As Joe BidenAs President Obama prepares for his first trip to Israel, Shireen Abu Akleh’s family has written a letter to him detailing their demands that he hold accountable for Shireen’s May killing in the occupied West Bank.
The letter on Friday berated Biden for what it called efforts by his administration to “whitewash Shireen’s killing and perpetuate impunity” for Israeli forces who Journalist killedIn May.
When it was created, the Biden administration enraged Palestinian rights advocates and press freedom supporters. Statement released saying the bullet that killed Abu Akleh “likely” came from an Israeli military position but dismissed the incident as the unintentional “result of tragic circumstances”.
Abu Akleh’s family called on the US administration to Retraction of this statement, expressing “grief, outrage and sense of betrayal” with Biden.
Below is the full text of the family’s letter. (Hyperlinks emphasis in original
Dear Mr. President
We are 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.
Shireen was a beloved, prominent Palestinian journalist. She was a role-model and mentor for aspiring Palestinian female journalists. She was also a trusted colleague in many local and international media. She was also a citizen of the United States. Despite wearing a protective helmet and blue bulletproof vest clearly marked as “PRESS,” Shireen was murdered by an Israeli-fired bullet to the head. Israeli forces continued to fire live rounds as bystanders– including other members of the press–tried to render assistance. As we were about to start her funeral procession with hundreds of others, Israeli forces assaulted us. They beat mourners and pallbearers and disrupted the dignity and respect she deserved.
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 following investigations were conducted by the United NationsThe New York Times?, Washington Post, CNNThe Associated Press, Bellingcat?, B’TselemAll of the evidence points to an Israeli soldier firing the fatal shot that killed Shireen. All available evidence suggests that Shireen, a U.S. citizen, was the subject of an extrajudicial killing, 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.
Instead, the United States has been moving in the opposite direction to the exclusion of Israeli forces’ wrongdoing. From the failure to immediately ensure an independent and impartial investigation, to the rushed hand-off of the bullet that killed Shireen without consultation let alone allowing us to have a representative present, which culminated in the July 4 statement adopting the conclusions and talking points of the Israeli government, your administration’s engagement has served to whitewash Shireen’s killing and perpetuate impunity. Little information has been shared on who oversaw the American “summation” of investigations, who participated in the ballistics assessment, or any specific individual qualifications or findings leading to the conclusions issued by your administration. It’s almost as if you expect us and the rest of the world to just move on. Silence would have been better.
You have made clear that your administration is willing to abdicate its responsibility concerning Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Shireen. The July 4 press statement by Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price announced that Shireen’s killing was likely unintentional, yet when pressed by reporters during the July 5 press briefing, Mr. Price conceded that nobody present was qualified to reach a conclusion about intent. He also clarified that the United States government did not, in fact, conduct its own investigation, let alone legal analysis, and that the Department of State was content with merely “summarizing”—and adopting—Israeli authorities’ investigation. Nonetheless, 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.
We remind you all that on May 11, when an Israeli soldier shot Shireen, Price was at the Department of State podium in strong condemnation. Call for “an immediate and thorough investigation and full accountability.” Then, on July 5, that call for full accountability was reduced to nothing more than a contorted statement that Israel “soon will be in a position to consider steps to further safeguard noncombatants.” We are incredulous that such an expectation would be the pinnacle of your administration’s response to the killing of Shireen. Israeli forces are known for their war crimes and impunity in killing Palestinian civilians. Unconditional U.S.-sourced weapons, financial assistance and diplomatic support are given to Israeli officials and armed force leaders. This helps shield them from any responsibility.
Since Israeli forces killed our Shireen, lawmakers have pressed you to deliver on the strong condemnation and call for “full accountability” concerning Shireen’s death. On May 19, 57 Congressmen sent a LetterChristopher Wray and Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, to ask the FBI Director Christopher Wray and the State Department to investigate the death of Shireen. On June 6, Sens. Sens. Jon Ossof, Mitt Romney sent a Letter to Secretary Blinken insisting that the administration ensure a “full and transparent investigation and accountability”. On June 23, Senator Chris Van Hollen along with 23 of his Senate co-senators sent you a Letter demanding you ensure the direct involvement of the United States in the investigation of Shireen’s killing, stressing the importance of an independent, thorough, and transparent 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. 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.
We need you to:
- Meet us during your next visit and learn directly from us our concerns and demands to justice.
- Provide us with all of the information gathered by your administration to date concerning Shireen’s killings, including any evidence reviewed and assessed by U.S. officials, the identities and qualifications of all individuals present during the latest review of evidence, any forensics reports or other information that has not been provided to us or our legal team.
- Retract the Department of State’s July 4 press statement, given that the Department’s own account indicates that it is not based on any credible assessment.
- Direct the Department of Justice, including the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and any other relevant U.S. offices or agencies to take action on Shireen’s extrajudicial killing.
- Lastly, it is obvious that we expect the Biden administration to support our efforts for justice and accountability for Shireen wherever they may take us.
Anton Abu Akleh
On behalf of the Abu Akleh Familie
CC: Secretary-of-State Mr. Antony Blinken