The pressure continues to mount on the Biden administration to undertake an investigation of Israel’s killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist, last month in occupied territories.
Yesterday, 24 senators (22 Democrats plus two independents) sent a letter to President Biden demanding that the State Department and the FBI conduct “a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation” of Abu Akleh’s killing on May 11.
“It has now been over a month since American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot to death while reporting on an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin,” the senators begin.
Since then, “there has been no significant progress toward the establishment of an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into her killing.”
The letter is very strong and shows that nearly half of Senate Democrats are not buying Israel’s story– and they have been endorsed by the liberal Israel lobby.
The “only way” for there to be a “credible” investigation is for the U.S. to undertake it, the senators say. And the case has only grown “more urgent” since “new information” has emerged. The senators cite the many media investigations (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and AP) finding that an Israeli soldier killed the Al Jazeera broadcaster from about 600 feet away– and that there were no clashes with Palestinian gunmen, as Israel maintained. The senators emphasize that Abu Akleh and other reporters wore Press flak jackets and “stood in front” of the Israeli convoy so as to identify themselves to the army that morning.
And they quote a damning statement by Israel’s army spokesperson the day she was killed.
Ran Kochav stated that Ms. Abu Akleh and her film crew “were armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so.”
The letter echoes the demand for a U.S. investigation that 57 Democratic Congresspeople made to Secretary of State Antony Blinken a month ago.
Good news, the Senate letter is being widely reported, not just in Haaretz. The Hill and Reuters have stories, and Politico says that there has been bipartisan pressure for an investigation, including from Sen. Mitt Romney.
So the shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 is not going away, and high level diplomats are going to have to try to paper it over before Biden’s visit to Israel next month. The State Department’s claims that Israel is seriously investigating are laughable, with reporters all but mocking the official endorsement of Israel’s procedures.
The liberal Israel lobby group J Street has endorsed the letter’s demand as “the only just and sensible solution – an independent US investigation into the death of its own citizen to ensure full accountability for those responsible.”
Biden “needs to take note of the multiple letters and other calls by dozens and dozens of lawmakers for a US investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing and get it done,” Dylan Williams of J Street writes.
Williams reports that AIPAC, the rightwing Israel lobby group, is lobbying against the letter, saying that the “circumstances” of her death remain “unclear,” despite the “hasty” media investigation.
That’s an absurd claim by a mouthpiece for the Israeli government. The many media investigations have all found, based on eyewitness, video evidence, and forensic ballistic analysis, that a series of automatic rifle shots came from an Israeli convoy.
Reuters quotes a claim by the the Israeli embassy: “Israel conducted a thorough inquiry and “‘continues to call for an investigation with the United States in an observer role.’”
This is also absurd on its face because in six weeks Israel has released no information from that supposed inquiry–no video, for instance.
The Senate letter was led by Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin. Other signatories are Sherrod Brown, Tom Carper, Tammy Duckworth, Dick Durbin, Martin Heinrich, Tim Kaine, Angus King (independent, Maine), Amy Klobuchar, Patrick Leahy, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Bernie Sanders (independent, Vermont), Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, Tina Smith, Elizabeth Warren, Raphael Warnock, Ben Ray Luján and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Text of the letter is here. Here’s an image of it: