Washington, DC – Gathered outside the United States Capitol, several members of Congress have called for accountability in the shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, linking her death to broader, continuing Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
Lawmakers from the Democratic Party joined Abu Akleh’s family in Washington, DC, on Thursday to renew demands for an independent investigation into the killing of the veteran reporter, who was an American citizen.
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Abu Akleh was fatally shot by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while covering a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. More than one year after her death, press freedom advocates are pushing forward with calls for justice in her killing.
After American legislators issued appeals for a US investigation into the incident, Israeli officials said last November that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched a probe into the incident. But the Department of Justice has continued to refuse to confirm or comment on the purported investigation.
Washington, which provides $3.8bn in aid to Israel annually, has opposed efforts to seek accountability for Abu Akleh at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Here are key comments made by the US lawmakers on Thursday.
Andre Carson: ‘We will not let her death be in vain’
Congressman Carson, an Indiana Democrat, announced that he is reintroducing the Justice for Shireen Act, a bill he put forward last year to require a US investigation and report into Abu Akleh’s killing.
“No American journalist or journalist working for an American company should ever fear retaliation, imprisonment or death for simply doing their job. Shireen stood for justice; she stood for conviction; she stood for always telling people’s stories and telling the truth,” Carson said.
“We will not let her death be in vain. We call on our colleagues in Congress to pass the Justice for Shireen Act.”
Rashida Tlaib: ‘We seem to be consistently sacrificed’
Tlaib, a Michigan progressive of Palestinian descent, said the US government treats Palestinian Americans differently than other citizens under its protection.
Abu Akleh was one of two Americans killed by Israel last year. Omar Assad, an elderly Palestinian American, also died after he was arbitrarily detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank early in 2022.
“At this point, I’m getting the impression that the State Department doesn’t consider Americans who are also Palestinian to be Americans worth protecting. We seem to be consistently sacrificed over and over again,” Tlaib said.
“It’s not just that the Biden administration hasn’t done anything to achieve justice for Shireen; it’s that they actively are working to block any form of accountability. If the administration actually wanted to help, they would launch a full State Department … investigation into whether or not US weapons were used to commit this and other war crimes and human rights violations.”
Jamaal Bowman: ‘This is a war crime’
Congressman Bowman, a progressive representing a New York district, cited a recent letter he sent to President Joe Biden calling for the investigation into the possible use of US weapons in Israeli rights violations against Palestinians.
“The lack of urgency around the investigation related to Shireen’s death is one of the reasons why we sent that letter, because what I’ve seen since running for office — and now being in office — is a consistent ignoring and devaluing of Palestinian lives,” Bowman said.
“Shireen was a Palestinian and an American journalist. This is a war crime, and it must be investigated thoroughly and with urgency.”
Ilhan Omar: Palestinians often dehumanised
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar questioned why Biden did not mention Abu Akleh at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner earlier last month when talking about journalists facing abuses.
“Why isn’t her life not being talked about in the same way that the lives of other journalists are talked about? Why is it, when something happens to a Palestinian, we oftentimes forget that they are human and do not think that their life deserves to be talked about or addressed in the same way?” Omar asked.
“It is unconscionable that we live in a country that talks about freedom, that talks about liberty, that talks about equality, but there is one group of people that we oftentimes do not think to talk about their humanity, their life mattering, their work being equal to others. The dehumanisation of Palestinians has led us to this point.”
Cori Bush: ‘We won’t forget’
Congresswoman Cori Bush, a prominent progressive from Missouri, stressed that justice has not been achieved for Abu Akleh — not in Israel, not by the US, not at the ICC.
“This is not accountability. This is not justice. This is not protecting human rights. This is sweeping the killing of a Palestinian, of a US citizen, of a journalist under the rug and hoping that people will forget,” Bush said.
“Well, we don’t forget. We won’t forget. We will keep pushing until we have accountability for Shireen and every Palestinian who has been killed by the Israeli government.”
Betty McCollum: ‘Bring home the truth’
Congresswoman McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat who recently introduced a bill to restrict US aid to Israel and ensure it is not used in the detention of Palestinian children, said seeking justice for Abu Akleh honours her legacy as well as the work of all journalists.
“We are asking for the bright light to be shined on what happened to Shireen’s death. And that means the FBI needs to be a trusted, independent investigator to bring home the truth. To the Biden administration, bring home the truth; let the sun shine through,” McCollum said.
“Let us not forget the journalists whose lives are in danger right now as we honour Shireen’s great sacrifice.”