‘Appalling, deeply disturbing’ — US, EU slam police violence at reporter’s funeral

The U.S. and European Union slam Israeli police for clashing with mourners at funeral; Police announce they’ve opened probe into use of force at the event.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The U.S. and the European Union released statements condemning Israel for the police’s use of force at the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, with Jerusalem pledging to open a probe into the matter.

Images of police physically clashing with mourners, whom security forces said threw rocks and other projectiles at officers, as well as waved Palestinian flags and chanted nationalistic slogans, were broadcast live on TV.

During the chaotic funeral procession, at least six people were arrested. At one point, as Israeli police struck members of the crowd with batons, Abu Akleh’s coffin was seen wobbling and nearly toppled to the ground.

In a statement shortly afterwards, the police said they had aimed for the funeral to be carried out in a “respectful, dignified manner” but some bad actors seized Abu Akleh’s casket against her family’s wishes, forcing security forces to intervene.

Despite that explanation, the optics of police fighting with mourners and one end of the coffin hitting the ground were enough to spark major backlash from international powers, including the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday that the U.S. was “deeply troubled to see the images of Israeli police intruding into her funeral procession. Every family deserves to be able to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the funeral scenes were “deeply disturbing” during a media conference on Friday.

The event should have been used to mark “the memory of a remarkable journalist who lost her life,” Psaki told reporters. “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”

In a strongly-worded statement, the European Union said it was “appalled” by Israeli police actions at the funeral.

“The EU condemns the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behavior by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession,” the statement read.

“Allowing for a peaceful farewell and letting mourners grieve in peace without harassment and humiliation, is the minimal human respect,” it added.

On Saturday evening, the Israeli police announced that it “will be looking into the events that ensued during the funeral.”

The statement added the institution “supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident.”

The probe was reportedly ordered by Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev.