Shireen: The killing of kindness

I am not ready to speak about Shireen in the past tense. Not today. Perhaps not ever.

Shireen has covered the cruelty of the Israeli occupation for decades, only to be the victim of its utter bloody madness; madness she spent a lifetime exposing.

Ms Abu Akleh is a household name in the Arab world. Faraway but omnipresent in countless homes from Rabat to Riyadh.

A seasoned journalist, she has been that brave voice from Palestine echoing through the world. Where seasonal reporters come and go, she has been there day in day out, year after year, face to face with the occupiers of her homeland, giving a voice to voiceless Palestinians.

Shireen has had that steady voice – a soothing, credible voice. Always calm, cool and collected even when faced with the most horrific circumstances and bloodiest scenes.

Which is more often than is imaginable, alas.

There is something modest but magical about the way she has strolled down the streets of Palestine and gone through the alleys of its refugee camps, talking to the world with such eloquence; such clarity and confidence.

Always factual and objective. And yes, always measured. Never losing her nerves.

Astounding.

A war journalist, she nonetheless has a charitable aura about her. Incredibly humane in the midst of an inhumane setting. She is a passionate reporter, where her passion reflects an enviable mélange of love and pain for her suffering homeland.

It is befitting that Shireen was born in the heart of Palestine, in Jerusalem, just after the 1967 Israel war and occupation. Hailing from a Bethlehem Christian family, she studied journalism, but first worked at UNRWA and later at MIFTAH, promoting dialogue and democracy, before turning to full-time journalism.

In 1997, Shireen became a dedicated reporter, a Jazeerian, who for a quarter of a century shined a light on a dark era, always generous with her time, never holding back.

A fixture of the Arab media scene, among the giants of the profession, she gave Al Jazeera its distinct colour, and helped it deliver coverage from the very heart of the Arab world.

She has been a war reporter, yes, but for decades, Shireen has also been an investigative journalist – covering crime scenes, collecting evidence, gathering clues, and exposing criminals.

It is surreal to watch old newsreels showing a young Shireen speaking with calm confidence and reflecting on how she has come of age under occupation, or should I say, on top of an occupation – an inhumane occupation that has already lasted more than half a century and that has no end in sight.

Let us not clutter Shireen’s memory with cliches and conspiracies about her death.

Shireen does not do cliches.

She is the victim of Israeli occupation, regardless of who or which soldier pulled the trigger. As if killing her in the morning was not enough, Israeli security had to raid her house in the afternoon. Why? Because that’s who they are. As for the rest of us, her fans, friends and family, let us honour her the way she has long honoured us, solemnly and with love.

Shireen, in Arabic, means “fresh beauty”. So, she has been.

Today, we mourn Shireen, tomorrow we scorn her killers.

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