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Israeli military attacks are an affront to human rights

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The funeral of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was disrupted by Israeli security forces who beat mourners (Screenshot via YouTube)

Israeli attacks on Palestinians have received widespread condemnation while also inspiring unity and solidarity, writes Dr Ibrahim Natil.

THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT has led systematic operations of smear, defamation and defunding campaigns by Israeli and international lobby groups such as NGO Monitor and UK Lawyers for Israel at different levels against the Palestinian and international organisations. 

Israel has banned more than 400 local and international organisations as being “hostile” or “unlawful” since 1967. In the recent military attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs), the Israeli occupation forces raided the offices of six leading Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations in the occupied city of Ramallah, West Bank, on 18 August. The organisations were outlawed by Israel as “terrorist” in October 2021 and accused of connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

These leading organisations include Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al-Haq rights group; the Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC); the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); the Bisan Center for Research and Development; and the Palestine chapter of the Geneva-based Defence for Children International, which has been operating for many years and funded by international donors as European organisations in particular. They are a key pillar of the larger Palestinian civil society in delivering asocial and economic development services for Palestinians who live in the 1967-occupied territories.

These organisations regularly try people for work exercising basic civil rights and for criticising the Israeli occupation. The Israeli measures to tighten restrictions on civil society occurred nearly a year after it labelled the organisations, which was widely condemned by the international community as “unjustified” and “baseless”. In addition to this, European donor countries including Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have found no evidence to endorse the Israeli Government’s claims against the six organisations.

These actions of closing offices or targeting human rights organisations may encourage not only more young scholars to research and learn in-depth about neo-colonisers’ behaviours and attitudes but also attract more solidarity and support from various activists and institutions.   

Solidarity

The Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, along with 46 other civil society organisations, has stood in solidarity with its Palestinian colleagues facing the draconian measures of the Israeli regime. Al-Haq’s general director, Shawan Jabarin, received a threatening call recently from a person claiming to be from Israeli internal security, requesting Shawan for interrogation and making threats of imprisonment and other measures if Al-Haq continues its work.

We urge immediate protection.

After the raid, Jabarin said: 

“There is no justice in Palestine. [Palestine needs] to open their eyes. This is [an] apartheid state, this is [a] colonial state, this is the nature of the occupation here...”

These organisations also have received regional and international support and solidarity. For example, a group of 15 Arab progressive parties from various countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt.

These progressive parties called upon the progressive human rights bodies and anti-occupation forces around the world to organise the necessary events and activities to expose the Zionist entity and defame its coercive policies as issued in their statement:

‘...this step indicates the terrorist nature of the occupation entity, which confiscates the land, oppresses the people, tightens the noose and prevents organisations and associations formed by the Palestinian people to defend their entity, rights and aspirations.’

These measures of attacking civil and human rights organisations are a part of the Israeli comprehensive policy of eradicating the Palestinian existence in the occupied territories by killing their powerful and influential voices, such as Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin on 11 May 2022. 

Why did Israel not care about increasing the support and solidarity with the Palestinians globally? 

Israel had killed many local and international journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories, including destroying offices on 15 May 2021 in Gaza City when Israel’s air forces bombed and destroyed a multi-storey building of 20 floors. The building housed well-known international media agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and Al Jazeera network, which issued a statement condemning the attack.

Israel clearly understands that the free journalists and reports expose its actions of human rights violations such as killing, the destruction of houses and farms, land confiscations, assassinations, arrest of minors and collective punishment against Palestinians, which contradicts the international laws including the Geneva Conventions. In other words, journalists are real peaceful freedom fighters who inform the world about Israel's violation of human rights, as Shireen Abu Akleh did. 

Inspired generations

Killing Shireen Abu Akleh not only shocked the world but also created a new space to expose and document the Israeli policies of human rights violations in an unprecedented scene. Shireen was an exceptional and distinguished international reporter who worked in a very complicated political and security environment while covering various events in Palestine owing to the Israeli occupation.

