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Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Was She?

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Shireen Abu Akleh

The world mourns Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, after her assassination by Israeli military. 

Abu Akleh was shot in the head by an IDF sniper in the West Bank, while covering the Israeli military raids on the city of Jenin. Although Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, quickly tweeted a post blaming the death on Palestinian gunmen, human rights organization, B’Tselem, noted that the location of the Palestinian resistance fighters were hundreds of meters away from where Abu Akleh was killed by the Israelis. The Washington Post later verified the details of the locations. Eyewitnesses also disputed the Israeli coverup. 

Shireen was one of the Arab world’s leading journalists and known to many as “the voice of Palestinian suffering” and was among Arab media’s most prominent figures. Abu Akleh was a Catholic Arab Palestinian Christian whose family was from Bethlehem. She was also a United States citizen. 

She first studied architecture at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, but later transferred to Jordan’s Yarmouk University where she graduated with a bachelor’s in print journalism. She traveled back to Palestine where she worked for Voice of Palestine, Radio Monte Carlo, Amman Satellite Channel and the Miftah Foundation. 

In 1997, at the age of 26, Abu Akleh began working for Al Jazeera on their Arabic channel as a reporter at a time where the media outlet was known for its pivotal journalism of breaking coverage of pan-Arabian issues. Al Jazeera became controversially prominent in the Arab world for giving airtime to Israeli officials, when most other Arab media outlets did not recognize Israel as a state. 

While living in East Jerusalem, she reported on major events in the area as well as Israeli Politics. She covered everything from the Second Intifada and 2006 war in Lebanon, as well as, the Gaza wars of 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021.

Speaking of her coverage on the 2002 Israeli incursion into the West Bank, Abu Akleh said, “I will never forget the magnitude of destruction or the feeling that death was sometimes close.” She went on to speak about the conditions saying, “We used to sleep in hospitals or under the roofs of people we did not know, and despite the danger, we were determined to keep reporting.”

Many of her colleagues recall her impactful journalism. Another Al Jazeera journalist, Givara Budeiri, told reporters that her friend was an incredibly brave journalist, although recalling her fear of heights. Budeiri told the media “Shireen never shied away from covering any event. She never feared anything, except for standing at the top of a high building.”

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian writer, remembered as a child, Shireen’s “voice echoing in the house as she covered the brutality of a military invasion.” Barghouti wrote that Abu Akleh was the only journalist to cover her own arrest by Israeli soldiers. 

A friend and  former schoolmate, Terry Bullata, said “She is the voice of our suffering under the occupation. She is the voice of our aspiration for freedom.”

A news producer with Al Jazeera, Wessam Hammad, spoke of Shireen, saying she did not chase after the biggest or political stories, but rather, preferred to cover small stories that showed how people live. She would see stories where others did not. Hammad went on to tell reporters “Sometimes I would say, ‘No, Shireen forget it, it’s not a big story.’ But she would always think about so many different angles on how we could do it, and how can we make it a very human and a very touching story about Palestinians that no other journalist would ever think to do.”

When asked if she was afraid of being shot, Abu Akleh said in a 2017 interview, “Of course I get scared. In a specific moment you forget that fear. We don’t throw ourselves to death. We go and we try to find where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before I think about how I am going to go up on the screen and what I am going to say.”

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Britain, called her the “most prominent Palestinian journalist.”

Prior to her death, she had just spent several weeks in the United States. 

In a video a few months prior to her murder, Abu Akleh said “In difficult times, I overcame fear. It may be difficult to change reality, but at least I managed to bring that voice to the world.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Human Rights

Israel-Palestine: “Racist” law dropped by Israel

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A new law, described as “racist measures” by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, which required foreigners to declare any romantic relationship with a Palestinian, has been removed after pressure from the United States and European diplomats.

The PM has asked the US and European Union to continue to apply diplomatic pressure for further changes to be made.

If the law had been passed, foreign passport holders occupied in the West Bank were going to be required to report their romantic relationships with a Palestinian to the Israeli defence ministry.

The Israeli defence ministry released these rules and restrictions for any foreigners wanting to enter Palestinian areas of the West Bank. This measure was, no doubt, going to serve as an extension towards Israel’s control of daily life and movement in and out of the occupied territory.

The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are considered occupied territories as Israel captured these regions in the 1967 Six-Day War of the Mideast.

A requirement was included in the initial draft of the ordinance that if a foreigner began a serious romantic relationship with a local Palestinian, then the Israeli military must be informed within thirty days of the “start of the relationship,” which meant either an engagement, wedding, or moving in together.

Once married, they were obliged to leave after twenty-seven months for a cooling-off period of a least half a year.

COGAT – Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – the Israeli body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, stepped back from numerous of these controversial restrictions.

This wide-ranged policy imposed these rules on foreigners who married Palestinians or visited the West Bank to work, teach, study, or volunteer. It is important to note that these rules did not apply to people visiting Israel or the more than 130 Jewish settlements scattered across the West Bank.

The previous rules also imposed limits on the number of foreign students and teachers that were allowed to work or study in the West Bank.

