Shireen Abu Akleh, a long-time senior TV correspondent based in Jerusalem, was shot dead today morning (May 11) with a bullet to the head during her coverage of an Israeli operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. A well-known Palestinian reporter for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel since 1997, Ms. Abu Akleh was born to a Catholic family in Jerusalem in 1971 but spent enough time living with relatives in New Jersey when she was young to be able to obtain U.S. citizenship. But the safety of living in the US was never able to overcome her heart’s desire to be in her homeland.
Ms. Abu Akleh began her university studies majoring in architecture, but her life took a major turn after switching to journalism. “I chose journalism to be close to the people,” the beloved Palestinian reporter was heard to say in a short video shared by Al Jazeera after her death.
The familiar Al Jazeera icon is the latest journalist to fall in a profession that has grown increasingly risky in the Middle East. Hundreds of professional and citizen journalists have also been killed, abducted, or disappeared in Syria since the uprising began in 2011.
In a Facebook post published on Dec 12, 2016, Shireen Abu Akleh had written a message to those voicing criticism of Palestinians who were not actively supporting the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom and dignity. Her post titled “A message to our people in Syria” stated:
“We would like to express our great love for you in this painful circumstance, but we hope that you will stop shouting accusations at us because we are not able to lift a finger to help you. Neither the corpses scattered in the streets, nor the tears and cries of children, nor the groans of men and women, nor all the crimes committed against you, will stir the conscience of the world. Did you not take the lesson from those who preceded you? For nearly seventy years, we have been crying out to the world. What is the occupation that devours our bodies, devours us, and bites us, one by one? So, close your eyes and sleep a thousand years. Who knows, you may wake up one day at a time other than this time governed by the law of the jungle, perhaps to find a sliver of conscience.”
During her 25 years of working for Al Jazeera, Ms. Abu Akleh inspired many young people to pursue their own careers in journalism with her courageous and diligent coverage of the Palestinian struggle against oppression and injustice in her homeland.
It is very unfortunate that the State of Israel, which claims to be a democracy, killed a respected journalist with a sniper’s bullet while she was doing her job in front of the whole world.