US outrage grows over Shireen Abu Akleh killing after funeral attack
Many in the international community, including in the United States, might have been slow or cautious to react to the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as she reported on an Israeli military raid on the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.
Whatever muted responses that existed on Wednesday, the day of her killing, quickly turned to outrage on Friday following an undeniable Israeli police attack on her pallbearers, which almost caused them to drop the coffin and forced at least one to the ground.
While many international observers were shocked, it came as no surprise to many Palestinians who have seen similar incidents, albeit much less publicised. What was being demanded by Palestinians, their allies and progressives around the world – more transparent news coverage as well as an independent investigation – reached the mainstream following the jarring images of the funeral attack.
One of the main criticisms of the establishment media coverage was of the New York Times, whose headline on the day of Abu Akleh’s killing read “Shireen Abu Akleh, Trailblazing Palestinian Journalist, Dies at 51”. US progressive group Jewish Voice for Peace “corrected” the headline in red handwriting in a widely circulated meme that replaced the last clause with “Assassinated by Israeli Sniper While Wearing a Press Vest and Reporting on Israeli Military Violence”.
Other outlets, such as the BBC and the Associated Press, whose office was destroyed by Israeli shelling in Gaza in last year, were also criticised for their coverage of the story. News outlets were also generally criticised for using the term “clashes” to describe Israeli soldiers’ armed attacks on unarmed journalists.
Possibly due to numerous complaints, the NYT changed their headline to “Trailblazing Palestinian Journalist Killed in West Bank”. On Wednesday, its headline about the funeral was a blunt “Israeli Police Attack Mourners at Palestinian Journalist’s Funeral”.
Some mainstream publications featured opinion pieces critical of Israel’s actions. Time published a piece entitled “The Problems With Israel's Version of the Killing of Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh”. Meanwhile, a number of opinion pieces in Israeli publications had by Friday acknowledged the power dynamic between armed occupier and unarmed civilian at play, with a growing number of headlines questioning Israel’s initial narrative of a Palestinian gunman being responsible for the killing.
Politicians who had not previously made statements on social media about Abu Akleh's killing did speak out about the attacks on mourners at her funeral.
On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and the attacks on mourners by Israeli forces at her funeral are deeply disturbing. A free press is a cornerstone of democracy and journalists should not be killed for doing their jobs. We need a full independent investigation.”
Some Twitter users replied to Warren saying she should focus on domestic issues, like Roe v Wade. Others hit back at those replies, saying that Abu Akleh’s killing is of domestic concern because she is a US citizen and the American government is Israel's biggest funder.
Her progressive colleague, Senator Bernie Sanders, tweeted: “The attack by Israeli forces against mourners at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is an outrage. The United States must condemn this, and demand an independent investigation into her killing.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a rare criticism of Israel, also expressed concerns about the funeral attack, tweeting: “We were deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner.”
Though many are continuing to promote the idea that a Palestinian gunman is responsible for the killing of Abu Akleh, their voices are increasingly getting drowned out by the growing numbers of those outraged by what they have seen.