Killing Palestinian Journalists and The Silence of Israeli Apartheid

Within the cacophony of the Middle East and war in Ukraine, Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had drifted into the shadows. But the assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh served as a vicious reminder of Israel’s criminality

Abu Akleh was murdered on 11 May in Jenin on the West Bank, as she stood (wearing a Press vest) alongside colleagues, while covering Israeli army raids. Her funeral took place two days later in East Jerusalem and was attended by thousands of Palestinians. In chaotic unprovoked scenes, Israeli police, who said mourners were “disrupting public order”, attacked the funeral procession, indiscriminately kicking and hitting people with batons, causing pall bearers to drop the coffin.

In a crass attempt to shift the blame, the Israeli army claimed that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian fire, during clashes with Israeli soldiers. This is completely untrue; other journalists at the scene confirmed that there had been no shooting by Palestinian gunmen. Trade Unions around the world have united to demand an independent investigation into her death “and that the perpetrator be brought to justice.” CNN unsurprisingly adopted Israel’s false narrative, BBC coverage was ambiguous, neutral they would say – spineless.

The Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid said that Tel Aviv was offering a “joint pathological investigation”, and, failing to see the vile hypocrisy, added that, “journalists must be protected in conflict zones”. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is investigating and has decried Israeli investigations of such incidents “as whitewashed mechanisms ……the reality is there is no accountability for those sorts of abuses when it comes to actions by the Israeli authorities.”

Journalists and media workers have been targeted by Israel for years: murdered and intimidated by uniformed thugs in order to silence them, to stop them telling the truth and bear witness to the criminality and violence of the Israeli regime inside Palestine.

The killing of Abu Akleh is but the most recent. At least 46 journalists have been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since 2000, and no one has yet been held to account. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has recently submitted a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging that Israel’s systematic “targeting of journalists working in Palestine and its failure to properly investigate killings of media workers amount to war crimes.” Lawyers presenting the cases said they “are emblematic of the ongoing, systematic attacks and use of lethal force against journalists and media organizations in Palestine by the Israeli security services.”

It’s not just media workers/journalists who are targeted by Israel, it’s virtually all Palestinians living in the OPT, including children. Since 2000 “at least 10,349 Palestinians” have been killed by Israel, (1,304 Israeli’s killed), including 2,349 children, and (up to 2018) over 100,000 Palestinians have been injured, according to information gathered by the Israel-Palestine Timeline.

Apartheid writ large

The Israeli Machine of Brutality and Control is relentless and merciless. Palestinians within the Occupied Territories live under a shadow of suffocating violence, which manifests in a variety of forms: Targeted and indiscriminate killings and maiming;  destroying farms/olive groves and stealing land; the de-humanizing ordeal of passing through Israeli checkpoints, which makes moving around the country long-winded and stressful; limiting fishing off the Gaza coast; building illegal Israeli settlements  (which is a war crime) inside the West Bank; banning Palestinian civil society groups – by labelling them terrorist organizations – in October 2021 Israel shut down three Palestinian human rights groups, detained and prosecuted their employees under completely false counterterrorism claims. And evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes – in the first eight months of 2021, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel demolished “666 Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 958 people, a 38 percent increase compared to the same period in 2020.”

All of this and what Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the OPT describes as “a deeply discriminatory dual legal and political system, that privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” is the collective daily lot of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and amounts to Apartheid (segregation, political/social/economic discrimination).

Conditions in the Gaza Strip, where around 2.4 million Palestinians live, are even worse than those found in the West Bank. The population have inadequate access to power, water and health services, and the UN states, are threatened by a “collapsing economy and [have] no ability to freely travel to the rest of Palestine [West Bank] or the outside world.” Widely spoken of as the largest prison in the world, the sense of imprisonment was intensified during Covid when Israel used the pandemic to justify tightening what where already suffocating restrictions.

Across both territories – Gaza and the West Bank, Israel is imposing, what Amnesty International describe as, “a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians…….in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. This amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Propped up by the US, militarily and politically, the Israeli State machine ignores such facts and does as it pleases. Blind support from successive American administrations and their mealy-mouthed allies gives rise to Israeli Impunity and Bristling Arrogance.

Israel has been crushing Palestinians since it was established in 1948: Palestinians have always been seen as a threat to the Jewish State and consequently were expelled, segregated, controlled; thrown off their land and deprived of economic, social and human rights. The expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages post-1948 constitutes ethnic cleansing, which has morphed into a highly organized form of Apartheid. As Michael Lynk has said, “Israel’s military rule in the occupied Palestinian territory has been deliberately built ……to demographically engineer a permanent, and illegal, Israeli sovereign claim over occupied territory, while confining Palestinians in smaller and more confined reserves of disconnected land.” As part of this containment, Palestinian refugees living outside Israel and the OPT are legally denied the right to return, another flagrant violation of international law.

The UN, HRW and Amnesty International describe the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli State as Apartheid. In its 2021 report Human Rights Watch confirm what has been the case for decades, that, “repression against Palestinians living in the OPT (West Bank and Gaza Strip), amounts to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” In its report, ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians’, Amnesty confirm that Israel operates a system of “suppression and oppression”, one “which operates with varying levels of intensity and repression based on Palestinians’ status in the separate enclaves where Palestinians live today, and violates their rights in different ways, ultimately seeks to establish and maintain Jewish hegemony wherever Israel exercises effective control.”

Amnesty describes the suppressive methodology of Israel as systemized and highly organized. Laws, policies and practices are designed and enforced to prevent Palestinians from claiming equal rights to Jewish Israelis within Israel and the OPT, and are thus “intended to oppress and dominate the Palestinian people.”

Apartheid is not just systemized suppression and wholesale control, it’s a mental attitude of extreme prejudice that leads to and enables inhumane acts of violence, exploitation and humiliation.  It allows the killing of civilians, the assassination of a prominent journalist, destruction of family homes and the litany of horrors that Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people; atrocities that are visible to all who care to look.

For decades Palestinians have been crying out, pointing to Israel’s apartheid rule, but western nations, submissive to the US, have ignored them, turning a blind eye to Israel’s violence and criminality. Amnesty found that, “almost all of Israel’s civilian administration and military authorities, as well as governmental and quasi- governmental institutions, are involved in the enforcement of the system of apartheid against Palestinians across Israel and the OPT and against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory.”

Israel has no intention of allowing the fabled two state solution to become a reality. What it wants is clear – total domination. As Michael Lynk puts it, Israel’s military rule confines “Palestinians in smaller and more confined reserves.” It is allowed to do this because of US support and the power of the Israeli lobby in America – a highly organised Zionist group, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is comparable to the NRA in influence and destructive impact.

Over the last 40 years or so there have been hundreds of UN resolutions underlining that Israel’s annexation of the OPT, the construction of Jewish settlements and denial of Palestinian self-determination, is illegal. Such resolutions are routinely ignored, and so Apartheid continues, the killings, destruction and injustices continue. It’s time the West, with or without the US, woke up, found some backbone and collectively acted against Israel, and for the oppressed, victimized people of Palestine.

Graham Peebles is an independent writer and charity worker. He set up The Create Trust in 2005 and has run education projects in India, Sri Lanka, Palestine and Ethiopia where he lived for two years working with street children, under 18 commercial sex workers, and conducting teacher training programmes. He lives and works in London. Read other articles by Graham, or visit Graham's website.