Afraid of a casket, let alone the truth

May 14, 2022 - 20:49

TEHRAN— On Friday, 54 seconds of a disturbing footage shocked the whole world. During the funeral procession for Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist who worked for Al Jazeera, Israeli police forces attacked the mourners and tried to take the Palestinian flag off of her casket.

The footage raised the eyebrows of the free-spirited people in the world, who asked if the Israelis are afraid of a casket, what will the truth do to them?

Abu Akleh was shot in the ear by an Israeli sniper on Wednesday despite wearing a vest marked “press”, and a helmet. 

Abu Akleh’s targeting raised concerns over the targeting of the journalists by the Israeli regime, as systemic killing of journalists has become a dangerous trend by them. But the million-dollar question everyone wanted to ask was: Will the killing of an American citizen by the Israeli troops cause a rift between the two close allies?

Immediately after the news broke out, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem issued a statement condemning the killing and asking for an independent investigation into the matter.

However, the Israelis, as usual, are evading responsibility regarding Abu Akleh’s targeting.

On Friday, a funeral procession was held in the occupied Jerusalem for the seasoned journalist. Hours before the procession began, the Israeli police forces were waiting and ready to beat up and attack the mourners of press freedom.

Minutes after the procession began, Israeli occupation forces attacked the funeral for the slain journalist outside the French Hospital in occupied Jerusalem.
They later stormed and shut down the mourning house for Abu Akleh.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 33 people were hurt in the Israeli attack on the funeral procession of Abu Akleh in occupied Jerusalem.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday, “A regime that is scared of the funeral of the martyr of the truth, Shireen Abu Akleh, and the raising of the Palestinian flag in Jerusalem is destined to evaporate.”

France's embassy in the occupied lands also issued a statement condemning the attack.

"Dismayed by Israeli police violence at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral at St Joseph's Hospital, an establishment under French protection. These scenes are shocking,” the statement wrote.

Even the close buddy of the Israeli regime, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “We are 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.”

Later, at the White House press briefing, reporters asked Jen Psaki, the White House spokesperson, about the troubling footage. 

“Did the President see and the White House have any reaction the disturbing images out of Israel this morning of Israeli police beating mourners of the Al Jazeera journalist and American citizen Shireen Abu Akleh, including they briefly dropped the casket?  Does the White House have any response?  And is the President taking any action in response?” a reporter asked.

Speaking at her last briefing as the White House spokesperson, Psaki responded, “Well, I would first say that we have all seen those images; they’re obviously deeply disturbing.

We — this is a day where we should all be marking, including everyone there, the memory of a remarkable journalist who lost her life.  We know that there is — with the disturbing footage from the funeral procession today in Jerusalem, we regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession. We’ve urged respect for the funeral procession, the mourners, and the family at this sensitive time.” 

She added that the White House is in close contact with both the Israeli and Palestinian officials. 

“We’re also in close touch with Israeli and Palestinian authorities — have been and obviously will continue to be, especially given the images we’ve seen today.  We’re not currently involved in any of the investigation, but we are working to bridge cooperation and available to provide assistance as needed.”

Another reporter asked, “Back to the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, I’m curious: Does the President himself plan to speak with her family, given especially in part that she is an American citizen?”

Psaki said, “We have, obviously, reached out and engaged through national security officials with her family.  I don’t have any calls to predict or preview at this point in time.  But if that does happen, we’d, of course, make that information available to all of you.”

The reporter then went on to ask a second question about Abu Akleh, asking, “And does the President have any plans to speak with the Israeli government directly about the death and the ongoing investigation?”

Psaki responded, “Well, certainly, we have been engaged with them and have offered support.  And if they need specific support from us, we will provide that.  But I don’t have any calls to predict at this point in time.”

As the news of Abu Akleh’s killing sent a shockwave to the world, it was natural that most of the reporters wanted to get the reactions of Washington. 

Therefore, another reporter asked Psaki, “And I want to follow up with my colleague’s mention of Shireen Abu Akleh.  And I want to emphasize she is an American citizen. You know, when American journalists are killed in Ukraine, nobody waits for an investigation; they pinpoint their — you know, (inaudible) to the Russians.  Why Israel get away with this?  Why not calling for an independent inquiry since Palestinians do not believe that Israel is capable of investigating itself?  I mean, this journalist was fully covered in a vest, in a helmet, yet she was targeted under the ear.  That means it’s a professional job by a sniper.  And many people believe that it was an Israeli soldier who shot her.” 

Psaki responded, “Well, as we understand it, there are investigations by both sides.  We’ve offered our assistance to the Israelis, to the Palestinians, and we’re prepared to provide that should they want it.”

While the UN Security Council has strongly condemned Israel's killing of Palestinian-American journalist and called for an immediate, thorough, transparent, and fair and impartial investigation, the Americans are hesitant to carry out an independent investigation regarding the killing of an American citizen by an ally. However, the White House’s condemnation of the Israelis’ attack to Abu Akleh’s casket can portray a rift between the two close allies. Let’s not forget that this is not unprecedented, and it has happened before. 

In 2003, Rachel Corrie, an American political activist, was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in a southern Gaza Strip combat zone during the height of the second Palestinian intifada under contested circumstances. When Corrie died, then U.S. President George W. Bush demanded a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation” from then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 

In March 2003, U.S. Representative Brian Baird introduced a resolution in the U.S. Congress calling on the U.S. government to "undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation" into Corrie's death. 

The House of Representatives took no action on the resolution. The Corrie family joined Representative Baird in calling for a U.S. investigation.

Years later, in 2012, U.S. Ambassador to the occupied lands, Dan Shapiro, stated that the Israeli investigation was not satisfactory, and was not as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been. 

Shapiro said the government of the United States is unsatisfied with the IDF's closure of its official investigation into Corrie's death.

Will the U.S. even sacrifice a citizen’s life in order not to antagonize Israel? No question about that. But the outpouring of the emotions regarding Abu Akleh’s tragic death will hunt those who remained silent.
 

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