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WASHINGTON (05-15) – It has been 74 years since 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and land by Zionist forces on May 15, 1948, during the creation of the state of Israel. The global commemoration of the “Day of Palestinian Struggle” acknowledged each year is always mired in conflict. As such the scheduled Nakba (catastrophe) events in Berlin this year have been cancelled by police and anyone attempting to participate in any demonstration or commemoration has been advised that they will be “arrested and prosecuted.” This, according to the Palestinian prisoner network, Samidoun Network. The group also reported that the organizers received documents from police claiming the reason for the ban is that participants are too “emotional.” Evidently, outrage and emotion are now a threat to public safety. Berlin, with one of the largest Palestinian communities in Europe, is at present the only city to outlaw this year’s commemoration while elsewhere in Germany and across the world events were held.

Samidoun also reported that the Berlin Senate had appropriated public funds for Zionist groups activities for May 15. The groups that were funded are credited with labeling both BDS and Amnesty International as “anti-Semitic.” This blatantly discriminatory action of funding them is both racist in nature and outrageous in its preferential treatment of some citizens under the law and will be no doubt be challenged in court.

The backdrop of all this has occurred in a week that the world witnessed the targeted killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She and her crew were accused of being “armed with cameras” by Israeli military spokesman Ran Kochav in a feeble attempt to blame her for her own death while reporting the news. This outrageous charge of weaponizing cameras and shifting responsibility away from themselves was followed later by an attack on her funeral procession when Israeli police beat mourners and pallbearers after accusing them of throwing rocks and for chanting “nationalist slogans.” Later police continued their unrelentless indignation for her and for a free press when a policemen tore Palestinian flags from the hearse as it was transporting her body through a crowd on its way to the cemetery. This unwarranted and excessive use of force by police needs to be thoroughly investigated. Her crime even in death is that of being a Palestinian journalist with a camera. Her targeted killing is an affront to all journalists as much as it is to the free collection and dissemination of the news. A democracy cannot function in a vacuum when its citizenry is deprived of information and analyses needed to make informed decisions and when journalists are intimated and afraid to practice their vital profession.

The unprovoked attack at her funeral is only one in a series of events that Palestinians are all too familiar with living under the occupation forces that suppress every aspect of their lives daily. And funerals enrage the Israeli military even more so as they enforce controls on how Palestinian families are allowed to mourn their dead. Even in death, Palestinians are not free as Israel maintains control over their mourning with an iron fist.

In response to the targeted killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling for a “transparent international probe” that the Israeli military responded to in writing by presenting two scenarios for how Shireen was shot and killed. In one they blamed Palestinian terrorists who they claimed had fired 500 rounds at Israeli forces and were responsible for her death. In a second scenario, they conceded that it was possible that an Israeli soldier firing his weapon while observing the terrorists through a periscope from inside an armored vehicle could have inadvertently hit the journalist. Thus, presenting the kill shot as a mere “accident.”

The call for an independent international and transparent investigation is key as an Israeli investigation will predictably whitewash the killing and, as other such investigations have shown, will place the onus on the victim while clearing themselves of any wrongdoing.

In Washington today several hundred Palestinian Americans, along with supporters for a Free Palestine and calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial this afternoon to mark the 74th anniversary of the Nakba. Prominent among the usual signs calling for changes and a Palestinian state was a memorial to Shireen Abu Akleh that included a casket noting she was a journalist along with banners calling for justice and holding Israel accountable for her death.

Many attendees placed flowers and personal notes to Shireen on the casket as the memorial continued throughout the afternoon. One person placed a lit candle as an eternal flame honoring the well known and loved journalist.

In reporting many stories over the years, it was especially touching as to how many people approached this reporter to express their gratefulness for the work all journalists do and how appreciative they are for all we do in keeping them informed of what is going on. In particular, one small handwritten sign placed on the black casket had written on it, “Stop silencing truth.”

(This article has previously appeared in the Nuze.ink.)

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.


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