If I Were Israeli
Portraits of killed Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh are seen at an art exhibit honoring her in Jenin in the West Bank, on May 19, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images)

If I Were Israeli

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, June 3

I wrote an article a few months ago about the harassment and marginalization of Christian Palestinians, which has increased in frequency and ugliness in the past few years. Within Arab society, Palestinian Christians are often disregarded, belittled or disparaged. Then, just two weeks ago, Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Jenin native and a correspondent for the Al-Jazeera media network since 1997, was struck by a treacherous Israeli bullet that took her life, while carrying out her duty. Shireen Abu Akleh was one of the most prominent journalists in the Arab world, a veteran reporter, and a prominent figure in the Arab media. She previously covered major Palestinian events, including the second intifada, and had an important and vital role in analyzing Israeli policy. Her live reports on TV were of interest to many. Her murder sparked a storm of intense sympathy, which was accompanied by a strong wave of protests. The entire Arab world denounced the murder unanimously and Abu Akleh was celebrated as a martyr. Suddenly, however, everyone discovered Shireen’s full name and the fact that she was the daughter of Nasri Antoine Abu Akleh. Or, simply put, people understood that she was Christian. At once, public opinion throughout the Arab world changed – and the same people who had just announced her a martyr stripped her of that title. There were even those who asked to stop praying for her soul, since mercy can only be sought for a Muslim. A Kuwaiti cleric known for his extremist views issued a fatwa ruling that she was an infidel that should be shown no mercy. If I were Israeli, I wouldn’t have been able to find a better story or tragedy than that of Shireen Abu Akleh as an example that the Arab world doesn’t deserve any respect. If Abu Akleh’s own people show no sympathy for her death, then why should Israelis do so?  The Arab nation lost an Arab woman who dedicated her life to the protection of her homeland. If the Arab people can’t describe that woman as a martyr, why should their enemies describe her as such? As an Israeli, I would genuinely ask myself: Is the Arab world trustworthy? If they reject a loyal daughter of their own, how would they ever come to accept us? – Ahmed Al-Sarraf (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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