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Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Was She?

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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.

Israel

Israeli lawmaker Resigns over Harassment of Palestinians – plunges government into Minority Parliament

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Alan Kotok via Flickr.com

A lawmaker of the left wing Meretz party resigned from the Israeli government after the attacks on Palestinians on the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi’s resignation means that the current Prime minister of Israel has the support of 59 of the 120 members of Parliament. In her unexpected resignation letter, she mentioned that “In recent months, out of narrow political considerations the leaders of the coalition have chosen to preserve and strengthen its right-wing flank.”

Rinawie Zoabi wrote: “The scenes from the Temple Mount of violent policemen confronting a crowd of worshipers, and the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, led me to only one valuable conclusion: no more. I cannot continue to support the existence of a coalition that disgracefully harasses the society I came from.”

The footage from Shireen Akleh’s funeral show how Palestinian mourners were beaten down with baton, while carrying the coffin of their beloved journalist. The mourners were harassed by the Israeli police repeatedly. Palestinian flags were removed from the coffin, even though Shireen Abu Akleh was a Christian Palestinian. 

Shireen had been a Palestinian reporter for Al-Jazeerah for over 20 years and her funeral was one the biggest gathering of Palestinian mourners in years. 

Abu Akleh’s death and the days following to her funeral showed the world an image of Israel, that the Palestinians see on a regular basis. Israels police force has been criticized and called out for their action by central media as well as social media. 

One of these voices calling out Israel for its actions is their own parliament member. Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi where she accuses the government about “disgracefully harassing the society I come from.” 

Zoabi ends her letter of resignation to the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett by emphasizing:
“I believed and continue to believe in Arab-Jewish coexistence with every part of my being, in academia, business, as well as politics. I also believe and continue to believe that real Jewish-Arab partnership must come from a place of equality, with both sides seeing eye-to-eye.”

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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New Report: Palestinian Aid Fills Israeli Wallets

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A 2016 study by Israeli economist Shir Hever found that at least 78% of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinian welfare ends up in Israeli coffers. This study was six years ago, but the effect is still the same. Hever has spent years sorting through the economics of the Israeli occupation, and his research indicates that Palestinian aid money could be making the occupation significantly worse. Palestinians receive more than 2 billion USD from the international community each year making them one of the largest aid recipients in the world. While the West may think that they are helping Palestinians with this money, the reality is that donors could directly be subsidizing the costs of Israeli occupation. 

Humanitarian aid is a major topic of controversy in the field of economics. This is mainly due to 2 main reasons: dependence and fungibility. Economists against aid argue that recipients could become dependent on foreign funds and stunt their own development which would inhibit them from ever becoming economically competitive in the international community. Also, aid is fungible. Donors cannot exactly monitor where or how their aid money is being used so there is no guarantee that humanitarian funds will be used for humanitarian purposes. This is exactly the problem with Palestinian aid, Israel controls most of it.

Israel is the self-selected mediator of Palestinian aid money. In order to reach Palestinians, donors have no option but to go through Israel. This allows an opportunity for “aid subversion, “aid diversion”, and “aid destruction”. These terms are used by Hever to describe the paths through which Israel profits off of humanitarian aid and continues oppressing Palestinians through occupation. Aid subversion arises from Palestine being a captive market. Palestinians have little access to goods and services which are not produced in or benefitted by Israel. This means that any increase in Palestinian economic activity tends to strengthen Israeli markets as well. Aid diversion comes from Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods and people. Because Israel controls most activity under its land, the Israeli government has the ability to levy taxes and fees on Palestinians for storage and transportation. Lastly, aid destruction describes the sabotage of humanitarian projects built on foreign funds. The destruction of such projects is typically detrimental to Palestinians however beneficial to Israeli occupation efforts. 

US President Joe Biden has decided to restore aid to Palestinians after the previous US administration had cut nearly all funding. The Israeli government has expressed a lot of enthusiasm over the Biden administration’s decision claiming that foreign aid will help stabilize the West Bank and Gaza. However with Hever’s recent report revealing that foreign aid may be helping Israeli occupation more than Palestinian humanitarian projects, the sincerity of Israel’s words can be called into question. Will Israel really stabilize the region with foreign aid funds or will they divert and destroy the money to re-enforce Israeli occupation as they have been proven to be doing for the last several decades? As long as this question lingers over foreign aid, it is difficult to hail humanitarian funds as the solution to social and economic crises around the world. Perhaps it is time to change the way in which the international community resolves its problems. Rather than throwing money at every issue and hoping that it will be correctly and efficiently dealt with, the world must realize that every struggle is different and must be solved with nuanced and carefully thought out solutions. It is with this mindset that the globe will advance and improve to become a better and stronger version of itself.

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.

Saira Shah
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Saira is a Muslim American with a passion for writing, economics, and justice.  With a background as a UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in economics allows her to quantitatively analyze critical developments from around the globe as well as their long term impacts on financial systems and social welfare. She is dedicated to reporting in an investigative, honest and compassionate manner to give voice to those who need it most.

