Shireen Abu Akleh’s death should matter to Western media as well
Human rights and human dignity ought to be esteemed in every inch of this world. From Ukraine to Palestine, and from Iraq and Yemen to Hong Kong, human rights are to be respected everywhere
I have been closely following the war in Ukraine. I have been condemning it every time I’ve got a chance to do so. And while tracking the Western response to Russia’s war, I noticed a tremendous contrast between the Western governments' response to this war compared to the tragedies that did take place in other places, in the Middle East or Africa, for example. This contrast seemed to appear in the Western media's coverage, too.
Every time this stark comparison came into my mind, I said to myself: "I should never let this comparison distract me from feeling the suffering of Ukrainians." And when some of my colleagues and I get to argue about the West’s response in Ukraine, I usually tell them: "if the West had double standards, we should have just one… we should condemn brutality no matter where it happens."
I haven’t changed my position. As shocked and horrified as I might get by the terrible tragedy of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli forces in Jenin, I still argue that her life should matter, too.
Ms. Abu Akleh was a veteran Palestinian–American correspondent for Al Jazeera. She was unmercifully shot by Israeli forces in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, along with her producer, Ali Samoudi, who was wounded.
What did stock me the most was how cold the Western media's coverage of this tragic story was.
The awful comparison came back to boggle my mind, again.
As I was navigating through what we usually call "independent" media, I hardly found any mention of the Israeli forces’ responsibility for the killing of Abu Akleh in the big news headlines. What I repeatedly found was something like: "Al Jazeera reporter killed during an Israeli raid in West Bank." By whom? One might ask. A large portion of "independent" media ignores the answer.
Some of the news articles on the heinous incident went even further, adapting the Israeli baseless claim of the possibility that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian gunmen. It was a claim based on a video, posted by Israel's foreign ministry and the Israeli military, showing a Palestinian gunman firing in the Jenin camp. This was a sham claim that even B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, had to dismiss as incorrect.
Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, stated in a statement that for us “to uncover the truth, there must be a real investigation, and the Palestinians are currently preventing that. Without a serious investigation, we will not reach the truth.”
It would be funny if it is not heartbreaking to say there should be a "serious" investigation to determine who is really behind Ms. Abu Akleh’s death. It is just a way for the Israeli government to buy time and avoid international outrage.
What would be funnier and tragic at the same is for the Western media to buy this unfounded claim. Yes, of course, I understand that "Israel" is the biggest Western ally in the Middle East. Yes, it is probably the only stable democracy there. Yes, I get that. But we are now talking about the killing of an innocent reporter wearing a press vest. If the media doesn’t defend itself, who will?
Let us imagine if Ms. Abu Akleh was killed in Ukraine. Would we really be wondering who killed her? And what if Mr. Putin would say that a "serious" investigation should be launched to decide whether the Ukrainian forces are the ones responsible for her death? No one would buy that. But why should we buy this now?
If Western media is not defending the freedom of the press in the occupied West Bank, how this very same media can defend it in Ukraine? And more importantly, how to mobilize the Arab world to condemn and respond to the Russian aggression against Ukrainians?
Human rights and human dignity ought to be esteemed in every inch of this world. From Ukraine to Palestine, and from Iraq and Yemen to Hong Kong, human rights are to be respected everywhere. We should stand against any human rights violation no matter where it occurred.