Belal Khaled, "I Am Shireen Abu Akleh" (2022) (courtesy the artist)

More than 100 artists, including prominent filmmakers, writers, and musicians, signed an open letter published by Artists for Palestine UK condemning Israel’s murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank on May 11. It demands “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it.”

Signatories include film directors Pedro Almodóvar, Boots Riley, and Jim Jarmusch; actors and celebrities Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon; novelists Colm Tóibín, Yann Martel, and Arundhati Roy; musicians Brian Eno and Nicolás Jaar; and political activist and writer Angela Davis.

Abu Akleh, who was 51 years old at the time of death and who has been called “the voice of Palestine to the rest of the Arab world and its diaspora,” was an Al Jazeera journalist who reported on human rights abuses carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for over two decades. After she was killed while covering a raid in Jenin, several witnesses — including her producer, who was also shot — said that Israeli soldiers were responsible for her death. Nonetheless, Israel pinned her death on Palestinian militants. Today, May 19, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released Abu Akleh was killed in an “active combat situation.”

The letter contextualizes Abu Akleh’s killing as part of a pattern of violence perpetrated by the Israeli state against members of the press, citing the Palestinian Ministry of Information’s estimate that at least 45 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces (and this happens to be one of the more conservative estimates). According to Amnesty International, more have been killed in armed hostilities in Israel and Palestine in the past two months than in any comparable interval since 2008. The letter also condemns Israeli forces’ harassment and assault of grievers carrying Abu Aqleh’s coffin to a funeral service last Friday, May 13. And it reasserts Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem’s verdict that Israel is an apartheid state.

“For many years Palestinian human rights and civil society groups have been calling on the international community to take proportional, targeted measures to hold Israel to account for its crimes, and to end its impunity,” the letter notes. “We fully support this call.”

The letter criticizes the “hypocrisy” that “Western powers” have shown in giving Israel free passes despite its multi-decade assault on human rights, and urges them to “act with consistency in the application of international law and human rights.” Both the Biden administration and the UN Security Council have called for a transparent investigation of the killing, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised Abu Aqleh’s family that the US will insist her death be thoroughly investigated.

Read the letter, reproduced in full, below:

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. As we grieve her loss, we call for full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it.

The attack by heavily armed Israeli forces on Palestinian mourners further dismayed and horrified us. 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 killing of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and an attack on journalism and freedom of expression. UN and international human rights experts have said that it may constitute a war crime and should be subject to an independent, transparent international investigation. Yet, it is far from being an isolated event. 

Israeli forces have killed 45 journalists since 2000, injuring many more, simply for doing their job. These crimes are part of a pattern of violence, harassment, and intimidation against Palestinian journalists who are shining a light on what Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, and Israel’s leading human rights organization, B’Tselem, have described as a system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people.  

For many years Palestinian human rights and civil society groups have been calling on the international community to take proportional, targeted measures to hold Israel to account for its crimes, and to end its impunity. We fully support this call. 

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 the 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. 

Meanwhile, our governments are taking anti-democratic measures to repress their own citizens’ nonviolent campaigns of pressure aimed at holding Israel, and the companies and institutions that are complicit in its system of oppression, to account.

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. 

SIGNED:

Khalid Abdalla, actor

Hany Abu Assad, film director

Tunde Adebimpe, musician

Ahsan Akbar, poet

Yasmine Al Massri, actor

Omar Al Qattan, film director

Monica Ali, author

Candace Allen writer

Pedro Almodovar, film director

Anthony Anaxagorou, poet

Ramin Bahrani, film director

Adam Bakri, actor

Saleh Bakri, actor

Clio Barnard, film director

Joslyn Barnes, producer

David Barsamian, author

Roy Battersby, TV director

Sarah Beddington, filmmaker, artist

Ronan Bennett, author, screenwriter

Frances Black, singer

Nicholas Blincoe, author

Iciar Bollain, film director

Juan Diego Botto, actor

Haim Bresheeth, filmmaker, scholar

Victoria Brittain, writer

Adam Broomberg, artist

David Calder, actor

Carmen Callil, publisher, editor

Eric Cantona, actor

Iggor Cavalera, musician 

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer

Julie Christie, actor

Isabel Coixet, film director

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian

Mark Cousins, writer, director

Liam Cunningham, actor

Selma Dabbagh, writer

Cherien Dabis, film director

William Dalrymple, author

Angela Davis, author

Andy de la Tour, actor

Jeremy Deller, artist

Stephen Dillane, actor

Sara Driver, film director

Ben Ehrenreich, author

Brian Eno, musician

Jodie Evans, producer

Shepard Fairey, artist

Bella Freud, designer

Peter Gabriel, musician

Trevor Griffiths, playwright, screenwriter

Kathryn Hahn, actor

Charles Hayward, musican

M Imhotep, musician

Nicolás Jaar, musician 

Gemma Jackson, production designer

Jim Jarmusch, film director

Asif Kapadia, film director

Aki Kaurismaki, film director

John Keane, artist

Brigid Keenan,  author

Patrick Keiller, filmmaker

Peter Kennard, artist

AL Kennedy, author

Jennine Khalik,  journalist

Naomi Klein, author, activist

Peter Kosminsky, screenwriter, director

Jan Kounen, film director

Nancy Kricorian, author

Hari Kunzru, author

Seun Kuti, musician

Lankum, band

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mike Leigh, film director

Laima Leyton musician, artist

Jim Loach, film director

Ken Loach, film director

Dónal Lunny, musician

Mahmood Mamdani, author

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Kika Markham, actor

Yann Martel, author

Emer Martin, author

Mai Masri, film director

Massive Attack, band

Rakan Mayası, film director

Kleber Mendonça Filho, film director

Christy Moore, musician

Thurston Moore, musician

Tom Morello, musician

Carol Morley, film director

Laura Mulvey, film scholar

Karthika Nair, poet

Mira Nair, film director

Courttia Newland, author, screenwriter

Pratibha Parmar, film director

Maxine Peake, actor

Aubrey Powell, designer

Philip Pullman, author

Stephen Rea, actor

Boots Riley, screenwriter, director

Bruce Robbins, author, literary scholar

Olga Rodriguez, author

Jacqueline Rose, author, scholar

Arundhati Roy, author

Mark Ruffalo, actor

Alberto San Juan, actor

Susan Sarandon, actor

Alexei Sayle, comedian, author

James Schamus, screenwriter, producer

Nick Seymour, musician

Kamila Shamsie,author

Tai Shani, artist

Alia Shawkat, actor

Marea Stamper, DJ

Juliet Stevenson, actor

Tilda Swinton, actor

Colm Tóibín, author

Ricky Tomlinson, actor

Ben UFO, DJ

V (formerly Eve Ensler), author, playwright 

Yanis Varoufakis, author

Mirza Waheed, author

Harriet Walter, actor

Roger Waters, musician

Irvine Welsh, author

Monique Wilson, actor, activist

Jane Wilson, artist

Louise Wilson, artist

Michael Winterbottom, film director

Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Susan Wooldridge, actor

Robert Wyatt, musician

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Jasmine Liu

Jasmine Liu is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied anthropology and mathematics at Stanford University. Find her on 

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