United States President Joe Biden often says that “journalism is not a crime”, invoking a phrase popular among press freedom advocates to denounce the repression, jailing, and killing of journalists around the world.
But a year after Israeli forces killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank, rights activists say the Biden administration has done next to nothing to push for accountability in the case.
Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera correspondent, was fatally shot by the Israeli military while covering a raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin on May 11, 2022.
Although multiple independent investigations by media outlets and eyewitnesses concluded that the slain reporter was not in the immediate vicinity of any fighting, the US administration has adopted the Israeli claim that Abu Akleh was shot “accidentally”.
Washington, which provides Israel with at least $3.8bn in military assistance every year, has also rejected efforts to seek accountability for Abu Akleh at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Here, Al Jazeera speaks to Palestinian-American journalists and human rights and Palestine solidarity advocates about the US response to the killing.
Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA
O’Brien decried the Biden administration’s response to the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist and called for a “thorough and independent” investigation.
“Her killing in particular was a stark reminder of the crimes that we believe have been committed by Israeli authorities in order to maintain their system of apartheid over Palestinians,” O’Brien told Al Jazeera.
“And it’s also symptomatic of the US government’s role in continuing to shield the Israeli government from accountability for their violations of human rights, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
He also slammed what he called “double standards” in the US approach to criticising abuses by its allies, noting that Biden had pledged to promote human rights in his foreign policy.
“If the US is going to be able to centre its foreign policy on human rights, the world is going to watch when the United States is asked to pass judgement on the human rights records of its allies,” O’Brien said.
Tariq Kenney-Shawa, US policy fellow at Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka
Kenney-Shawa called the US response to the killing of Abu Akleh “abhorrent but unsurprising”, saying that it represents the latest example of Washington’s “complicity in Israeli war crimes and human rights violations”.
“The current administration does a lot of lofty talking about its commitment to human rights and democratic values, but those values all seem to fade away when it comes to Israel’s actions. When it comes to Israel-Palestine, the US claims to be an honest peace broker, but it is anything but that,” Kenney-Shawa told Al Jazeera.
“Just as the US calls for peace and a two-state solution while simultaneously enabling Israeli expansion, it also calls for accountability for Shireen’s murder, while doing everything it can to ensure that her murderers won’t pay the price.”
Kenney-Shawa added that the Abu Akleh case demonstrated the “emptiness” of the Biden administration’s self-proclaimed commitment to press freedom.