Shireen Abu Akleh should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

I know that the Nobel Committee does not award its prizes posthumously. Here is why it should break that rule this year.

A Palestinian man rides a bicycle in front of a mural painted by an artist in honour of slain veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in Gaza City
A Palestinian man rides his bicycle in front of a mural painted by an artist in honour of slain veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in Gaza City on May 13, 2022 [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

Face down. In a ditch. That is how and where Shireen Abu Akleh’s life ended. Face down. In a ditch.

She should be alive. At work with her colleagues doing her job. A reporter. At home with her family. A daughter, a sister, an aunt. In Palestine, among Palestinians who loved and admired her.

But she is gone. Murdered in Jenin, witnesses say, by an Israeli sniper. Last August, another Israeli sniper murdered 12-year-old Hassan Abu al-Neil at the Gaza border. He was shot in the face, too.

One was a journalist. The other, a child. Murdered because of who they were: Palestinians.

Their murderers will, as always, remain invisible. Unknown and unaccountable. Free.

They should be in the dock to face the hard consequences of their crimes. They never will. They are Israelis who know they enjoy a licence to murder Palestinians. Cocky. Shielded. Safe.

Apart from his family and friends, Hassan’s murder has largely been forgotten. The outrage of Shireen’s murder will, over time, fade as well. It has already begun.

So, Shireen joins the long tally of murdered Palestinians. Cited whenever, inevitably, the next Palestinian is executed. Each Palestinian reduced to an anonymous number. Each murder drained of the detail that made their assassinations, at first, shocking and a blunt, arresting blow.

That is why their histories must be preserved. The story of how, where and why Hassan was murdered must not be forgotten. The story of how, where and why Shireen was murdered must not be forgotten.

We know how and where Shireen was murdered. This is why she was murdered. Shireen was a Palestinian who told the stories of other Palestinians like Hassan Abu al-Neil.

She tried to preserve their histories.

She told stories about their hopes, their fears, their dreams, their nightmares, their triumphs, their failures, their will, their resignation, their spirit, their struggles, their fight, their defeats, their faith, their doubts, their happiness, their grief, their mourning, their celebrations, their lives, their deaths.

She told stories about the whole of Palestinian humanity – their faults and their strengths, the good and the bad – not the ugly, stubborn caricature that too many Western reporters continue to feed to audiences who refuse to see Palestinians as human beings.

Shireen told these stories about Palestine and Palestinians for Al Jazeera for 25 years. Given what she saw and had to endure, courage and a singular understanding of the purpose and necessity of what she did and why she was doing it were required.

She had friends and foes. At home and abroad. She did not take a step back. Always forward, despite the risks, the damage and the grimness. Her only true reward, the knowledge that she told the truth about a people and land she loved.

Still, every news organisation – big or small – loves collecting awards. It means validation. Approval. Praise. There are journalists who pine for these ephemeral trinkets. I doubt Shireen did what she did for a fleeting award or two.

The profundity and permanence of what she did and why she did it transcends the burst of attention and plaudits for winning one of the countless number of trinkets that journalists dole out to each other every year.

There is, however, one award that will not only fix Shireen’s life’s work and memory in the world’s consciousness, but pay her the honour and recognition she has earned and deserves.

It is the Nobel Peace Prize.

Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to two fine journalists: a Russian and a Filipina.

The Nobel Committee said they had defended “freedom of expression” in the service of “democracy” and “exposed abuses of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism” in their homelands in the persistent face of “harassment, threats, and violence”.

That is what Shireen did every day for 25 years.

She embodied the best of journalism. She was a voice, a megaphone, for others who, otherwise, would not be heard. She exposed the venal and the corrupt. She confronted the architects of violence in the streets and the scarred vistas of Palestine. She documented the deep, lasting human consequences of invasions and wars. She challenged. She questioned. She resisted complacency and the impulse to accept things as they are. She preferred, instead, to imagine how things could be.

I know that the Nobel Committee does not award its prizes posthumously. I also know the Nobel Committee is not in the habit of bestowing its Peace Prize on journalists often.

It should, for once, break those rules on October 7, 2022.

This will require the Nobel Committee to show the kind of courage it celebrates every year, the kind of courage that defined Shireen.

This will require courage since the Nobel Committee will be attacked by the same rank politicians, governments and hysterics who shout crude epithets at anyone who challenges Israel on any score.

Let them shout.

This will require the Nobel Committee to acknowledge what human rights groups inside and outside Israel have documented in precise, exhaustive detail: Israel is an apartheid state responsible for the inhumane horrors and cruelties that Palestinians – innocent children, women and men – suffer and that Shireen revealed for 25 years in a measured way with grace and determination.

This will require the Nobel Committee to admit that, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, Israel targets Palestinian journalists including Shireen, in sinister and lethal ways, to intimidate them, to demoralize them, to silence them, to stop them from telling the truth.

Awarding Shireen Abu Akleh the Nobel Peace Prize would be a just and indelible act of remembrance that would reverberate in the Middle East and beyond. It would be tangible testament that she mattered, that her work mattered and that the sickening manner of her death mattered.

The Nobel Peace Prize would preserve her history and offer a firm rebuttal to the rank politicians, governments and hysterics who would rather she drift slowly out of view.

Finally, it would, for a proud, shining moment, replace, but could never erase, that last, awful image of Shireen face down, in a ditch.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.