The man who caught an Israeli Defense Forces soldier on video shooting dead a wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron was threatened with arrest when he tried to report death threats and harassment in the months following the video's release in March.
Imad Abushamsiya filmed IDF Sergeant Elor Azaria effectively executing Palestinian Abdel Fatah Sharif, who had attempted to attack the soldier with a knife and was already immobilized with an injury. A second Palesitnian attacker was also killed.
The video was released by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, for which Abushamsiya volunteers, sparking international outrage over the killing and the fact that Israeli forces left Sharif’s dead body in the street for over half an hour.
Since exposing the shooting, Abushamsiya has reportedly received a barrage of threats, including on social media. According to B’Tselem, Abushamsiya attempted on three consecutive days last week to report the harassment to Israeli police in Hebron, occupied like the rest of the West Bank. Twice he was turned away, and on the third time he was threatened with arrest if he didn’t drop his attempts to file a report.
The case mirrors recent killings of African-Americans by white police officers in the U.S. In leaving Sharif's body in the street , the incident was reminiscent of the August 2014 police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose uncovered corpse was left in the streets of a St. Louis suburb for hours after he was fatally shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
And Abushamsiya's harassment is similar to that of Ramsey Orta's who filmed police officers in Staten Island wresting Eric Garner to the ground and applying a fatal stranglehold. Next month, he begins a four-year sentence on gun-and drug charges, and remains, to date, the only person at the scene of Garner's death who has been charged with a crime.
Abushamsiya told The Independent that he fears for the safety of his family. He was forced to leave his home for days in light of the threats, according to the alternative publication 972 Magazine.
B’Tselem has submitted a complaint over the disparaging treatment of its volunteer, calling on the police in Hebron to accept Abushimsiya’s report and take steps to address the threats he has received. The complaint also demanded police investigate why the report was rejected and punish those responsible for turning him away.
Abushimsiya’s legal representative Gaby Lasky wrote in a letter to the police that officers’ treatment of Abushamsiya was an example of “brazen disrespect, seriously violating his dignity.”
“There is no doubt that the conduct of the police amounts to serious disciplinary offenses against my client, and even the criminal offense of abuse of power,” continued Lasky.
Meanwhile, Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot dead Sharif in March, is on trial over the killing. The case — and Abushiamsiya’s video evidence of what happened — has sparked already high-running tensions in the occupied West Bank.
According to AFP, escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict since last October has claimed the lives of more than 215 Palestinians and more than 30 Israelis.