She stayed steady, brave and professional since she began her job in 1996 as her colleague, Walid Al-Omari, who worked together closely said: 

‘She was an exceptional reporter, not only in Palestine but also at the global level. She was a well-known reporter, professional and internationally respected who met the editorial policy of her employer, Al Jazeera Network.’

Shireen Abu Akleh introduced the Palestinian cause and narratives by covering Israeli violations since 1996. She inspired generations who dream to follow her legacy, mission, work and values. She believed she was serving the cause as a professional in accordance with international standards of journalism and reporting the events while working for a well-known network — Al Jazeera.

Abu Akleh quit engineering studies, her parent’s first choice, for journalism and media studies. Her desire and ambition was to be close to people's issues, suffering and stories to cover and communicate human issues to the world. Her desire was to get close to the voiceless, marginalised and vulnerable people who lived in complicated environments, owing to the Israeli occupation policies in the Palestinian territories. 

However, she also covered events that affected the Palestinian community in Israel and the international arena, such as in the USA. She was an exceptional woman and a figure of unity, resilience and defiance who fought for her cause, society and humanity at large. In addition, she used to donate to Jerusalemite children, orphans and poor people who suffered from Israeli systematic policies.

She also used to join the Muslim prayers in the Al-Aqsa mosque, despite the fact she was a Christian. There were many people living in her city, Jerusalem, and across the Palestinian communities who did not know her faith. Abu Akleh united Palestinian faiths who prayed together at her funeral. It was phenomenal that this had never happened before. Both faiths marched and prayed together for a woman in Palestine.

All churches from all faiths united together and paid tribute to Abu Akleh who captured the minds and the hearts of all Palestinians. There have been generations who grew up with Shireen’s distinguished voice. They believed that she was their voice and represented their cause. In other words, she was the voice of voiceless people. Anger, sorrow and sadness shocked them when they learned she had been shot by the Israeli occupying forces, which were infiltrating the city of Jenin in the north of the West Bank.

Killing Shireen shocked the Palestinian society in which various political and social movements had put aside their differences and problems just to respond together to her legacy.

International engagement  

Killing Shireen has united the world in denying Israel’s deliberate attack on her, despite the fact she was known as a journalist — a protective vest labelled ‘PRESS’ on both the front and back. The world and free press also covered the scenes of Israeli soldiers attacking her funeral by preventing her mourners from walking on foot to the cemetery.

The horrible attack shocked not only the Palestinians but also the free people from different spectrums who called for an independent international inquiry commission. However, some Western press outlets such as the New York Times discriminated and were biased against Shireen by describing her killing as death while reporting on the killing of American journalists by Russians.

However, Shireen is an American citizen who was brought up in Palestine. The double standard policy of coverage by Western media has been clearly strange when it comes to Palestine's cause. A CNN investigation in May, however, supported by footage and corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, indicated that Israeli forces intentionally aimed at Abu Akleh.

There have been a number of organisations commemorating her legacy by launching programs, as Berizt University has done. The municipality of Birah in the West Bank named a road in her name. A number of Abu Akleh’s colleagues, at various locations around the world, marched to protest Israel’s actions.

Anger and sorrow have increased after watching the Israeli forces attacking her funeral while men from both faiths carried her coffin. In her honour, the Arab League has adopted 11 May as a day of media solidarity with the Palestinian media, the day on which Abu Akleh was killed.

Despite the strong belief and the evidence from various sources indicating that she was killed by the Israeli forces, Israel denies criminalising their soldiers. Their own investigation said this week that there is a “high possibility” that one of its soldiers killed Abu Akleh. Her family, however, insists to continue to fight for justice via all the possible avenues, including the International Criminal Court.

Israel is not worried about accountability before the international community and it believes it is protected and above international law. Israel targets journalists, reporters and human rights in a systematic policy to frighten and terrify them to hide the expanding Israeli apartheid system every day in Palestine.

Dr Ibrahim Natil is a Research Fellow at the Institute for International Conflict Resolution at Dublin City University, Professor (Associate) of International Relations and Diplomacy at Joaan Bin Jassim Academy for Defence Studies and author of several books. You can follow Ibrahim on Twitter @natilibrahim.

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