Statement on the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh

Supporters of Palestinian rights around the world are taking action to prevent the imminent displacement of at least 1,000 Palestinians, including 500 children from the Masafer Yatta region of the occupied West Bank, an area Israel has declared a military firing zone. On May 4th, 2022, the Israeli High Court issued its final decision in a decades-long case, rejecting the residents’ petition and giving the army the green light to force an entire Palestinian community out of their homes at a moment’s notice. The Israeli military has already begun displacements since the ruling, demolishing nine homes and leaving 45 Palestinians homeless on May 11. The declaration of firing zones is a common tool used by the Israeli government to confiscate Palestinian land, with about 18% of the West Bank having been confiscated in this way.

According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The article also prohibits the “[i]ndividual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.” Forced displacement and transfer by Israel of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta would be a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime.

It is in this context that an Israeli military sniper intentionally assassinated Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a night of protest and resistance by Indigenous Palestinians.  On the night of her death, Shireen Abu Akleh was wearing a bright blue press vest emblazoned with the word “PRESS.”  This clearly denoted herself as a journalist and, thus, protected by international law.  

We, Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of American (SVDSA), condemn the intentional assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh by settlers of an illegitimate state’s military.

We recognize the added attention that assassinated journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s status as a member of the press, as an American citizen, and as a Christian has brought to the issue of Palestine at large. But we also mourn countless other victims of the occupation whose deaths did not make the international spotlight, who may not fit the easy narrative of the “innocent” victim, who have no supposed privileged status in the eyes of the world, who may have taken up struggle by violent means. The Israeli occupation is wrong not because it targets children, or journalists, or the unarmed. It is not wrong for contravening international law on the duty of occupiers to the occupied. It is wrong, in the final sense, because from 1948 to the present day, Israel’s foundational imperative has been to obliterate the Palestinian people from the land and from history. In the words of Steven Salaita, “The settler doesn’t kill simply to produce death; he kills to negate the native’s existence.” As we oppose Shireen’s killing and as we oppose particular acts of displacement, we oppose the apartheid settler state of Israel in favor of a just future for all those indigenous to the land.

Furthermore, we recognize that the human rights of journalists, especially non-male journalists, are under attack internationally as the ruling classes of nation-states seek to consolidate their power through force.  We uphold the rights of journalists everywhere, and, in particular, the rights of non-male journalists, to hold the ruling class to account without fear of state repression.

Concerted pressure is needed to ensure that Israel does not expel the indigenous Palestinian residents of the villages in the Masafer Yatta area. We condemn past Israeli displacements of Palestinian villagers in this area, condemn the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, and call on our elected congressional representatives (Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna) to speak out against the forced displacement of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta as well as the assassination of Shireen.  

To take action, please use the following link to the petition: [ACTION ALERT] One of the Largest Expulsion of Palestinians Since 1967!