Shireen Abu Akleh: US is not an ‘objective observer,’ say advocates | Press freedom news

Washington D.C.- The US needs to “look in the mirror” and reassess its staunch support for Israel, Palestinian rights advocates say, as calls mount to condition billions in annual US aid after Al Jazeera journalist’s murder Shireen Abu Akleh.

The US State Department has urged an “immediate and thorough” investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, a US citizen, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank this week.

But US-based activists say such statements ignore Washington’s “complicity” in Israel’s human rights violations.

“There is a deep hypocrisy and irony in US officials calling for an investigation when what they really need to do is look in the mirror,” said Elias Newman, communications director for IfNotNow, a youth-led American Jewish anti-war group. occupation.

“When it comes to hardliners who support unconditional support for the Israeli government, they need to look in the mirror and see that in reality our unconditional funding is a major factor in allowing the Israeli government to act with impunity and carry out these human rights. abuses.”

President Joe Biden and his top advisers have repeatedly promised not to condition, restrict or reduce US aid to Israel, which amounts to $3.8 billion annually.

Jinan Deena, a national organizer for the American-Arab Committee Against Discrimination (ADC), noted that Abu Akleh became the second American citizen killed by Israeli forces this year, after 78-year-old Omar Assad years, died after being arrested in the West Bank in January.

Deena said that Palestinian Americans like her do not feel protected by their own government when they travel to visit family in Palestine.

“We are Americans and we are paying taxes, and that money is literally not only going to abuse our families at home and the Palestinians at home, but also us now,” Deena told Al Jazeera. “Many of us are very afraid to go [to Palestine] this year.”

US envoy ‘deeply distressed’

On Friday, Israeli troops stormed Abu Akleh’s funeral procession in Jerusalem and violently attacked mourners and pallbearers, nearly causing them to overturn the slain journalist’s coffin.

Images of the attack sparked protests around the world, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying he was “deeply concerned” by the images. “Every family deserves that their loved ones rest in a dignified and unhindered way,” he wrote on Twitter.

The US envoy to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, also said she was “deeply distressed.”

But Thomas-Greenfield has made it clear, even before the US Senate confirmed her for the job last year, that protecting Israel from criticism at the United Nations would be one of her top priorities.

Israel has been America’s main ally in the Middle East for decades, with presidents and lawmakers from both major parties affirming their strong commitment to the country. In addition to the $3.8 billion in US aid Israel receives annually, this year Washington added another $1 billion to “replenish” its Iron Dome missile defense system after the May 2021 Gaza conflict.

In that context, Maya Berry, executive director of the American Arab Institute (AAI), a Washington-based think tank, said it is clear that Washington is not an impartial actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are not an objective observer here,” Berry told Al Jazeera earlier this week, referring to the US government. “We are fully committed to supporting the state of Israel as it commits these abuses.”

In recent years, progressive activists and US lawmakers have tried to restrict aid to Israel or condition it on ending violations against Palestinians, but the push remains largely confined to the left wing of the Democratic Party.

As a candidate in 2020, Biden dismissed the idea of ​​tying aid to Israel, which Sen. Bernie Sanders defended during that year’s Democratic primary, as “strange.”

After he was elected to the presidency, his top advisers, including Vice President Kamala Harris, promised that aid would not be restricted under any circumstances. That position has not changed, even as major rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, accused Israel of committing apartheid against Palestinians.

“The US government is complicit and perpetrator of Israeli war crimes because of the help it gives them, the unconditional support, the blank checks,” Deena told Al Jazeera.

“The United States stands 100 percent hand in hand with Israel when it comes to these abuses that are going on.”

A Palestinian rides his bicycle in front of a mural honoring Abu Akleh, in Gaza City. [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

legislative efforts

Last year, Democratic congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced legislation that would ensure that US aid is not used to finance Israel’s human rights abuses.

The proposal has obtained 32 co-sponsors, but has not gone through the legislative process beyond its formal presentation.

“The murder of any journalist is a tragedy, but the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist reporting on the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian land, is a crime that demands accountability and consequences, not impunity,” McCollum told Al Jazeera. in an email on Friday.

“I have called for restrictions on American aid to Israel to ensure that our tax dollars are not funding blatant human rights abuses, and such restrictions should certainly apply to this situation if Israeli security forces are found to be responsible for the Shireen’s death.

Omar Baddar, a Palestinian American political analyst, noted that public opinion polls (PDF) show that putting conditions on US aid to Israel is popular with Americans, particularly Democrats.

“Yet we have a political class that continues to be dominated by outdated attitudes of never questioning support for Israel, and in a political environment where the Israel lobby continues to influence politics in ways that Americans simply don’t support,” he said. to Al Jazeera.

Still, Baddar said that having progressives call for accountability for Israeli human rights violations and ensuring that US taxpayer dollars are not used to commit them is a “powerful development.”

“But we have to continue to build on that and increase public pressure until it can translate into real policy change,” he said.

For her part, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib criticized US aid to Israel after the attack on Abu Akleh’s funeral on Friday.

“This is disgusting. Violent racism, enabled by $3.8 billion in unconditional US military funding,” he wrote on Twitter in response to footage showing Israeli officers beating pallbearers carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin with batons.

“For Israeli apartheid [government]Shireen’s life didn’t matter, and her dehumanization continues after death.”

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