This new law was going to affect thousands of foreign spouses, businesspeople, academics, volunteers, and Palestinians living in the diaspora.

Jessica Montell, the director of HaMoked, an Israeli human rights organisation that had planned to prevent the rules from taking effect, had stated towards the initial draft that “this is blatant discrimination.”

A new level of panic had ensued as people were seeing a codifying of something that should not have been there in the first place.

HaMoked submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court to cancel the regulations.

Currently, COGAT and security affairs have modified some of these restrictions, which includes the removal of having to declare a romantic relationship with a Palestinian, and the quota of students and international lecturers that can visit Palestinian institutions.

All these regulations are set to be implemented on October 20th.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

“Who am I really defending here?” – Ex-Israeli soldiers speak out

Former Israeli soldiers have spoken out about their experiences with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)

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IDF Soldiers Near Israel Syria Border

Despite the Israeli occupation of Palestine being seventy-four years old, having started in 1948 with the first Nakba, meaning catastrophe and referring to the mass displacement of at least 750,000 Palestinians, many Israelis are learning about the actual occupation just now. A former Israeli Soldier from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), Joel Carmel, talks about his experience whilst working for the IDF, a job which every Israeli is obliged to do after the age of eighteen. Men have to serve the IDF for at least thirty-two months and women at least twenty-four months. The only people exempt of this obligation are Israeli Arabs or people unable to due to mental or medical reasons.

Carmel, who was born and raised in London and then moved to Israel to serve the Israeli army, talks about his experience whilst working in COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Obligations of COGAT include paperwork such as coordinating access to and from the Gaza Strip as well as facilitating international activities and facilitating requests of the Gazan people with regard to Israel in terms of civilian or humanitarian matters.

Some people believe that COGAT is directly involved in the oppression of Palestinians.

Carmel, who first served in the Israeli-Palestinian military coordination office and then in the West Bank, is now part of the organization “Breaking the Silence” alongside many other previous IDF soldiers. Breaking the Silence is an organisation which consists of previous IDF soldiers aiming to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. The organisation has collected and published testimonies by previous IDF soldiers, giving them the opportunity to share their experience and show the general public the reality of Palestinians. It aims to end the occupation.

Looking back Carmel has told that in training “We were told that everything we were doing for the Palestinians was generous, a favour. We didn’t question the bigger picture, like why there are no decent hospitals in the territories, so people have to travel.” He also added: “The army raids your house at 2am and then at 8am you still have to get in line for hours for a permit for the most basic administrative stuff. I think that’s something a lot of Israelis don’t realise.”

Other previous shared similar tragic experiences as IDF soldiers.

A previous soldier, who was employed in the Nablus area said: “I did things I could never bear emotionally today. Entering someone’s house and turning their closet inside out? No way.”

“At a certain point we understood it was a pattern: you would leave a house and the house is gone – after two or three houses you figure out that there’s a pattern. The D9 comes and flattens it,” a previous Sergeant employed in the West Bank in the Deir Al-Balah area admitted. The D9 is a Dozer used by the IDF as a front-line vehicle for anti-terrorism operations.

Another soldier from Hebron admitted about questioning their job: “I think it was the beginning of the crack. I came here to defend my country and then you say to yourself, but this is my country? Is this what my country looks like? Is this how people behave in my country? Who am I really defending here?”

“The level of power and control we have was astonishing,” a twenty-five-year-old man employed near the Beit El settlement admitted.

“I found out we were responsible for approving weapons permits for the Palestinian security forces, which is one of those details you don’t really think about until the stack of paperwork is front of you. It’s little realisations like that, every day, that makes the scale of the occupation really dawn on you.”

“We also had access to so much information. Sometimes I was bored, so I’d type in random Palestinian ID numbers and see what came up. I could see everything about their lives: families, travel details, sometimes employers.”

Many testimonies include themes of death, destruction and demolitions of houses, restrictions of movement, abuse and more.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

No Justice in Sight for Assassinated Palestinian American Reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh

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Protesters carring photos of Shireen Abu Akleh Lod may 22

In May, renowned Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered in a targeted assassination by the Israeli military. People around the world mourned her death and called for justice against the atrocity committed by Israel. However, months later, there has been no justice awarded to the family of Abu Akleh. In fact, the US, who should have been actively investigating the death of an American citizen, have white-washed the entire incident and stated the shooting was probably unintentional. 

All independent investigations led by either Palestinians or human rights groups, concluded that the Israeli military was responsible for the targeted assassination. Furthermore, the units sent into Jenin were not regular infantry or even marines, they were special unit forces. Those special forces are known to some as “assassination units” according Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marian Bishara.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden visited the Middle East, including Israel and the occupied West Bank. As most suspected, the visit did nothing to help aid the Palestinians, killing any hope that Biden would reverse at least a few of the drastic changes made by Trump to US foreign policy in regards to Israel occupied Palestine.  Some have gone to the extent of saying that Biden’s administration is sustaining the status quo of apartheid. 

In advance of his visit to the Middle East, Shireen’s family requested to sit down and discuss with President Biden on ensuring accountability for Shireen’s murderer. The request was rebuffed, and as with all killings of Palestinians, Biden’s administration has seemed to  quickly sweep the assassination under the rug. 

