Abu Akleh family demands US holds Israel accountable

Two people hold up posters with "Justice for Shireen" written on them
Ahmed Zakot SOPA Images

It’s been nearly three months but the Abu Akleh family is not giving up pursuing justice for Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran correspondent who was shot and killed in Jenin on 11 May while doing her job.

On Tuesday, relatives of the Palestinian-American journalist were in Washington to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to keep up pressure on a US administration that has shown no interest in holding anyone accountable for Shireen’s death.

This despite a cursory US investigation finding that Israeli gunfire was “likely” responsible but that officials “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed” Abu Akleh because it was too badly damaged.

The meeting with Blinken was similarly inconclusive, according to Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece.

“There were no promises, no commitments other than the fact that they [the administration] would be more transparent with us moving forward,” she told MSNBC.

She also explained that the family is looking to the US administration for “meaningful action” and “accountability” as well as a US investigation into the circumstances of Shireen’s killing.


“Accountability,” she said, “is the least thing they could do for an American citizen.”

It is also the last thing the US seems to demand when it comes to alleged Israeli crimes against Americans, let alone anyone else.

To give just three examples:

Earlier this year, Israeli soldiers manhandled an elderly Palestinian American man at a checkpoint near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Omar Assad died of a heart attack brought on by the abuse – he was blindfolded, handcuffed and gagged – he suffered at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

The US called for a “thorough investigation.” The result: A verdict of accidental death that saw two soldiers fired and one reprimanded.

Not much of a punishment for what at best could be considered manslaughter.

Rachel Corrie was killed when protesting a military bulldozer demolishing homes in Rafah in Gaza in 2003. And yet, even though the bulldozer ran straight over her, again Israel deemed the activist’s death accidental.

Neither the driver, nor anyone in a more senior position, was punished.

All subsequent appeals have failed. The Corrie family, however, continues its struggle for accountability.

In 1967, during the war that would leave Israel in control of all of historical Palestine, Israeli aircraft attacked the USS Liberty, an American warship deployed to the Mediterranean and, at the time of the attack, in international waters.

Thirty-four crew members were killed and 173 were injured in the two-hour attack.

Israel apologized and offered some money in compensation, but no member of its military was held to account or punished. It also said the attack had been an accident caused by a misidentification of the ship as Egyptian.

Surviving crew members remain unconvinced that this was not a deliberate attack and in 2005 petitioned the US Department of Justice to hold Israel accountable for war crimes.

Their wait for accountability goes on.


In the ever-growing pantheon of Israeli transgressions of international law and international humanitarian law – mass ethnic cleansing, population transfers, civilian settlements in occupied territory, assassinations, the unprovoked bombing of neighboring countries, the incarceration of children, detention without trial, apartheid – the killing of a single Palestinian American journalist might get lost.

Not, of course, if the Abu Akleh family has anything to do with it.

“There needs to be an end to this impunity,” Lina Abu Akleh told MSNBC.

And she’s right. It is precisely Israeli impunity that has bred the kind of murderous sense of invulnerability in the Israeli military that led to Shireen’s killing and the murder of countless of others.

After all, if you are allowed to kill, chances are, you will.

No reason the Israelis should be any different.


Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.