The family of Shireen Abu Aqleh, the renowned Palestinian-American journalist killed during an Israeli military raid on the West Bank, is demanding a meeting with President Biden during his visit to Jerusalem this week after accusing his administration of shielding Israel from accountability for her death .
Abu Aqleh’s brother, Anton, wrote to Biden on Friday expressing his family’s “grief, outrage and sense of betrayal” after the US sState department concluded that Israeli forces were “likely responsible” for shooting the Al Jazeera reporter in the head in the West Bank city of Jenin in May but “found no reason to believe that this was intentional”.
The letter to Biden said the state department assessment was a “whitewash” given the weight of evidence showing that Abu Aqleh “was the subject of an extrajudicial killing” by the Israeli military, including a United Nations report that said soldiers fired “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets” at her and other journalists
The family accused the White House of adopting the Israeli government’s conclusions and talking points in “an apparent attempt to undermine our efforts toward justice and accountability for Shireen’s death”.
“Instead, the United States has been skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces,” the letter said.
The journalist’s niece, Lina Abu Aqleh, told the Guardian that the request to meet Biden after he arrives in Jerusalem on Wednesday has been met with silence from the White House. Abu Aqleh, who said she was very close to her aunt and spoke to her almost every day, accused Washington of placing Israeli interests over discovering the truth about the death of a US citizen.
“The US is clearly trying to bury the case. They’re trying to cover it up,” she said.
“If Shireen was killed in Ukraine, I’m 100% sure the reaction would have been completely different. There would have been action taken since day one. There would have been accountability. There would have been a transparent and independent investigation. And there would have been justice.”
The Abu Aqleh family is backed by Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
“This much is clear – the State Department has comprehensively failed to carry out its mission as it relates to the murder of an American citizen. This failure sends a clear message to the world: some American lives are worth more than others, and some “allies” have a license to kill with impunity,” Tlaib said in a statement
Last week, the state department said that the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Lieutenant General Mark Schwartz, had been “granted full access” to the Israeli and Palestinian investigations into the journalist’s death as well as overseeing “an extremely detailed forensic analysis” of the bullet that killed her.
The department said the security coordinator concluded that Abu Aqleh’s death was “the result of tragic circumstances” during an Israeli military operation. But it said investigators “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet” because it was too badly damaged.
The dead journalist’s family told Biden that the state department has bought into Israeli claims that she was killed during an exchange of gunfire with Palestinian militants when the UN and other investigations found that Abu Aqleh was not near the fighting at the time.
“Your administration’s actions can only be seen as an attempt to erase the extrajudicial killing of Shireen and further entrench the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces and officials for unlawfully killing Palestinians,” the family said in the letter to the president.
Lina Abu Aqleh said that the US has failed to provide the family with details of the investigation or how the security coordinator reached his conclusions, and called on Biden to release the information his administration has collected about the killing.
“We never felt like we were in the loop or being supported. We did receive condolences. But we need meaningful engagement and action. That’s what we’re asking for, and we didn’t receive it,” she said.
The family has asked Biden to withdraw the state department’s assessment and to appoint the FBI and other agencies to conduct a full investigation into the killing. It is also seeking clarity on who tested the bullet after the Palestinian Authority agreed to hand it over to the US for forensic testing on condition that the Israelis were not involved. However, the Israeli military claimed that the test was to be carried out by Israeli experts with the US acting as observers.
The White House has been approached for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism