Shereen Abu Aqleh was a reporter for Al Jazeera. While covering an Israeli raid of a Palestinian town, Jenin, she was executed by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sniper.
It must be said out loud and never forgotten.
While we can debate what constitutes free speech in the United States, what is black and white and what is not debatable is that under freedom of the press, reporters cannot be assassinated while covering a story. Sadly, our allies in the Middle East do not hold such a standard.
But those allies do not live up to our standard of freedom of speech or of the press — as has clearly been demonstrated. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Information, 45 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces.
As they continue on their warpath of killing dissent, we as Americans cannot sit back and do nothing when our own allies disregard international law and the basics of human dignity. These allies receive billions of American tax dollars in military aid or are the recipients of the most powerful weapons systems our country has to offer. So make no mistake that we as Americans are responsible and culpable for the impunity of the occupying Israeli forces that kill Palestinians and expropriate their land.
Offering the equivalent of thoughts and prayers by asking for investigations that will likely not lead to a change in policy will show our allies and our foes that assassinations and executions of reporters are now within the realm of what is normal. So when we utter the term war crime in Ukraine, we have to have consistency when referring to Palestine and so many other human rights abuses in various countries throughout the world. A civilized world cannot continue with such double standards, giving priority to one life because of one’s race or religion over others.
While our allies in the region have shown they lack even a modicum of a moral compass, which was highlighted as Israeli police repeatedly assaulted the pallbearers of Shereen Abu Aqleh’s funeral procession, we have the ability to do something about it. We have financial and political leverage, despite our government continuing to turn a blind eye on the atrocities committed by the IDF, giving them a pass every time the UN Security Council drafts a resolution to condemn such war crimes.
Under what is known as the Leahy Law:
“two statutory provisions prohibiting the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights (GVHR). One statutory provision applies to the State Department and the other applies to the Department of Defense”.
A renowned Palestinian-American reporter with a jacket clearly labeling her as a member of the press being killed by an IDF sniper must be considered a “gross violation of human rights” as was the assault on worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan this year and last.
As a nation, we must regain the moral high ground and authority which requires telling our allies that this behavior has consequences.
As individuals, we must demand that lawmakers and elected officials consider these sustained and repeated acts of brutality to be “gross violations of human rights” that are in direct opposition to US law and ongoing military assistance cannot be justified.
We cannot let Shereen Abu Aqleh be just another name that gets lost in annals of history — her legacy must be that the tragic end of her life inspired us to do right by the long suffering people of Palestine.