A pair of Congressional Democrats are circulating a letter demanding an FBI investigation into the murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, according to three sources with knowledge of the letter and a draft of the letter obtained by The Intercept.
“[G]Given the precarious situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we call on the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to open an investigation.
Representatives Andre Carson, D-Ind., and Lou Correa, D-Calif., are collecting signatures for the letter, according to the three sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the letter. before it is finished. After this story was published, Copeland Tucker, a spokesperson for Carson, confirmed the letter and the Indiana Democrat’s involvement. A spokesperson for Correa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the draft letter calls for both an FBI investigation as well as a State Department decision on whether the murder of the American journalist in the territory occupied by Israel violated US laws.
“We welcome the actions and statements taken thus far by the US State Department supporting a thorough investigation by the Israeli government,” reads a draft letter, referring to the concerning US statements and calling for an investigation. “However, given the precarious situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we call on the Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to open an investigation into the death of Ms. Abu Akleh. We also ask the US State Department to determine whether any US laws protecting Ms. Abu Akleh, a US citizen, have been violated.
Abu Akleh, a prominent Al Jazeera journalist, was reporting on an Israeli military raid on a house in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Jenin when she was shot and killed on Wednesday. Witnesses said she was killed by the Israeli army, which initially blamed the killing on Palestinian militants, citing footage of a gunman – later shown not to be not responsible – before admitting that an Israeli soldier might have been responsible.
During Abu Akleh’s funeral procession on Friday, Israeli police beat mourners, including the pallbearers, forcing them to momentarily drop the coffin and sparking international outrage. Israeli police justified the attack by saying mourners were chanting nationalist slogans and waving Palestinian flags. (An official Israel Police Twitter account posted drone footage selectively edited to look like a funeral attendee waving his arms in frustration had thrown a rock.)
Israel, which has occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for more than half a century, has a history of attacking journalists. A year ago, during an assault on the blockaded Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes destroyed a tower that housed international news agencies, including the Associated Press. The Israeli government has claimed that the Palestinian group Hamas used the tower as an intelligence outpost – a claim the militant group has vehemently denied.
Palestinian journalists without international passports or support often fare worse under Israeli occupation. Little attention was paid when Israel destroyed the offices of Palestinian outlets in the same assault on Gaza. During the same period of unrest in Jerusalem, Palestinian journalists described being beaten and shot with rubber bullets by Israeli authorities. Under Israeli occupation, Palestinian journalists are frequently detained and charged with crimes for doing their reporting work.
Despite the letter’s praise for the State Department’s remarks, not everyone in Washington’s foreign policy circles was pleased. When Blinken released a statement criticizing the Israel Police for “trespassing” on Abu Akleh’s funeral procession, Matt Duss, senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took issue with the language. “‘Intruder’?” Duss tweeted. “They attacked them. They beat them. The secretary of state should be able to say that clearly.
“As an American, Ms. Abu Akleh was entitled to all of the protections afforded to American citizens living abroad,” the letter concludes. “We, the undersigned members of Congress, urge you to uphold the values upon which our nation was founded, including human rights, equality for all, and freedom of speech. We have a duty to protect the Americans reporting overseas We look forward to your timely response.
Updated: May 16, 2022, 5:42 p.m. ET
This story has been updated to include Carson’s office confirmation of the letter.