THE murder of the respected Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli army on Wednesday has sent shockwaves around the world. The Palestinian reporter died while fearlessly covering a raid by Israeli soldiers in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

A second Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was also shot in the back. He is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

Despite eyewitness reports that one or more Israeli snipers had deliberately targeted Abu Akleh and al-Samoudi – who were clearly marked as members of the press – the Israeli authorities immediately tried to blame Palestinians for her death. Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett – a far-right Israeli nationalist who has boasted: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that” – stated on Wednesday morning that it was “likely” that the journalist was killed by “armed Palestinians”.

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Bennett’s outrageous claim was soon trashed by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, whose analyses of the evidence led them to conclude that there was “no chance” that Palestinian fighters were responsible. The Israeli authorities subsequently changed their position, saying that they now “cannot determine” responsibility.

Israel’s promise of a “robust” inquiry into the killing of Abu Akleh has been given short shrift by rights groups. Human Rights Watch said that such investigations by the Israeli authorities amount to nothing more than “whitewash mechanisms.”

The apparent deliberate assassination of the journalist has caused shock and consternation around the world. Appalling though her murder is, however, the truly shocking fact is that such assaults upon the Palestinian people by Israel are commonplace.

Not that you’d know from the reporting of the BBC or much of the UK press, the killing and maiming of Palestinians by the farcically misnamed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) takes place with appalling regularity. In the first four months of this year, for instance, the Geneva-based group Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said Israel killed 47 Palestinians (including eight children and two women) – a five-fold increase on the same period last year. Such has been the plight of the Palestinian people, not for months or years, but for more than seven decades. Ever since the State of Israel was established in 1948, by means of the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs by Zionist forces, and Israel’s subsequent illegal expansion into the West Bank and Gaza following the Six Day War in 1967, Palestinians have either lived in diaspora as refugees, or else been directly subjected to Israel’s Occupation and the separation walls, checkpoints, house demolitions, illegal settlements and daily humiliations it entails.

The obvious and unbearable injustice that lies at the heart of what is euphemistically called “the Israel-Palestine conflict” has led millions around the world into solidarity with Palestine. No lesser experts on racial apartheid than Nelson Mandela and the late Bishop Desmond Tutu described Israel as an apartheid state, lending their considerable voices to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli state.

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Sadly – despite the SNP containing some brave voices for Palestine, such as former MSP Sandra White – Nicola Sturgeon’s government tilts towards Israel, denouncing BDS as a response to Israel’s illegal Occupation (whilst, notably, giving its full backing to sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is even worse, opportunistically smearing as “anti-Semitic” anyone who speaks up for Palestine.

Starmer has slandered Jeremy Corbyn (the most consistently anti-racist leader of a mainstream political party in the UK for decades) as a Judeophobic bigot and suspended him from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Even more obscenely, he and his witch finders have suspended from Labour a series of principled Jewish party members, including the respected activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.

The impact of such witch hunts is that many people who might otherwise speak up for Palestine fall silent, for fear of being falsely accused of anti-Jewish racism themselves. We can safely give up on most elected Labour politicians – the proverbial chill travels hopelessly along Labour benches looking for a spine to run up.

However, for the rest of us – moral vertebrates, if you will – the callous murder of Shireen Abu Akleh should serve as the starkest possible reminder that support for the rights of the Palestinians is an urgent ethical responsibility.