Only Palestinians can achieve justice for Shireen Abu Akleh
On 11 May 2022, beloved Jerusalemite Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated in Jenin by an Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) sniper.
Shireen, wearing a press bulletproof vest and a protective helmet, was in Jenin to report the most recent IOF raid when she was shot in the head, underneath her helmet. During her funeral processions, IOF attacked the pallbearers carrying her coffin and the Palestinian mourners honouring her life and martyrdom.
Following Shireen’s death, calls for accountability and justice flooded the internet. Among those calls were demands for an investigation by Israeli courts, American courts (given that Shireen also carried American citizenship), the United Nations (UN), and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
According to so-called international law, killing journalists is illegal. In 1997, UNESCO passed Resolution 29 titled ‘Protection of Journalists against Violence’. The UN continuously condemns the killing of journalists worldwide and advocates for state-sanctioned ‘justice’.
"But when has 'international' law ever protected the Palestinian right to a liberated life, or any liberation struggle of the Global South from colonialism and Western hegemony?"
In 2015, Palestine joined as a member of the ICC, meaning that the ICC technically has legal jurisdiction over the region and is able to carry out judicial investigations and enact ‘accountability’.
But when has ‘international’ law ever protected the Palestinian right to a liberated life, or any liberation struggle of the Global South from colonialism and Western hegemony?
After the Second World War, the UN was established along with the definition of “war crimes” to seek accountability for the millions killed, dispossessed, and displaced during the Holocaust and, presumably, to ensure such an atrocity never happens again.
The Nuremberg Trials were concluded with the judgement and conviction of 161 individuals, including 37 who were sentenced to death. Other Nazis were repatriated to the United States, employed at NASA or the CIA, or even returned to their jobs in the Western bloc of Europe within a few years. Nazism is alive and well today, perhaps even more fine tuned and sophisticated than it was during Hitler’s era.
A year ago, Israeli forces struck down #ShireenAbuAkleh while she was working as a journalist. Palestine UK envoy @hzomlot said he was "haunted" by the lack of justice and described Shireen as one who "represents the cause of Palestine"👇— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) May 11, 2023
🎥@Reemkhabbazy #JusticeforShireen pic.twitter.com/nIX96T2nB2
The international bodies positioned as the arbiters of justice and guardians of human rights, by design, fail to address the systemic material realities and injustices created by imperialism because they were created by and for Western powers protecting their vision of the world order.
The UN, ICC, and other international agencies installed by and for the Global North cannot deliver true accountability and justice for colonised peoples seeking liberation, because that entails dismantling their raison d’être, Western hegemony, once and for all.
The United States, in particular, invokes international law only when convenient. For example, it spearheaded the Nuremberg then hiring and rehabilitating Nazi officials, funded guerrilla hubs in Asia that educated, armed, and trained the “Islamic jihad” then launched the War on Terror, and continues to bankroll the Zionist project while concluding that the IOF was “likely responsible” for Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder.
When the ICC does contradict US interests, like when an investigation into American crimes in Afghanistan was authorised, US state actors deem the court an “unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body.” But when the ICC issues an arrest warrant for Putin, however, the decision is “justified.”
At the UN, the US regularly uses its Security Council veto power to unilaterally block any attempt to recognise Palestinians’ mere human rights or hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses.
Even if the UNSC were to suggest meaningful ‘justice’ and ‘accountability’ on behalf of Palestinians, the US imperialist hegemon ensures the burial of these resolutions in an endless cycle of vetoes overriding majority votes, while continuing to fund the IOF and providing weapons they use to kill Shireen Abu Akleh and all Palestinian martyrs.
Shireen Abu Akleh is not the only example. Omar Abdulmajeed Assad, the 80-year-old Palestinian man who was killed by IOF during his arrest in 2022, was also an American citizen, but even with a US passport, they were both Palestinians whose existence posed a direct threat to the interests of the imperial core.
🚨 New Episode of @TheNewArabVoice🚨— The New Arab Voice (@TheNewArabVoice) May 12, 2023
This week, we mark one year since the death of Shireen Abu Akleh
The episode looks at forensic investigations that piece together what happened on May 11 2022 and examines efforts to hold her killers to account
Even Rachel Corrie, a non-Palestinian who was killed by a bulldozer in 2003 for defending a Palestinian home from demolition by the IOF, has never seen accountability for her assassination.
Vague demands for accountability from liberal human rights organisations and imperialist states that maintain the ongoing Nakba only leave space for opportunistic gestures, like the US’s “inconclusive” investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s assassination or the IOF’s recent horrific ‘apology’.
Palestinians have known for years that justice for the occupation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people cannot be delivered by Western bureaucracies or meaningless apologies.
When thinking of justice, the focus should instead be shifted to Palestinians on the ground resisting ongoing genocide on a daily basis, from prisoners detained in Israeli jails, to Gazans enduring and surviving an air, land, and sea blockade and brutal airstrikes, to the youth-led armed struggle.
"Palestinians have known for years that justice for the occupation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people cannot be delivered by Western bureaucracies or meaningless apologies"
Shireen Abu Akleh deserves accountability because she is a Palestinian martyr who was murdered on occupied Palestinian land as a result of Israeli state-sanctioned snipers, not because she happens to be an American citizen, or because Resolution 29 condemns the killing of journalists.
Like all Palestinian martyrs, Shireen Abu Akleh’s life was stolen by a US-funded settler-colonial ethnostate as she fought for the freedom of her people and land.
Real accountability entails liberation from Zionist settler-colonialism and genocide, not a so-called third-party ‘neutral’ investigation, a UN resolution, an NGO report, or an ICC indictment.
Justice can only be achieved by the Palestinian people, whose steadfast struggle for liberation has been ongoing for over 75 years.
Tara Alami is a Palestinian writer and organiser from occupied Jerusalem and occupied Yafa. She is based in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal).
Follow her on Twitter: @taraxrh
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.