One might ask why it is necessary for the US government to intervene and speak to the assassination of a palestian journalist by Israeli forces, but the answer is quite simple. Not only was the journalist an American citizen, but the weapon used to kill her was paid for by US taxpayers.

Nearly $3.8 Billion of American money goes to Israel in the form of aid and military weapons, which the Israeli government will gladly use to demolish more Palestinian homes and kill Palestinian civilians without impunity.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

3 Hezbollah Drones Shot down by Israel

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Levant Basin
  • The Israeli military says one drone was shot down by an F16 fighter jet and the other two by Barak 8 missiles via ship.
  • The drones were unarmed.
  • In an official statement Hezbollah confirms ownership of the drones which were heading for the Karish gas field in disputed territory off the Mediterranean coast of Israel.
  • Israel previously announced plans to extract gas from the offshore rig, eliciting threats from Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.
  • The disputed territory amplified tensions between Israel and Lebanon.
  • Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Minister, accuses Hezbollah of barring Lebanon from cooperating with Israel concerning maritime borders.
  • This incident evoked support for Hezbollah, many taking to social media platforms to express gratitude for the militant group’s brazen confrontation against Israel’s platform in the Mediterranean. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Israel

Israel’s Collapsing Government and Election Cycles

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PikiWiki Israel 7260 Knesset Room

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is set to dissolve next year, with Yair Lapid to become the caretaker Prime Minister. With a shared goal to oust the allegedly corrupt Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, eight political parties formed the most diverse coalition in Israeli history over a year ago.

With the Knesset set to dissolve, another round of elections will be held in the fall. These will be the fifth elections held in less than four years and has supporters of Netanyahu celebrating. Despite an ongoing corruption trial, Netanyahu could be back in power by the end of this year. 

According to Yohanan Plesner, a former member of the Knesset, Lapid could automatically become Prime Minister until a new government is formed, if the Knesset does indeed dissolve. However, if the election results are inconclusive, then Lapid would continue as Prime Minister until the next election.

 For Netanyahu to return to power, he would require at least 61 votes from current Knesset members. Many polls suggest Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest in the next Parliament, but they would not have enough allies to assemble a true parliamentary majority. This could lead to months of coalition negotiations.

If the Knesset dissolves, the new government elections will need to take place within three to five months. Since 1996, Israel has had elections, on average, every 2.6 years. Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute,  stated “This ongoing crisis will not come to an end until Israel’s leaders put their political differences aside and enact long over-due electoral and constitutional reforms, such as making any attempt to initiate early elections dependent on a two-thirds majority in parliament and amending the current law that demands new elections when a budget fails to pass.”

The coalition of eight political parties has had a tough time uniting on voting decisions. Ideological differences and pressure from Netanyahu’s right wing alliance has already caused two members of the coalition to defect, which removed the coalition’s majority in Parliament. Many left wing and Arab members rebelled on key votes, making it impossible for the coalition to govern. Then finally last week, the government was unable to find enough votes to extend a two-tier legal system in the West Bank. This two tier system has differentiated between Israeli settlers and native Palestinians since 1967. 

Some Palestinian lawmakers were also rejoicing at the government’s collapse. An opposition lawmaker in the minority government, Aida Touma-Sulieman, shared her views saying “This government implemented a radical far-right policy of expanding settlements, destroying houses, and carrying out ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories. It threw crumbs to the Arabs in exchange for conceding fundamental political principles.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Israel

Israel patrols its Gaza Border with robots and AI machine guns

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Flickr Israel Defense Forces Storming Ahead

The so-called world’s largest open-air Prison also known as the Gaza Strip has a new set of guards.

Consisting of a 1.5-ton unmanned vehicle armed with a machine gun, “The Jaguar” was created by the Israeli Aerospace Industries in cooperation with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). With a semi-autonomous system, the Jaguar can receive directions from a human operator as well as perform tasks independently.

The Gaza Strip is a small, fenced off piece of land, about the size of Malta but with two million inhabitants – four times the population. The unemployment rate is at above 50.2%. It faces regular shortages of food, water, medical supplies, fuel and on top of that, constant power outages.

Israel said that the fence was a measurement of safety, to protect its nation from “suicide bombers”. This fence, which is 65 km long, has been used to block out Gazans from even leaving the poor conditions they have been made to suffer in. It is already equipped with surveillance. The Jaguar is an addition to the already high-tech iron fence to “protect the Israeli-Gaza border”.

Israel uses this blockade on a regular basis to cut off supplies coming to Gaza. The rising tensions between Palestinians and the Israeli forces have scarred news headlines for 70 years and triggered some of the biggest humanitarian crises on earth.

As Israel appears to tighten its grip, the power of social media is being used by the Palestinians and those sympathetic to their plight to highlight the double standard that the world applies when it deals with Israel. Even Israeli politicians are leaving their government in protest of its extreme harassment of the Palestinian population.

Pictures like the ones from Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral are making their rounds on social media, calling out the behaviour of the Israeli Defense Force.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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