Following a review of Al-Jazeera and PA TV recordings of Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral, PMW can report three striking facts:
1- The motivation of the Palestinians who took her coffin to carry it on their shoulders and by foot was to avoid a funeral “as if a Christian woman died.”
2- Abu Akleh’s family had wanted her body taken by hearse to the church for the funeral, and not carried through the streets of Jerusalem.
3- When the hearse arrived to take the coffin to the church, the Palestinian mob that had gathered at the hospital prevented the car from reaching the entrance and receiving Abu Akleh’s body. Instead, it was the Palestinian mob that snatched the coffin and thereby disrupted the funeral. Israeli Police prevented further disruption.
• A few hours before the funeral, Abu Akleh’s brother told Al-Jazeera that the plan was for the coffin to be taken at 2:00 p.m. from the hospital to the church in the hearse on Highway One, the main North-South transit for cars in Jerusalem.
• In the same interview, Abu Akleh’s brother made it clear that although the Palestinian youth want to carry her coffin on their shoulders through the streets of the Old City, there had already been funerals of that kind (Palestinian Islamic Martyr style) in Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah. In Jerusalem, the family wanted the coffin to be taken in the hearse as agreed with Israeli Police, so there would be no disruptions.
• 1:26 p.m.: The church’s hearse approaches the hospital to take Abu Akleh’s coffin, but the Palestinian mob, stops the car, bangs on its windows, and forces the hearse to leave without the coffin.
• 1:40 p.m.: Palestinian Jerusalem official: The Palestinian crowd prevented the church’s hearse from taking Abu Akleh’s body so she would not be treated “as if a Christian woman died”
• Same Jerusalem official: The crowd wants her body to be carried on their shoulders (according to Palestinian tradition for Shahids – Islamic Martyrs) and not taken in the church’s hearse (even though Abu Akleh was a Christian).
• 1:49 Unauthorized people in the crowd try to hijack the funeral and carry her body out of the hospital. Israeli Police stops them and demands the body be returned to the hospital for the funeral procession as planned in the hearse
• 1:51 The police officers use force to defend themselves and return the body to the hospital to await the hearse. The confrontation lasts about 3 minutes and the coffin is quickly returned to the hospital
• 14:00 Under police protection the hearse returns and takes Abu Akleh’s body from the hospital
• 14:13 Hearse arrives at the church for a Christian funeral and burial
PMW has examined the broadcasts on official PA TV and Al-Jazeera prior to and during the funeral of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which confirms the Israeli version of the events that led to the violence. The videos of Israeli Police hitting some of those who carried the coffin on their shoulders were disseminated around the world to make it seem as if Israeli Police were interfering with the funeral. In fact, it was the exact opposite. It was a Palestinian mob that had hijacked the funeral and Israeli Police who were forced to intervene and have the funeral return to be held as the family planned.
The following are the details:
The morning of the funeral, Shireen Abu Akleh’s brother, Anton Abu Akleh, told Al-Jazeera that the family, who are Christians, wanted the coffin to be taken by hearse at 2:00 p.m. from the hospital to the church (and not carried on shoulders.)
Brother of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Anton Abu Akleh:
“At 2:00 p.m., Allah willing, the body will set out from the French Hospital on Highway 1 (i.e., by hearse) to the Jaffa Gate, to the Greek Catholic Church next to the Jaffa Gate. There the burial prayer will be held for her soul. Afterwards we will set out from the church by foot to the [Mount] Zion Cemetery of the Greek Catholic Church.”
[YouTube channel of Al-Jazeera, May 13, 2022
The brother was asked about those who wish to carry the coffin on their shoulders:
“The young people of Jerusalem want to hold a special funeral for Shireen that will go [by foot] through the Old City. What do you think of this as a family?”
Anton Abu Akleh rejected the idea in the interest of keeping order:
“The situation, as you see, is that the Israeli restrictions are very strict. We appreciate the love of the Palestinian public and the Palestinian people. As for Shireen, we have held a number of funerals for her. The Palestinians held [a funeral] for her from Jenin to Nablus, to Ramallah, and now in Jerusalem we don’t want there to be [confrontations]. In other words, the Israelis are lying in wait for us, and Allah willing the funeral will go well.”
However, when the church’s hearse approached the hospital to take the coffin, the Palestinian mob at the hospital stopped the hearse, and prevented it from approaching.
PA TV explained the delay:
PA TV reporter:
“The hearse is waiting for the transfer, but dozens of those who managed to get here refuse to let it go.”
[Official PA TV, May 13, 2022]
One PA official, a member of the National Action Committee in Jerusalem Ahmed Al-Safadi, explained the refusal:
“The [Arab] residents of Jerusalem want Shireen Abu Akleh to be carried out of respect, as she was carried [on shoulders] in Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah.”
He added that there is a good compromise solution that he supports:
“There are suggestions that she will be taken in a hearse slowly beside the young men and women of Jerusalem.” I think this is a good suggestion, that half of [the procession] should be by car and half by foot, so that all parties are satisfied…”
Finally, the hearse tried to slowly approach the hospital through the crowd but the mob repeatedly banged on it, preventing it from reaching the entrance, until it was forced to leave. It was the mob and not Israel that prevented the burial from taking place as planned.
PA TV’s reporter confirmed what happened:
“There is a firm refusal to transfer her by hearse. The hearse was [forced] away a short time ago, and it was prevented from transferring her.”
Amjad Abu Asbeh, head of the Prisoners’ Families Committee in Jerusalem, explained that the insistence on carrying her on their shoulders is so that it wouldn’t seem to be a Christian funeral with a “church car” as had been planned. They didn’t want “to spin the issue as if a Christian woman died” rather they wanted to carry her body on their shoulders – as is Palestinian custom for Shahids – Islamic Martyrs, even though she was a Christian:
“There is general agreement here that they want to carry her on their shoulders… There is fear that the procession will be prevented, that they will take the body and put it in the church car. But the [people] refuse to spin the issue, as if a Christian woman died. This is a daughter of the Palestinian people, a daughter of the Arab nation.”
[Official PA TV, May 13, 2022]
After preventing the hearse from arriving, the body was taken without authorization to be carried by foot – against the family’s wishes. Israeli Police were forced to stop this and return the body to the hospital. Shortly after, the hearse returned under Israeli protection and the coffin was placed inside to be taken to the church.
The hearse left and later arrived at the church with the body
It was the Palestinian mob that prevented Abu Akleh’s funeral from progressing to the church by hearse as the family had wanted. It was the mob that took the body without authorization, which forced Israeli Police to intervene with force to have them return the body to the hospital. Once returned, the body was transported to the church in the hearse under Israeli protection according to plan.