Washington D.C.- In a US Congress that is largely staunch in its support of Israel, many lawmakers condemned the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist. Shireen Abu Aklehwho was shot dead by Israeli forces on Wednesday.
Still, few members of Congress mentioned Israel by name as the perpetrator of the deadly incident, while some lawmakers who play leadership roles on foreign policy and press freedom panels ignored the shooting altogether.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, has been the most outspoken.
The progressive legislator, of Palestinian descent, called for a moment of silence for the murdered journalist in the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Wednesday and condemned the murder in various statements and appearances before the media.
“A clearly marked American journalist with press credentials was killed. Doing and saying nothing only enables more murders,” he wrote in a tweet directed at President Joe Biden, invoking US military aid to Israel, which amounts to 3,800 million dollars per year.
“Whether it is Palestinian, American or not, the killing with American funds must be stopped,” Tlaib said.
In a television interview with Al Jazeera later on Wednesday, he also called for a US-led investigation of the incident.
“We need to investigate, ourselves, the murder of a US citizen. Someone who was out there as a guardian of the truth and doing their job was assassinated by an apartheid government that we continue to fund with unconditional aid,” she said.
Abu Akleh was a US citizen, a fact highlighted by several US officials.
Congressman Mark Pocan, a key House progressive, also suggested restricting US aid to Israel.
“Aid restrictions may be necessary if human rights and universally acceptable standards cannot be followed,” he wrote on Twitter.
The US government’s condemnation of the murder of an American journalist is a welcome reaction to an untenable situation in Israel and Palestine. Aid restrictions may be necessary if human rights and universally acceptable standards cannot be followed. https://t.co/I5yiv1FONk
— Representative Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) May 12, 2022
The congressional statements on the killing of Abu Akleh came from Democratic Party lawmakers, most of whom are part of the progressive wing of the party.
Al Jazeera was unable to find any statement from Republican lawmakers denouncing the killing.
Ilhan Omar, a left-wing Muslim American member of the House, was unequivocal in blaming Israel for the assassination of the palestinian journalist.
“She was killed by the Israeli army, after clearly making her presence known as a journalist,” he wrote on Twitter. “We provide Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid annually with no restrictions. What is needed to hold them accountable for these human rights violations?
Omar’s fellow Muslim lawmaker, Andre Carson, also called on the US government to “hold the Israeli government to account for this and all other acts of unjust violence it commits.”
I join many others in mourning the death of @AlJazeera journalist, #ShireenAbuAkleh, who was assassinated by the Israeli military while on a mission. The United States must hold the Israeli government accountable for this and all other acts of unjust violence it commits.
— Andre Carson (@RepAndreCarson) May 11, 2022
Several top Democrats joined progressive members of the party in paying tribute to Abu Akleh and calling for an investigation, but they did not point the finger at Israel.
“The murder of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is a horrible tragedy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of Israel, wrote on Twitter.
“A thorough and objective investigation is needed now. Congress is committed to upholding press freedom around the world and protecting all journalists, particularly those in conflict zones.”
Senator Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat and an outspoken supporter of strong US-Israeli ties, said he was “disturbed” by the killing of Abu Akleh.
“Abu Akleh’s death is an attack on a female journalist wearing her press kit,” he said in a statement. “No journalist should be killed while he is simply doing her job. I strongly condemn her death and call for a full and independent investigation of the incident.”
Senator Chris Van Hollen has also called for an independent investigation into the incident.
.@SpeakerPelosi it is right. Anyone who believes in press freedom and justice should call for a full and independent investigation into the murder of US journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. https://t.co/eUqO133GwO
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) May 12, 2022
So did Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. “Veteran American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was simply doing her job when she was shot dead this morning,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“His heartbreaking death must be seen as an attack on press freedom everywhere. There must be a thorough investigation and full accountability of those responsible.”
Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Freedom of the Press, also called the fatal shooting of the Palestinian-American journalist a “terrible tragedy”.
“The Israeli military must conduct a thorough and objective investigation into Abu Akleh’s death and be transparent about its findings,” Schiff said in a statement. “My prayers are with his family, with his colleague Ali Al-Samudi, who was also injured, and with members of the press everywhere who risk their lives to bring us the truth.”
Palestinian rights advocates have rejected calls by US officials for Israel to conduct its own investigation, arguing that the Israeli government should not be trusted to take responsibility for alleged war crimes.
Steve Chabot, the Republican co-chair of the Press Freedom Caucus, has not released any formal statement about the killing on his congressional website or social media accounts. His office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Congressman Andy Levin, a Jewish-American representative from Michigan who is facing fellow Democrat Haley Stevens in a primary after redistricting, said he was “appalled” by the killing of Abu Akleh.
“Globally, in places as diverse as Palestine, Mexico, and Russia, the international community must come together to defend the rights of a free press,” he wrote in a series of tweets.
Stevens, who is backed by numerous pro-Israeli groups including the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has not said anything about the incident on his social media accounts or on the congressional website.
Debbie Dingell, another Michigan lawmaker who represents a large Arab-American community, said freedom of the press is “paramount in any democracy.”
The murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is horrific and heartbreaking. Freedom of the press is paramount in any democracy.
I join the administrator in calling for a thorough investigation to hold those responsible to account.https://t.co/M1QWe1n0l0
— Representative Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) May 11, 2022
The chairmen of the House and Senate foreign policy panels did not address the incident in formal statements. The House Foreign Affairs Committee shared Pelosi’s post about the murder through its Twitter account.
The fatal shooting of Abu Akleh coincided with a busy week in Washington, which is preoccupied with domestic matters, including a baby. formula shortage and a Failed attempt pass legislation that protects the right to abortion.
Ro Khanna, a House progressive representing a California district, wrote in a social media post: “The murder of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is devastating and a blatant attack on press freedom.”
New York Rep. Yvette Clarke said the killing is “yet another reason we need a path to a two-state solution in the region.”
I want to express my sincere condolences to the family of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Some of them call New York’s 9th Ward home. This tragedy is yet another reason why we need a path to a two-state solution in the region. https://t.co/rBt2yM9bsK
— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) May 11, 2022
Congresswoman Marie Newman, who often criticizes Israeli abuses against Palestinians, said she was “extremely concerned by reports that Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces while wearing a press vest and reported in the West Bank.
“We must protect the press and hold those responsible for this heinous crime to account,” he wrote on Twitter.
Congresswoman Cori Bush, a progressive Palestinian rights advocate, condemned the “unacceptable attack.”
female participant Betty McCollumwho defended the human rights of Palestinians in Congress and introduced bills to restrict US aid to Israel, also said the killing must be “condemned and investigated.”
The Israeli military assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh is devastating and infuriating. I condemn this unacceptable attack on her, the Palestinians and the freedom and safety of journalists everywhere.
There must be accountability and we must demand an end to Israeli apartheid. https://t.co/q3SfPFVQ6G
— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) May 12, 2022