(UR) Palestine & Israel — You might remember recent video of an Israeli soldier who put a bullet in a 21-year-old Palestinian’s head as he lay sprawled out on the ground, almost motionless and severely wounded. You might also remember the close-up shot of blood gushing out of the young man’s head while two ambulances stood idly by, treating another lightly wounded IDF soldier, instead.
What you might not have thought about is that there was someone else at the scene. Someone we have heard much less about but whose presence there was perhaps the most significant, as without him, this incident would have just been buried under the mounting piles of undocumented human rights violations that are going increasingly unnoticed. That person is Abu Imad Shamsiyya; the man who captured this injustice on camera and then put it online for the international community to witness.
Shamsiyya is human rights activist who has devoted many years to exposing the abuses that Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been subjected to by Israeli settlers.
“When you have a camera in your hands, you feel that there is at least something you can do to take control of a situation in which you can easily feel powerless,” Shamsiyya said on OpenDemocracy.net.
He recalls how he first became interested in joining the fight against oppression, when Israeli soldiers stationed on his family’s rooftop in Hebron had casually thrown a rock at his daughter, hitting her on the face. It was then that Shamsiyya and his wife Faiza decided that they needed to become more actively involved and joined B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that showed them how to safely document these kind of abuses for the whole world to see. After that, Shamsiyya co-founded a grassroots organization, the Human Rights Defenders, and helped mobilise and train other Palestinians to do the same with the hope that justice would one day ensue.
Since it went viral, the video of last week’s execution has sparked global outrage. Even among Israelis, major polarisations are beginning to take shape. Some have decried the situation and pressed for punitive action, while others are going as far as to make the soldier out to be some kind of a misunderstood war hero.
Despite the brutal footage of the needless killing, a court decided on Thursday the 17-year-old IDF soldier would not be charged with murder due to “reasonable doubt … given the complexity” of the incident. Despite witness accounts that the soldier said the victim“deserved to die” prior to opening fire, the court opted only for charges of manslaughter.
For Shamsiyya and his family, things have gotten especially intense.
He recalls many instances in the past where they had suffered continuous harassment in the hands of the Israeli settlers, once just barely escaping death. But now they are more afraid than ever. Just a few nights ago, the family received a hostile phone call threatening to burn their house to the ground. The following day, a group people broke into their house to insult and intimidate them. The family now barely leaves the house for fear of being targeted.
Despite the fear and intimidation, the human rights defender seems determined to continue the fight. In Shamsiyya’s own words on OpenDemocracy.net:
“As Palestinians, we never feel safe. We have lived all of our lives in a country where we are made to feel that we are always in the wrong place at the wrong time; where we have no stake at all in the forces that control our destiny, and where each of us has always had to deal with the nagging feeling, sometimes waxing, sometimes waning, but always there, that we, or those we love could any day be shot down […] But each injustice we document feels like a small step to freedom all the same.”
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