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The untold story of how the killing of Abdulfattah al-Shareef was taped

Activism

Media all over the world have covered the case of the killing of Abdulfattah Al-Shareef, the Palestinian teenager who was shot in his head in cold blood by Israeli soldier Elor Azaria on 24th March 2016 in the Tel Rumeida district in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank. Hebron is unique among West Bank cities in that illegal Israeli settlements are distributed not only at its periphery, but also in the heart of the city, including in Tel Rumeida. These are accompanied by military checkpoints spread out over the city centre which prevent the free movement of its inhabitants, dividing the city into isolated sections which have become a sort of exhibition of contemporary apartheid, or – from the point of view of the terrorized inhabitants who remain – a ghost town.

The wide publicity which this particular video received (after it was published by B’Tselem) is a good and important thing, in so far as it helped to reveal the criminal acts which are perpetrated by Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank – the founding purpose of our group, Human Rights Defenders. And yet there are facts which have seldom been spoken about in the Israeli media, or indeed the international media, which continues to rely to a disproportionate extent on Israeli media sources for its information.

In particular, international media has had little to say about the story behind the filming of the attack. It wasn’t just good luck that placed a camera in the hands of a local Palestinian resident on that day in March. Rather, it was the result of a long, difficult campaign to organise a community.

Let’s start with the camera that Imad Abu Shamsiya used to film the killing. As it happens, that particular camera was one of four which were donated by a group of American activists based on Northern California. We received them after the Israeli army broke into my house roughly a year ago, and began to trash its contents. I’d been filming an incursion by the army into my neighbourhood as they carried out warrantless searches of nearby houses. Perhaps ironically, that’s what attracted their attention. The film was distributed online, where it caught the attention of our generous Californian partners who went on to donate the cameras, which we in turn distributed to vulnerable families in the neighbourhood, forming the basis of an expanded campaign of citizen journalism which we decided to call ‘Capturing the Occupation’.

This is becoming a familiar pattern. The very attempts made by the military forces occupying our communities to suppress our documentation of their violations of our rights and hold them to account produce further violations which end up increasing our resolve, and that of our growing network of international partners.

Imad Abu Shamsiya and I founded Human Rights Defenders in 2014 with precisely this purpose: documenting crimes and violations carried out by the occupation. I was fresh at the time from working on a campaign to free the imprisoned lawyer Shireen Issawi, as a result of which I’d been invited to Geneva with Shireen’s parents to contribute to an Al-Jazeera film. The experience stuck with me. I was struck by just how strong a global response a local campaign like this one could produce. Imad, meanwhile – formerly a professional wedding photographer – was already building up a local reputation for his film work. One of our main goals establishing the group was not just to do citizen journalism ourselves, but also to produce a body of Palestinians who were active in this media work as well, and in other forms of nonviolent resistance resistance. We consider media work as particularly important for its role in exposing the crimes of the occupation to the world, creating pressure for action by institutions such as the International Criminal Court, and helping to counter the false picture that is often presented in the global media

What happened in the military court last Wednesday was a media performance with the goal of dispelling the picture of Israel formed by the world when it saw an Israeli soldier who – fully aware of his actions, with premeditation, and in front of witnesses – opened fire on a boy, Abdulfattah alShareef, who was lying on the ground and did not pose any threat to anyone around. The strength of Imad’s video is precisely that it reveals all these details so clearly, even though in the end the Israeli judges came to decide on a charge of manslaughter – a charge which, since it implies the absence of intention to kill. Once again, Israel has failed the test of integrity and justice required of a democratic state. We see the trial more as political theatre with the aim of projecting democracy and justice than as the real thing – a smokescreen designed to get Israel off the hook and weaken the case for taking incidents like these to the International Criminal Court.

The ruling falls short of justice. But thanks to the work of comrade Imad, the truth of the matter can no longer be easily concealed. This is the right of the Palestinian people, and the right of all those who support us worldwide. We are proud, at Human Rights Defenders to have been the ones who documented the killing of Abdul Fattah al-Shareef.

Badia Dwaik
About Badee Dwaik

Badee Dwaik is the Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Group in Palestine and an activist in Hebron.

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10 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    January 12, 2017, 4:08 pm

     الله يخليك ويبارك لك

  2. talknic
    talknic
    January 12, 2017, 6:41 pm

    In the ZioZoo there is no intention to kill when shooting someone in the head at close range.

    AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

  3. brent
    brent
    January 13, 2017, 12:22 pm

    “One of our main goals…… a body of Palestinians who were active in this media work and in other forms of nonviolent resistance resistance….. and helping to counter the false picture that is often presented in the global media”

    It’s become apparent how more effective the taking pictures is than the throwing of stones. They both take great courage. One is a challenge to the occupation, the other reinforces it. When enough Palestinian youth appreciate the value in creating peephole blinds from which to photograph, the more powerful they become.

    How to contribute to more cameras?

  4. genesto
    genesto
    January 13, 2017, 1:01 pm

    Pardon me if I beat my chest a little, but I am part of the Northern California organization, Norcal ISM, that paid for and delivered the cameras given to the activists. With all of the negative news we get from Gaza and the West Bank, it’s reassuring that we are making at least a modicum of a difference in this seemingly intractable cause.

    As for how any of you can help purchase more cameras, first go to the web site, http://www.ism-norcal.org, hit the ‘Donate’ button, then make your donation. Separately, you can request that the money go towards purchasing more cameras by expressing that wish by pressing the ‘Contact Us’ button and writing a memo in that regard.

    Thanks and good luck!

  5. genesto
    genesto
    January 13, 2017, 3:44 pm

    BTW, what was the problem with mentioning Norcal ISM as the source from the beginning, Phil??

    • annie
      annie
      January 13, 2017, 4:24 pm

      phil didn’t write the article and likely didn’t even know that information when the article was published, adam either. maybe you should try contacting the writer. is there any other coverage about this mentioning norcal? because i read wapo’s article and don’t recall them mentioning it either.

      • genesto
        genesto
        January 13, 2017, 6:12 pm

        My apologies. I misunderstood that, for some reason, ISM was not being given proper credit. Now I understand that there was misinformation from the beginning. Thanks, by the way, to Mondoweiss for publishing the article.

        Anyway, now that this has been cleared up, hopefully ISM can get some much-needed funding for this critically-needed program.

    • Paul Larudee
      Paul Larudee
      January 13, 2017, 5:38 pm

      Annie’s right. Badee sent me a draft of the article and he actually didn’t mention ISM-NorCal in that draft, either. I’m glad he got some help with it (from Annie?) and that it got published on MondoWeiss. Badee reported that no one contacted him or HRD about the the Jan 9 article by Sheren Khalel, not WaPo, not CNN, not Sheren – nobody. My guess is that the false information was from WaPo and CNN and just kept getting passed on. Perhaps B’Tselem innocently thought it was part of their excellent camera distribution program and that was the original source.

      In any case, ISM-Northern California responded to an appeal from HRD in late 2015 and did a special fundraising to supply them with professional cameras to replace the broken one, as well as a computer, projector and other equipment. So far, we have sent four high quality cameras, five beginner cameras, two computers, a high quality projector and more. We are planning to send at least four more high quality cameras and another computer.

      We’re ready to send some of this equipment now if we can find travelers going to Palestine from the US. After we verify the bona fides of the traveler, we’ll send the equipment to you and provide you with the contact info. All of the pieces are pretty small and light. We live on a shoestring and can always use more funding but we have the funds to send some of the equipment right away.

      We also sponsor volunteers wishing to participate with ISM in Palestine. Please contact the ISM-NorCal group for more info.

      • annie
        annie
        January 13, 2017, 5:53 pm

        no i didn’t help with the article paul — didn’t read it till after it was published. thanks for your efforts and thanks to ISM for providing the cameras.

  6. Badia Dwaik
    Badia Dwaik
    January 14, 2017, 11:35 am

    Dear supporters Nor Cal ISM

    I would like strongly say that I’m with any change makes our thankful more powerful for those people who donated with the cameras and the main goal from my article when I wrote it to say that but I was afraid to mention your name as an organization for security reason till you not face problem with USA government.
    I swear with my name this article wrote for that and tell the world now that you guys who contribute with this cameras and HRDg with any thing can make those people feel they get our we respect and appreciate your generosity .

    I would like again to send our deep thankful and grateful for your help and support for Human Rights Defenders group .

    With my best

    Badee Dwaik

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