But perhaps Al Jazeera’s biggest appeal to the public has been its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It raised eyebrows in the Arab world by becoming the first major pan-Arab news channel to put Israel on a map and by giving airtime to Israeli officials at a time when the vast majority of Arab countries did not recognize the Jewish state. But it also didn’t shy away from covering the tiniest details of Palestinian suffering, which often infuriated Israel.
Abu Akleh became the face of that coverage at home and in the region. She covered the Gaza wars of 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021, as well as the 2006 war in Lebanon, according to Al Jazeera.
“We used to sleep in hospitals or under the roofs of people we didn’t know, and despite the danger, we were determined to keep reporting,” she said.
Givara Budeiri, a fellow Al Jazeera journalist who has known Abu Akleh for more than two decades, told CNN that her friend was a very brave journalist but that she had a crippling fear of heights.
“Shireen was never afraid to cover an event,” said Budeiri. “She was never afraid of anything except standing on top of a tall building.”
She recalled that Abu Akleh would say that if she hadn’t turned into journalism, her favorite career would be to run a stray animal shelter.
According to Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh was born in Jerusalem in 1971 to Christian Palestinian parents from Bethlehem. After graduating, she studied architecture at the University of Science and Technology in Jordan, after which she went on to study journalism. She received her bachelor’s degree from Yarmouk University in Jordan.
Before joining Al Jazeera, she worked with Voice of Palestine Radio, Amman Satellite Channel, the Miftah Foundation and France’s Radio Monte Carlo. She also worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Al Jazeera said.
“Every home … in Palestine or outside Palestine mourns Shireen because she is our voice to the world,” said Terry Bullata, a friend and former classmate of Abu Akleh. “She is the voice of our suffering under the occupation. She is the voice of our pursuit of freedom.”
Akleh said she chose journalism to “be close to the people.” At the time of her death, she was learning Hebrew to better understand Israeli media stories, Al Jazeera said.
“In difficult times, I have overcome fear,” Abu Akleh said in the October video. “It may be hard to change reality, but at least I managed to bring that voice into the world.”
Additional coverage from Abeer Salman in Jerusalem
UAE food delivery workers conduct rare strike, second in a month
Foreign food delivery workers from the UAE company Talabat held a mass strike on Monday, calling for better wages and working conditions, a rare act of protest in the Gulf state.
- Background: Earlier this month, foreign workers forced another food delivery company to scrap plans to cut wages after they resigned in protest. On Monday, Talabat employees refused to accept deliveries in the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A Talabat spokesperson said that until last week, 70% of drivers were dissatisfied with pay, earning them an average of 3,500 dirhams ($953) a month.
- Why it matters: The union action is the second of its kind in a month, a rare expression of public discontent in the UAE, where workers are tightly controlled. The country is also home to two cities with a large expatriate presence. Unions and collective action are prohibited in the country.
Biden Considers East Jerusalem Visit – Israeli Official
US President Joe Biden is considering a visit to East Jerusalem during an upcoming visit to Israel in June, an Israeli official told CNN on Monday.
- Background: Biden may visit Al Makassed hospital, although plans are yet to be finalized, the Israeli official added. The hospital in East Jerusalem serves Palestinians, including those from the West Bank and Gaza. Former President Donald Trump cut $25 million in planned funding for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which includes Al Makassed Hospital.
- Why it matters: A US presidential visit to the mostly Palestinian part of the city, taken by Israel in 1967, would likely be seen as a gesture of support for the Palestinians. The Biden administration has promised to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem after Trump closed it and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For many Palestinians, a US consulate in Jerusalem would be seen as a precursor to what they hope will one day become a US embassy in East Jerusalem, the capital of a possible future state of Palestine.
EU’s Mora goes to Tehran to save nuclear deal
Iran’s European Union nuclear coordinator said on Tuesday he was on his way to Tehran to meet with Iranian negotiator Bagheri Kani to try to give new impetus to salvage the 2015 accord.
- BackgroundTalks to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been suspended since March, mainly due to Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite security force, from the list of the US Foreign Terrorist Organization deletes.
- Why it matters: The visit comes amid heightened diplomatic activity to salvage talks. Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad is set to visit Iran this week in an attempt to rekindle stalled talks. The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday he is still hopeful for a deal, but talks have been difficult and the moment could be lost. He said he had also warned Iran that the country was not being transparent enough about its nuclear activities.
Around the region
Jordan’s criminalization of some suicide attempts has sparked outrage among mental health advocates.
The Middle East lower house of parliament amended a law late last month to punish anyone who attempts to commit suicide in a public place with up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 100 Jordanian dinars ($141), or both. Attempted mass suicide, the penalty is doubled.
Previously, only those who assisted suicide were punished.
The response from the public was a mix of shock, confusion and anger on social media. One called the move “a slaughter of laws.”
The government has defended the move. Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said on Tuesday it affirms “the idea of protecting the right to life”, citing religious texts. He also downplayed most suicide cases as “not serious” and said they “needed attention.”
In response to the change in law, the online therapy platform “Arab Therapy” offered free consultations to anyone with suicidal thoughts. The platform told CNN it has since received more than 200 requests for consultations.
“Decisions like these don’t help people who are thinking about suicide, but only confirm their loss of hope,” founder Tareq Dalbah, a Jordanian doctor living in Germany, told CNN.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement, Dalbah says all suicide attempts should be taken seriously, regardless of the setting. He pointed out that confusion about how this law will be implemented has caused people with suicidal thoughts to stop seeking help for fear of punishment.
The suicide rate was 186 last year, a 60% increase from 2019, according to data provided to CNN by Jordan’s Department of Statistics. Dalbah said health insurance rarely covers mental health in the country.
By Mohammed Abdelbary
How to Get Help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide can also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.