In Letter to Biden, Shireen Abu Akleh’s Family Demands Justice

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The family of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has asked to meet President Joe Biden during his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, accusing the White House of an “abject response” to the apparent killing of a U.S. citizen by Israeli forces.

“Dear Mr. President,” the family’s letter, sent to Biden on Friday morning, began, “We, the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, write to express our grief, outrage and sense of betrayal concerning your administration’s abject response to the extrajudicial killing of our sister and aunt by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while on assignment in the occupied Palestinian city of Jenin in the West Bank.”

The letter, which was provided to The Intercept by the family, reminded the American president that Abu Akleh was not just “a prominent, beloved Palestinian journalist” and “a role model and a mentor” to women in her community. “She was also a United States citizen.”

The family, including Abu Akleh’s brother Anton and his children, demanded that Biden make time during his visit to the Middle East next week to meet with them, “and hear directly from us about our concerns and demands for justice.”

The U.S. “has been skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces.”

They also expressed anger at the lackluster support of the Biden administration. Witnesses was fired from an Israeli military convoy, “the United States has been skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces.”

“In the days and weeks since an Israeli soldier killed Shireen, not only have we not been adequately consulted, informed, and supported by U.S. government officials, but your administration’s actions exhibit an apparent intent to undermine our efforts toward justice and accountability for Shireen’s death,” the renowned Al Jazeera correspondent’s relatives wrote.

The family provided links to a half-dozen painstaking examinations of the video and audio evidence of the killing — conducted by the Washington Post, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times, BellingcatThe, and United Nations Human Rights Office — which all concluded that the fatal shot had likely been fired from the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, raiding party.

“All available evidence suggests that Shireen, a U.S. citizen, was the subject of an extrajudicial killing,” the Abu Akleh family told Biden, “yet your administration has thoroughly failed to meet the bare minimum expectation held by a grieving family — to ensure a prompt, thorough, credible, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation that leads to true justice and accountability for Shireen’s killing.”

Biden was asked by the family to direct the Department of Justice and use the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Bureau and FBI in an investigation into the death of Abu Akleh.

The State Department had just released an announcement. Strangely vague statement, on the Fourth of July holiday, reporting that “an extremely detailed forensic analysis” of the bullet that killed the journalist, carried out in Israel by unnamed “independent, third-party examiners,” overseen by the regional U.S. security coordinator, Lt. Gen. Michael Fenzel, was unable to determine if the shot had been fired from an Israeli rifle.

According to the State Department, the American general’s review of other information gathered by Israeli and Palestinian officials led him to the conclusion “that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.” Fenzel, however, “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances,” the statement added.

As the Abu Aklehs noted in their letter to Biden, the U.S. has offered no explanation of how the American general determined that no Israeli soldier intended to fire at the journalist, who was wearing a blue vest marked “PRESS,” but the statement seemed to exactly echo a claim the Israeli military has made repeatedly. “The IDF investigation conclusively determined that no IDF soldier deliberately fired at Ms. Abu Akleh,” Israel’s military said in A statementThe same day, the release was made.

The U.S. did not provide any explanation for how the American general decided that no Israeli soldier wanted to fire at the journalist.

The journalist’s family also pointed out that just one day after State Department spokesperson Ned Price “announced that Shireen’s killing was likely unintentional,” he admitted, during questioning by reporters, that the U.S. security coordinator’s review of the evidence was “not a law enforcement investigation” and his conclusion about intent was simply “a judgment.”

“Nonetheless,” the family wrote to Biden, “your administration deemed it necessary to include and perpetuate the baseless and damaging conclusion that the killing was not intentional, seemingly choosing political expedience over actual accountability for a foreign government’s killing of a U.S. citizen.”

The Abu Aklehs then demanded that the State Department retract their July 4 press statement, turn over any forensic report prepared and released by the ballistic specialists to them, and reveal their identities. Price, the spokesperson for the State Department, stated that the forensic specialists were not Americans and came from one the United States.Seven additional NATO countriesThey provide training for the security forces of the Palestinian Authority.

While Price declined to say what country the experts came from, Israel’s military insisted in its own statement that “Israeli experts examined the bullet” in the presence of representatives of the U.S. security coordinator. They stated that they were looking for evidence that the bullet was fired from a particular weapon, which was tested in the laboratory. That statement appears to indicate that Israel has identified the soldier from the Duvdevan commando unit who fired in Abu Akleh’s direction from the convoy during the raid.

Biden was also reminded of this by his family. 57 members of Congress 24 senatorsThey had written letters asking the U.S. for direct involvement in the investigation into the murder of Abu Akleh. This was because the Israelis and Palestinians don’t trust each other enough to conduct an independent and credible investigation.

“We reaffirm these demands on behalf of our beloved Shireen as your administration’s actions to date have not only fallen woefully short of ‘full accountability’ but they amount to express acceptance for Shireen’s killing,” the family wrote. “Your administration’s actions can only be seen as an attempt to erase the extrajudicial killing of Shireen and further entrench the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces and officials for unlawfully killing Palestinians.”

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