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Daily Brief

Shireen Abu Akleh Killed on Assignment by Israeli force

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  • Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was killed yesterday while working on assignment in Jenin, a city in the West Bank.
  • Abu Akleh was reporting on an Israeli military operation when she was fatally shot in the head by a sniper; an Al Jazeera colleague was also shot but is expected to recover.
  • Al Jazeera has accused Israeli forces of intentionally killing the Arab journalist, who was wearing a media vest while working in the West Bank, and witnesses have come forward with accounts consistent with this working theory; Israel denies the accusation.
  • Al-Samoudi, a journalist on the site, reported, “We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming”.
  • The Israel Defense Forces have pledged to investigate the matter.

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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 to Build 4,000 Illegal Settler Units in Occupied West Bank

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Israel’s interior minister Ayelet Shaked has tweeted that the Israeli government is set to approve 4,000 new settler units in the occupied West Bank. Shaked, a staunch supporter of settlements, claimed that construction in the West Bank is a “basic, required and obvious thing”. Israeli settlements are illegal Jewish-only housing complexes built on Palestinian land. These settlements violate international law and are likely to make an eventual two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict even more difficult. 

The Israeli Civil Administration, a military body, will convene on Thursday to advance 1,452 units and an additional 2,536 units are expected to be approved by defense minister Benny Gantz. If the settlement construction plan advances it will be the largest settlement growth in Israel since US President Joe Biden took office. US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides has told local media that he has repeatedly communicated to the Israeli government that further settlement growth is strongly opposed by the US. 

Palestinian activist Issa Amro claims that more Israeli settlements in West Bank would increase “violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank”. Amro has also accused the international community of using “double standards with Israel” by allowing the Israeli government to break “international law with impunity and without accountability”. 

Amro’s words raise a strong question, if Israeli settlements violate international law then why are they allowed to keep constructing them without consequence? Currently, there are about 600,000 to 750,000 Israeli settlers living in at least 250 settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Settlements erode the possibility of a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict by undermining Palestinian land rights and they threaten the safety and freedom of Palestinians living in Israel. It is both irresponsible and unjust of the international community to ignore Israel’s blatant violation of law. Action must be taken against the Israeli government to curb settlement growth and bring a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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.

Saira Shah
+ posts

Saira is a Muslim American with a passion for writing, economics, and justice.  With a background as a UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in economics allows her to quantitatively analyze critical developments from around the globe as well as their long term impacts on financial systems and social welfare. She is dedicated to reporting in an investigative, honest and compassionate manner to give voice to those who need it most.

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Daily Brief

Israel Strikes Back after Mysterious Rocket Fire from Gaza Strip Just Hours Earlier

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  • For the second time this week, Israel executed airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip after  a rocket from Palestinian territory had landed in Israel just hours earlier. Israeli military sources stated that the fighter jets hit two of Hamas’ training camps, a security post and an underground complex, which was utilized to produce rocket engines; fortunately, there were no casualties reported.
  • Earlier in the night, a rocket was fired from the Gaza strip into southern Israel, hitting a house, and causing slight damage, but no casualties. Afterwards, four more rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, but were intercepted by Israeli air defense systems. 
  • No faction in the Gaza Strip has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, even though Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket-fire. However, the incident comes after a series of attacks in Israel which was fueled by anger from Palestinians after Israeli forces raided Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and targeted worshippers with tear gas and rubber bullets, injuring more than 170 people, mostly Palestinian demonstrators.
  • At the same time last year, similar violence occurred, which triggered Hamas to repeatedly rocket-fire into Israel, leading into an 11-day war.This buildup of tensions has transpired due to the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims coinciding with the Jewish festival of Passover, and both religions revere the Al-Aqsa mosque compound to be a holy site. 

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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

Gaza Strip Bombed by Israeli Forces as Tensions Rise During Religious Holidays

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  • Israeli warplanes bombed the Gaza strip on Tuesday in an attack that they stated was intended to target a “weapons manufacturing site” controlled by Hamas. 
  • No casualties or injuries have been reported. The attack occurred hours after Israel had stated they intercepted a rocket that was launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. No groups in Palestine have claimed responsibility for the rocket that was shot down. 
  • A few days prior to the attack, the Al Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem’s Old City was raided by Israeli forces, resulting in 158 Palestinians injured. The mosque is regarded as the third-holiest site in Islam. Muslims were outraged by the raid taking place not only at a holy site but also during the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated on Monday that he and his government are “doing everything so that all peoples, as always, can celebrate the holidays safely.” Meanwhile Hamas’s military has stated that the Israeli attack on Gaza was an attempt “to prevent Palestinian people from defending the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

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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.

Samar Idlibi
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Samar is a UC San Diego graduate with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business. In addition to her passion for research and writing in relation to current events, she also utilizes her skills in areas such as digital marketing. Furthermore, she is deeply interested in positions that involve oral communication skills such as leadership roles and public speaking.

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