A group of 126 creative artists have expressed their "horror" and "dismay" over the killing of Palestinian Christian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli sniper, and urged their governments to end their "hypocrisy" by not granting unyielding support to the apartheid state. The signatories of the statement published by Artists for Palestine UK call for "meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians."
Household names Susan Sarandon, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Asif Kapadia, Miriam Margolyes, Boots Riley, Jim Jarmusch, Steve Coogan, Naomi Klein, Hany Abu Assad and Peter Gabriel are among the artists to back the statement.
"We are deeply disturbed by the Israeli occupation forces' killing of the highly respected Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as she arrived, wearing a clearly marked 'Press' vest, to report on an Israeli incursion in the occupied city of Jenin last Wednesday," they said. "The attack by heavily armed Israeli forces on Palestinian mourners further dismayed and horrified us."
This was a reference to the shocking scenes on the day of Abu Akleh's funeral when soldiers "beat and kicked mourners and pallbearers" in the grounds of the St. Joseph Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, to prevent them from carrying Abu Akleh's coffin and marching to the church for the planned funeral service. "What are we to make of the brazenness and cruelty of this attack on human dignity?" The artists described events as "a grave breach of international humanitarian law and an attack on journalism and freedom of expression."
Israeli forces have killed 45 journalists since 2000 and wounded many more, simply for doing their job, they pointed out. "These crimes are part of a pattern of violence, harassment and intimidation against Palestinian journalists who are shining a light on what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel's leading human rights organisation, B'Tselem, have described as a system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people."
Commenting on the complicity of Western governments in maintaining Israel's apartheid system they said: "When Israel's policies blatantly violate international laws and norms, it is because Western powers have consistently provided diplomatic cover for it to do so. It has not gone unnoticed that while our governments have rushed to impose blanket boycotts and sanctions in response to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the cruelty of its attacks on a civilian population, the same governments continue to fund and shield Israel's decades-long occupation and grave human rights violations against Palestinians."
The statement concluded with a demand for Western leaders to end their double standards. "We call on our governments to end their hypocrisy and to act with consistency in the application of international law and human rights. We call on them to take meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians. There must be no double standards when it comes to the basic human right to freedom from persecution and oppression and the right to life and to dignity."