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The Murder of Shireen Abu Aqleh: an American's Role in Palestinian Oppression

Op-ed

Shireen Abu Aqleh was an iconic figure, a household name, and one of the Arab world's most prominent journalists. Described as brave, kind, and a voice for the Palestinian people, she spent over two decades courageously covering the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

"I chose journalism to be close to people. It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I can bring their voice to the world. I am Shireen Abu Aqleh.”

On Wednesday, May 11th, 2022, however, her life was deliberately cut short by the very people she had strived so admirably to work against. At only 51 years old, she was targeted with a bullet to the head as she stood alongside other journalists in a press vest and helmet, reporting on the Israeli military raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Today, I cannot help but feel anger over the fact that an inspirational woman's mission to reveal the truth cost her her life.

As a young and inexperienced journalist myself, I often dream of the day I can bring light to the issues that deeply affect others— the day when I am able to show people truth and justice, and when my words will have the power to make real change.

Shireen Abu Aqleh did just that. She was a Palestinian icon, a courageous woman, and a trailblazing journalist.

Abu Aqleh became known to the world when reporting on the Israeli reoccupation of the territories it had left after the Oslo Accords, a pair of agreements between Israel and Palestine signed in the 1990s. She bravely covered these violent events, alongside the siege on then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She soon became the face of Al Jazeera in Palestine, bringing news from the front lines with Israeli bullets whistling by.

Many news sources disagree over who, exactly, killed Abu Aqleh, as well as the events that led up to it, with several fingers pointing toward the Palestinian troops themselves. Palestinian authorities, in turn, have declined to allow Israeli officials to conduct their investigation of her murder.

"History and action have shown that Israel cannot be trusted to investigate its own war crimes and human rights violations."

- Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

Multiple eyewitnesses attest to the claim that Israeli forces shot Abu Aqleh. Further evidence shows that it would have been impossible for a Palestinian bullet to even approach the journalist, as no Palestinian soldiers were in the area.

Shireen Abu Aqleh was undoubtedly murdered by Israeli forces. She is another victim of injustice, the very thing she bravely fought against. And not only was Abu Aqleh a Palestinean, but she was also an American citizen.

To make matters worse, even after her death, she could not rest in peace. As her casket was carried out of a Jerusalem hospital’s gates, Israeli police kicked and hit mourners with batons and set off stun grenades. This violence almost caused Abu Akleh’s coffin to fall.

Israel receives millions of dollars from American taxpayers every single day. According to the CRS, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. Most of this money goes directly to the production of weapons that are used to kill innocent Palestinians, including Abu Aqleh.The U.S.’ continuous support of the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, is not only infuriating, but also clearly contradicts the patriotic values that many citizens boast. How can the U.S. aid the killing of a journalist— one who passionately used her voice to spread the truth— if freedom of speech is supposedly at the forefront of its ideals?

An American with true American ideals who supports Israel is a hypocrite.

Islam calls for justice in every aspect. As a Muslim, I recall the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him), who emphasized the importance of desiring for others what one desires for oneself.

“O men, what I say to you, you must hear and remember. All Muslims are as brethren to one another. All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold are equal. Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right, any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers.”

- The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him)

This is a timeless principle that is increasingly important today. As Americans, we must all reflect on these teachings and realize that it is our responsibility to stand up for those facing injustice, whether it be the thousands of Palestinians suffering at the hands of Israel, or for any other people around the world.

A true American would be heartbroken at the injustice that Palestinians face. It is not at all a conflict between Muslims and Jews, and not one that only those affiliated with a religious group can understand. It is a matter of injustice and oppression, one that we all must stand up and act against.

Keeping ourselves informed on the latest updates in Palestine through pro-Palestinian news sources, contacting public officials to make change, holding pro-Israel corporations accountable, and raising awareness through peaceful means are just some ways that we can support Palestine.

My sincere prayers go to Shireen Abu Aqleh and her family. May God protect them and protect the Palestinian people from the hardships they suffer.

Rest in power and peace.

Laaibah Tayyeb
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Laaibah Tayyeb is a high school junior in Virginia. Besides writing, her interests include baking sweets and revamping her old clothes.