morgue, many, I don’t know the number of Israeli occupation police, they just marched (into) the hospital, started clubbing with batons the pall bearers. Clubbing them savagely, barbarically in a way that they wanted them to drop the casket,” Abu Akleh recalled.
“They couldn’t reach the hearse to put the casket in … I was begging the police at that moment. I just told them just give us one hour. We can finish this in one hour just get out of the way, let us get to the hospital and you don’t have to attack us. They were firing tear gas, stun grenades. Nobody can justify this actions that they took at the hospital. (In) no way can it be justified attacking a funeral. They didn’t leave any dignity for the dead nor for the living.’
Services for Shireen were held at the Roman Catholic Melkite Church located in the Old City by Jaffa Gate, Abu Akleh said, and the burial was at the Greek Orthodox cemetery about 200 meters from the church.
Abu Akleh said his sister strove to tell the accurate story, without emotion, of the challenges Palestinians face. He said American Christians need to know that Christians are suffering in the Israeli occupation.
“I can tell you Ray it is not easy. Going through all these checkpoints is a big hassle … You can’t do anything just because one so-called police, occupation police officer, decides to block the street and you are stuck forever. We’re unable to get a permit to build a house. Many Palestinians get their house(s) demolished because they couldn’t get a license. They need to live. They need to build something for their family to live. Living in Jerusalem, as much as we love Jerusalem, it is so beautiful, but still it is a big hassle just because there is an occupation here,” he said.
“We definitely are (discriminated against). For the last maybe 10 or 12 years I couldn’t get to the (Church of) the Holy Sepulchre during the Holy Saturday or late Friday, we couldn’t get to the churches because of the checkpoints they impose on the whole city. It is off limits for Palestinians and we (Christians) can’t reach any church. It is a real occupation. This is probably the last occupation here on Earth. We saw what they did at the funeral. Barbaric. Savage. They don’t respect anyone.”
A 40-day commemoration for Shireen will be held at the Beit Hanina Roman Catholic Church, he said.
“We want all the American people to stand for Shireen and ask for justice. That is all we need. We don’t want anything more. We need justice for Shireen,” he said.
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