14th May 2022
Israeli forces attack funeral of murdered journalist, Shireen Abu Aqleh
The killing this week by Israeli soldiers of Al-Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Aqleh, is the latest tragedy in the struggle of the Palestinian people to claim their rights under international law. Since 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel, Palestinians have been subject to what is effectively a system of apartheid, through ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism and discrimination at all levels of daily life.
While Palestinians endure discriminatory treatment and the systematic denial of their human rights, Jewish Israelis enjoy full rights under the law within a system of institutionalised ethnic privilege.
Meanwhile seven million Palestinians live in exile, many in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, being the descendants of those forced to flee during the nakba or catastrophe, when Israel was being created. Under international law these refugees have a right to return to the lands from which they were expelled. However, Israel has continuously denied them this right.
Other Palestinians are variously dispersed across Israel, where they live as second class citizens; the occupied West Bank, with discriminatory laws and restrictions on movement; and Gaza, which has been under land, sea and air blockade imposed by the Israelis since June 2007. Gaza is regularly described as the world’s largest open air prison.
The killing of Abu Aqleh, known for her stand on supporting Palestinian rights, was compounded by the attack upon her funeral by Israeli forces. A statement put out by Al-Jazeera stated,
“In a scene that violates all norms and International laws, the Israeli occupation forces stormed the French Hospital in Jerusalem and attacked the mourners of the late Shireen Abu Akleh at the start of the funeral procession,” said the statement. “They severely beat the pallbearers of the late journalist,” it added.
The behaviour of the Israelis in relation to the murder of Abu Aqleh and the subsequent behaviour at her funeral has brought international condemnation. UN human rights experts have condemned the killing of the journalist and called for a prompt, transparent, thorough and independent investigation into her death. Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has called to go to the international criminal court over Abu Aqleh’s death.
The International Federation of Journalists has expressed concern that Israel’s ongoing targeting of the media amounts to war crimes and has submitted evidence to this effect.
The death toll of Palestinian citizens in general continues to mount under Israeli occupation, with 76 dead, including 13 children, since the present government took office last June. This adds to the thousands who have lost their lives directly or indirectly in the 74 years since the nakba. During ‘Operation Cast Lead’ alone, in 2008-09, Israel bombed Gaza for three weeks, destroying 25% of buildings and killing over 1,400 Palestinians including 300 children.
While the West in particular focuses upon the unfolding disastrous situation in Ukraine, with Russia being condemned for breaking international law and having sanctions imposed to strangle its economy, Israel continues to behave with impunity, ignoring UN resolutions, occupying Palestinian land and all the while enjoying the protection and active support of the US, EU and the British government.
According to figures published by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), between 2016 and 2020, Britain issued Single Individual Export Licenses (SIELs) for arms sales to Israel to a value of £387 million, compared to just £67 million from 2011 to 2015. These figures do not include the sales of components for US-made F-35 stealth fighters sold to Israel, worth hundreds of millions of pounds to British arms companies.
CAAT and other NGOs, including War on Want and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have long called for an arms embargo on Israel, as well as a halt to all British links with the Israeli arms industry, including British arms purchases from Israel and joint arms development projects.
Israel claims to be a democracy. That measure is based upon the fact that elections are conducted in which different parties compete for seats in the parliament. However, that is the narrowest measure of how a democracy can be defined. If a significant proportion of the population are denied basic human rights to heath care, housing and employment is that a democracy? If that population is systematically robbed and its land occupied in defiance of international law, is that democracy? If that same population is subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and killing, is that democracy?
Israel’s claim to be democratic holds little more credence than the theocratic dictatorship in Iran, where elections may shuffle who sits in the parliament, or even become President, but the real power lies with the religious zealots who determine the orthodoxy under which the population live.
Not all Iranians accept this, there is resistance. Not all Israeli’s accept the actions of the apartheid government which purports to act in their name. Opposition to the religious orthodoxy which taints both Iran and Israel is to be encouraged and supported.
This weekend protests will take place across the world to mark the 74th anniversary of the nakba and in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.
In Britain the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is working to support justice and human rights for Palestinians. Find out more here www.palestinecampaign.org.
The boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is working to put pressure upon Israel to respect international law. Find out more here www.bdsmovement.net