On May 11, an Israeli sniper intentionally shot and killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was wearing a visible PRESS vest.
That day, those who witnessed the killing firsthand, as well as Al Jazeera (the company Abu Akleh was working for), made the claims in the prior sentence. However, their word wasn’t good enough, and the members of parliament (MPs) in Canada that did tweet about the killing almost all refused to name a perpetrator, instead calling for an investigation into the matter.
I conducted a Twitter search and found that 17 members of parliament did exactly this in the days and weeks following the killing of Abu Akleh: Omar Alghabra, Brian Masse, Ya’ara Saks, Mélanie Joly, Salma Zahid, Rob Oliphant, Ahmed Hussen, Francesco Sorbara, Arielle Kayabaga, Iqwinder S. Gaheer, Lindsay Mathyssen, Julie Dzerowicz, Jennifer O’Connell, Pam Damoff, Iqra Khalid, Heather McPherson, and Elizabeth May.
In the nearly five months since then, investigations into the killing have been conducted by: B’Tselem, Bellingcat, Associated Press, CNN, the Palestinian Authority, Washington Post, The New York Times, the United Nations, the United States, Israel and Forensic Architecture and Al-Haq. All of these reports found that Israel is, at the very least, highly likely to be responsible for killing Abu Akleh, and many directly stated that the killing was deliberate.
And yet, despite this, zero of these MPs issued follow up tweets on the matter. As such, I decided to reach out to all of them, and ask them why that’s the case, if they spoke about the matter anywhere else and if they have any comments on the issue now.
None of them replied.
Several of these MPs noted in their initial statements that whoever was responsible for killing Abu Akleh should be held responsible. Zahid said, “Canada must make clear […] to Israeli government we will demand those responsible for the shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh be held accountable for their actions to full extent of local and international law.” Gaheer said, “There should be a full investigation of what took place and those responsible should be held accountable.” Mathyssen said, “Those responsible must be held accountable.” Khalid said, “There must be a full and independent investigation, and there must be justice.”
Israel’s report into the killing admits that there’s a “high possibility” they killed Abu Akleh, and that they’ve met with the sniper who did it. Yet they’ve noted that “there is no suspicion of a criminal offense that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation.” In fact, they added that they’re “very proud of the conduct of our soldiers” who supposedly “were briefed and acted according to procedure.”
In short, they know who did it, they won’t punish them and they’re actually proud of them. Still, none of the MPs who called for the responsible party to be punished have said anything since they were explicitly informed that no such thing will happen.
Of course, their silence on the matter reflects the Canadian government’s official position. As Alex Cosh wrote at The Maple, “Canada has not condemned Israel for the killing, and has not supported calls to bring the case before the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
In August, the NDP supported referring the killing to the ICC, but failed to name Israel as the party responsible for the killing.
The Conservative Party, meanwhile, blocked unanimous consent for a motion put forward by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice to “condemn the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh; call for an independent inquiry into her death in order to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions; and reaffirm that targeting journalists is a war crime.” Moreover, none of the MPs on my list belong to the Conservative Party.
The idea of waiting for an investigation before moving forward to take concrete action isn’t a bad one in theory. Yet in practice, it has effectively acted as a replacement our MPs can use for “thoughts and prayers.” It’s a way to express concern without making any commitment to help. This is because by hinging their actions on a future, possibly non-existent, investigation, they can avoid doing anything. Either no investigation happens, or if it does, they can portray it as not being sufficient enough to warrant action. So, no steps are taken, and the hope is that constituents will forget and move on.
But we shouldn’t move on. It’s a disgrace that one of Canada’s closest allies can kill a journalist in cold blood, and escape even symbolic condemnation for doing so, all the while our government preaches about the importance of protecting reporters and press freedom.
UPDATE: After this article was published, Iqra Khalid responded with the following statement: “I am aware of these investigations and their conclusions. As you know, I delivered a speech in the House of Commons shortly after Shireen Abu Akleh was killed to mourn her death, recognize her incredible legacy of work, and support calls for an independent investigation. In the months since, I have continued to engage with residents in Mississauga-Erin Mills who are concerned about this issue. As a Member of Parliament, I am honoured to work with so many diverse communities in our riding and bring their perspectives to the Government of Canada.”