By Susan Nchubiri, Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem
As I write, my heart is heavy with sadness and anger at the horrific dehumanization and hatred toward the Palestinian people by the Israeli military and police. This week has been especially painful for most Palestinians because of the senseless and brutal killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-respected journalist from Jerusalem. She was fatally shot, and her colleague, Ali Samoudi, was seriously injured by a bullet to his back, but he survived. The journalists were shot while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. This area has experienced numerous Israeli military raids and lockdowns since March 2022, when some violent attacks were carried out in Hadera and Tel Aviv by individuals alleged to be from the camp or nearby. The raids and lockdowns have not only traumatized the civilians but also affected them socially and economically because those who work in Israel were denied entry into Israel. Jenin was closed even during Ramadan and the Easter Holy Weeks; therefore, people from that area could not participate in their special worship ceremonies in Jerusalem. This use of collective punishment by Israeli authorities is a violation of human rights.
On May 13, as the mourners carried Shireen’s casket, the Israeli police intervened by beating and throwing stun grenades at the mourners, including the pallbearers. What threat was a dead body? What security threat did pallbearers pose? At one point, the coffin almost fell to the ground. Why not let the family, friends, and the city mourn their daughter, sister, and friend? Shireen was a courageous journalist. One mourner I saw carried a poster with these words Shireen spoke at the 25th anniversary of Al Jazeera, “I chose to become a journalist to be close to people. It may not be easy to change reality, but I was at least able to bring their voice to the world.” Thousands of people came out to say goodbye to their beloved Shireen. Even her death has brought the voices of the Palestinians out to the world.
As the armed officers terrorized the mourners, they also confiscated Palestinian flags, smashed the hearse’s window carrying Shireen’s body, and removed a Palestinian flag. It is reported that thirty-three people were injured, and some were hospitalized. Several Palestinian mourners were arrested, and most of these arrests were carried out by Israeli officers dressed in civilian clothes. Some in our team witnessed 3 of these arrests.
The international community has reacted with words like: “We were deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner” (Blinken – US Secretary of State). A statement from the European Union says, “The EU condemns the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behavior by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession.” Many other internationals expressed their displeasure, but what does this mean for the Palestinians living under the occupation? What does this mean for people who live without knowing whether they will be allowed to go to work, school, place of worship, or farmland, or when they leave home if they will return without being harassed and violently attacked by the police or settlers? The inhumanity that the world saw during Shireen’s funeral is just one incident. It is one example of what Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories endure daily, whether in arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of access to their livelihood, worship, or any form of movement. Even after the condemnation of Israeli action at the funeral procession by various world leaders and internationals, on May 16, the Israeli military again attacked mourners going to the funeral of Walid Al Shareef. Walid succumbed to gunshot injuries incurred on April 29 at the Al Aqsa compound when the Israel police stormed the compound beating up the worshippers. It is reported that over 50 people were injured at the funeral and were brought to Al Maqseed hospital.
Firm action to pressure Israel to respect human rights and end the occupation must accompany the words of condemnation from world leaders. Each of us has a responsibility to do something to bring a positive change to the oppressed brothers and sisters in Palestine.
Susan Nchubiri is a Maryknoll Sister and a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, specializing in International Peace Studies. She is currently serving as an Ecumenical Accompanier with the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI program. She previously worked as a community organizer in Haiti where she founded 2 self-help women’s groups, a micro-credit co-operative, a community garden and goat-raising project for a youth group. Before that she has worked as a campus minister and pastoral care giver to students, migrant workers and prisoners in Hong Kong. Susan had also worked in campus ministry in Chicago and volunteered weekly at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. She was program director at Euphrasia Women Refuge Center and at Maria House Imani Projects in Nairobi Kenya where she worked hand in hand with the social workers and instructors to support vulnerable women and children.
Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).