Cornerstone laid for Shireen Abu Akleh press museum in Palestine

The venue is set to open in 2025 in honour of the Al Jazeera journalist who was fatally shot by the Israeli military.

Shireen Museum cornerstone ceremony
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh unveils a symbolic cornerstone for the Shireen Abu Akleh press museum in Ramallah, central-occupied West Bank, on May 11, 2023, one year after the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist [Al Jazeera]

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and the Al Jazeera Media Network laid the cornerstone for the Shireen Abu Akleh press museum in Ramallah in the central Israeli-occupied West Bank on the first anniversary of her death.

Abu Akleh, a television correspondent with Al Jazeera Arabic for 25 years, was shot by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. She was wearing a clearly marked press vest and helmet, and standing with other journalists when she was killed.

“Shireen was the witness and the martyr,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at Thursday’s ceremony.

“Today, we immortalise the memory of Shireen Abu Akleh in this museum, which will document Palestinian journalism and media.”

The event was attended by Abu Akleh’s family, Ramallah Mayor Issa Kassis and other officials, as well as the head of the Palestine Journalists’ Syndicate, Nasser Abu Bakr, and several diplomatic and civil society figures.

“We will continue to go after those killers, those criminals. We do not believe in the investigation committee that they announced, or its results. We want there to be an independent investigation,” Shtayyeh told Abu Akleh’s brother, Anton, as he unveiled the cornerstone.

Shireen Museum cornerstone ceremony
Shireen Abu Akleh was a household name across Palestine and the wider Arab world [Al Jazeera]

The museum is set to open in 2025, on 4,709sq m (50,687 sq feet) of land allocated by the Ramallah municipality. While Al Jazeera has undertaken the costs of construction, the municipality will be in charge of the museum once it opens to the public.

While the Israeli army admitted in September 2022 that its soldiers “most likely” killed Shireen, the Israeli government has prevented an independent investigation from taking place until today, and has maintained that it will not hold anyone accountable for the killing.

Abu Akleh’s legacy

Last week, Kassis and Al Jazeera’s Chairman Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani signed the agreement for the museum’s construction, at the network’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Ahmad Abu Laban, the general director of the Ramallah municipality, said the museum will include several components.

“The first component is an exhibition of Abu Akleh’s journalistic legacy and professional journey. A second exhibition will be of Palestinian journalists who were martyred, and the third component is focused on the journey and history of Palestinian media,” Abu Laban told Al Jazeera, adding that the museum will hold regular activities and events for the public.

Abu Laban said the museum will be the “fourth landmark” in Ramallah, alongside three others: the Yasser Arafat Museum, the Mahmoud Darwish Museum, and the Nelson Mandela statue.

He said he believes such a project is important to highlight attempts “by the occupation, through its assassinations of Palestinian journalists and icons, to silence the truth”.

“These people, however, will remain alive among us, through their legacy, and they will push the next generations forward, whether journalists or regular Palestinians,” said Abu Laban.

Shireen Museum cornerstone ceremony
PA Prime Minister Shtayyeh greets Al Jazeera Palestine bureau chief Walid al-Omari and Abu Akleh’s brother, Anton [Al Jazeera]

Struggles of Palestinian journalists

Abed Alhafeez Jaawan, a Palestinian journalist who works for Al Arabiya TV, told Al Jazeera he believes “Shireen’s killing caused the entire world to pay attention to the suffering of Palestinian journalists in the field. The targeting of journalists is an ongoing reality. As long as we are in the field, there will be those who don’t like our work and who target us.”

“Such a museum is important to document the work of Palestinian journalism and media, which has a had a very crucial role and will continue to have one in the journey for Palestinian liberation and independence,” Jaawan said at the ceremony.

Shireen museum cornerstone ceremony
The Ramallah Municipality said the museum will be dedicated to Palestinian journalists and their role in Palestinian history [Al Jazeera]

The laying of the cornerstone for the museum was the final ceremony in an emotional week of events marking the one-year anniversary.

On Sunday, Abu Akleh’s friends and family held a memorial mass at the al-Liqaa Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Beit Hanina, occupied East Jerusalem. On Tuesday, a large memorial took place to honour her legacy at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, which hundreds of Palestinians attended.

Those who were close to her remain in shock and pain.

“I used to see Shireen on a daily basis. She was a very close friend. We would call each other every day. We used to share with each other all of our worries, our happy moments, our sad moments. She is a beautiful person in friendship, in travel, in everything,” Iman Hammouri, who was a close friend of Abu Akleh, told Al Jazeera.

“Unfortunately, Israel is getting away with all crimes. If it managed to get away with such an extremely clear crime, then people feel defeat – that they may never get justice in their cause. [But] if we manage to obtain justice for Shireen, then I believe that will help build a foundation for Israel to be punished for all of its war crimes.”

Source: Al Jazeera