On the sidewalk at the entrance to the National Press Club a large crowd of journalists, Palestinians and their supporters held a candlelight vigil May 17 to honor the memory of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The popular 51-year-old Al Jazeera TV reporter while on assignment in the West Bank with her crew was slain less than a week ago in a targeted shooting by an Israeli military sniper last week in the town of Jenin while taking cover from gunfire when reporting a story.
As people began arriving for the vigil that soon occupied a large section of the block, the event got underway. The crowd sang a special song in Arabic for Shireen during which time someone placed a lit candle in the flower bed around an adjacent street tree that invoked others to do the same. The impromptu street shrine soon began to grow with others placing candles, flowers, a Palestinian flag and keffiyeh along with a Virgin Mary votive candle for the journalist who was Christian.
A moment of silence was observed in her memory after which the group continued their assembly in closing with a song.
Since 2000 Israeli forces have killed 44 journalists and jailed 11 others while depriving them of their basic rights in custody. Their crime? Reporting the news in an occupied land that wants to keep secret its mistreatment of Palestinians and others who may expose what conditions under that occupation are really like.
The great indifference shown for her life by the Israeli military was broadcast for the world to bear witness. And continued as millions watched the callous disregard and opprobrium shown towards her even in death as mourners and pallbearers were beaten by police who then attacked her funeral procession and the hearse carrying her body. The contemptible justification they offered for their actions was pathetic and soulless in nature and will only buttress the resolve of the Palestinian people to persevere in their quest to break away from the Zionist shackles that invade every aspect of their daily lives under the brutal occupation.
The event was organized and sponsored by the National Arab American Women’s Association, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Virginia Coalition for Human Rights, American-Palestinian Woman’s Association and Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and the New Dominion PAC.
(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)
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.