Over the past year, I have watched multiple news reports about the rise of African-Americans being killed by police officers, specifically in Chicago. Many of these victims are teens who come from checkered pasts or are suspected of crimes. They deserve to be arrested and prosecuted in a court of law; they don't deserve to be summarily executed by police or soldiers.
One of the most shocking incidents was the killing of Laquan McDonald, a troubled young African-American who police said was carrying a small knife when Chicago police officers stopped him walking down the middle of the street. Officer Jason Van Dyke stepped out of his police car and fired his weapon. The 17-year-old boy fell to the pavement, incapacitated but still alive. The officer then unloaded his weapon, hitting the boy's body a total of 16 times.
The killing could have vanished into the abyss of government bureaucracy and lies, except for the fact that one of the squad car's cameras captured every moment. The video (which can be viewed on my website) was not released until about a year after the shooting, and was released to the public without audio. The footage contradicted Van Dyke, who told investigators that McDonald had threatened him. Several of his police colleagues backed him up. The Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez was tasked with investigating this case, and many accused her of waiting too long to bring murder charges against Van Dyke.
In a world where human rights are so important, it's very wrong to kill people in cold blood because we are angry with them, fear them, because they are "accused" of crimes or because we stereotype them with racial slurs.
But last week's events in the Palestinian city of Hebron show that that's not the case in Israel.
I've been to Hebron many times. It has been placed under military occupation by Israel. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are severely restricted, while Israeli settlers (Jewish Israeli settlers, by the way) roam freely with Israeli military protection. The lands of Palestinian Christians and Muslims there have been confiscated and given to Jewish settlers. Tension and anger is rising as a result.
Last week, two Palestinian men attacked two heavily armed Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Hebron. According to the Israeli military, the Palestinian men had not been provoked when they attacked the soldiers. It's worth acknowledging that in many cases, Israeli soldiers have been known to intentionally provoke non-Jewish civilians in order to engage in violence and justify their brutality. And Israel cracks down on media critics: It has been known to prevent objective media and activists from covering flash points like this incident. Oftentimes, the Israeli media serves as Israel's PR arm or they self-censor to avoid hassles.
In this incident, one of the Palestinian men stabbed and wounded one of the soldiers. After that, one of the Palestinian men was shot dead on the spot. The other was shot once and was lying motionless on the ground, still alive.
Again, all of this may have been brushed under the rug. But an activist named Emad Abu-Shamsiya, who is involved in the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, filmed the scene.
In his video, which can be found on my website, the Palestinian men were left on the ground as medical trucks, medical teams, more armed soldiers and settlers converged at the scene. A soldier approaches the injured Palestinian on the ground. The man tilts his head slightly. A truck then passes in front of the camera when a gunshot is heard. When the truck passes, we see that the soldier fired into the man's head. His head was tilted back and a pool of his blood flowed down the inclined street. It's a disgusting scene.
Later on in a military courtroom, the Israeli soldier defended his acts, saying that he killed man because he suspected him of wearing an explosive vest. Abu-Shamsiya was threatened while filming and investigated by the Israeli army after his video was released. This evidence makes it harder for Israel to brush their own violence under the immoral rug of hypocrisy.
You see, like the dashcam video of the McDonald murder, Abu-Shamsiya's video exposed the truth. But there are, of course, some differences between the two incidents. We know the names of the guilty policeman and the teenager he killed. But Israel's government wouldn't publish the name of the Israeli soldier who killed the civilian. Somehow, the killing of the Palestinian civilian feels much more sickening. But even more disturbing is how Israel tries to cover up or minimize these acts of violent terror.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, and writer at Al-Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.