Thursday 6 January 2011

Jawaher Abu Rahma - A Death at Bil’in

The killing of innocent Palestinians by Israeli forces, whether the IDF or illegal settlers, has become so common-place that the people killed are often just lumped together as numbers and then forgotten.  In the most recent case, that of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, this may not happen.  Jawaher Abu Rahmah died on 1st January from teargas inhalation after she and others were attacked with a CS teargas barrage while at the weekly demonstration against the Separation Wall at Bil’in on 31st December 2010.
As is unfortunately all too usual in these cases the IDF immediately denied that it had anything to do with Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s death.  First they simply asserted that she did not die from teargas inhalation, but that she suffered from asthma or some other condition and it was this that caused or contributed to her death.  They then claimed that she wasn’t actually at the demonstration, so therefore could not have been killed by teargas.  They also incredibly tried to claim that she has been killed by a member of her own family in some kind of honour killing.  Finally they admitted that teargas was used, but only in response to stone-throwing by demonstrators.  All of these claims have now been proved to be lies, all lies.
In this case over 1000 people, Israelis, Palestinians and internationals participated in the demonstration against the Separation Wall.  Eye witness accounts from some of those present provide us with clear evidence of what did in fact happen.  Here is the testimony of her mother, Soubhiya Abu Rahmah, “I was standing beside Jawaher on the hill that is near the place where the demonstration took place, when we were injured by a cloud of tear gas.  Jawaher began to fell unwell from inhaling the gas and started to move back from the place: soon after that she vomited and collapsed.  We took her to the nearest road, and from there she was evacuated by ambulance to the hospital, where she remained until her death.  She was not sick with cancer, nor did she have any other illness; and she was not asthmatic.”  You can read more of these eye-witness accounts here.
Also present at the demonstration was Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf, and here is part of his eye- witness account, “The march was completely peaceful - there was even a brass band present.  From what I could see, the tear gas was fired by the IDF well before the march got even close to the fence - and it was fired directly at the unarmed protestors walking on the main road.  I remember feeling surprised, because the soldiers usually let the march go a bit further before they shoot.   You could see it all very clearly on the following video, taken on last Friday’s protest.  You can see how far the soldiers are from the protest when they start shooting tear gas.  The stones are thrown off the road.  An effort by the protesters (including a brave sax player) to march again to the fence is met with more gas - this time, the canisters are shot directly at the protesters in the illegal way that led to the death of Bassam Abu Rahmah last year.”  Noam’s full report can be read here.   A summing up of the various accounts can be found here.
What is most disturbing about all this is that the IDF’s crude attempts to distort the truth were pretty much accepted by a fawning Israeli press, with the honourable exception of Haaretz.  In today’s Israel the IDF is accorded God like status.  Were it not for the eye-witness accounts, including those of many brave Israeli Jews, and the use of the internet very few people would know what really happened.  For more on the IDF’s attempts to smear Jawaher, Richard Silverstein has an informative article here.  While the ever insightful Magnes Zionist has a great piece on how the IDF spin machine works.
The good news is that more of the truth about Israel and the IDF is getting out to the general public.  As a result more and more people, including Jews both in Israel and the USA are finally beginning to despair of Israel.  This is of course no consolation for Jawaher Abu Rahmah and her family.  Not only have they lost a daughter, but their son Bassam Abu Rahmah was also killed by IDG teargas while on a non-violent demonstration in 2009.  The IDF has a lot to answer for.  
As does the USA and its taxpayers who continue to fund these killings.  The teargas used to kill Jawaher is produced in the USA by Combined Systems, Inc.  They are the leading supplier of teargas used by the Israeli military against peaceful Palestinian protestors.  The type of teargas used in this case is CS, which is one of the most lethal types of teargas available.  Why US taxpayers continue to give away their scarce dollars to fund Israeli killings is a bit of a mystery.  Especially as the use of teargas as an attack weapon against civilians is almost certainly in contravention of US laws.  In another sign that the tide is beginning to turn against Israel, at least some Americans have formally protested to Combined Systems about this misuse of teargas.  You can read their letter here.
Our thoughts are with the family of Jawaher AbuRahmah - may her memory live forever.

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