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Death in Bilin: IDF Doctors Found ‘Prolonged Exposure’ to CS Gas Lethal

idf teargas in bilin

Teargas clouds in Bilin: prolonged exposure can cause death (Oren Ziv/Active Stills)

The Forward publishes today an eye-opening follow-up to the Jawaher Abu Rahme story.  It seems that the IDF’s own doctors published a study in an academic journal noting that the type of CS gas used in the Bilin demonstrations could be lethal:

A 2003 article published by four Israeli army doctors in Archives of Toxicology noted that CS gas…causes tearing and burning for about 15 to 30 minutes, and this is lessened if people are moved into fresh air. The army has insisted on the safety of CS beyond these immediate effects. But the Israeli army doctors’ article noted, “At high concentrations, enclosed spaces, or prolonged exposures, severe side effects may occur and human deaths…have been reported.”

A 2009 article in the British Medical Journal came to similar conclusions, noting that tear gas is “not a gas at all, but a toxic chemical irritant.”

Instead of examining the circumstances under which the IDF prepared and conducted its teargas barrage on unarmed Palestinian protestors to determine whether something might have led this particular incident to be more lethal than others, the IDF obfuscates by insinuating that Abu Rahme really died of cancer or asthma or that she wasn’t even at the protest (she was in fact 150 feet away near her home, but the massive flow of teargas engulfed her and her mother).

You remember the standard definition of insanity: repeating the same failed action in the belief that next time it will work.  In that light, and after reading that the army’s own doctors warned of such lethal effects from CS, we must call the IDF’s approach to policing the Bilin demonstration certified insanity:

The Israeli military source says the army does not plan to change its methods. A statement released by the spokesman noted: “The tear gas used by the IDF, like all other riot dispersal means, is checked rigorously before being put into active use. During the approval process, the device passed all the necessary tests and approvals.”

You have to wonder whether IDF spokespeople are merely idiots or whether there’s some sort of method to their stupidity.  Of course, the tear gas and rifle launchers worked as advertised.  The problem wasn’t mechanical.  The problem was the human beings (let’s be charitable, shall we) who determined to use the gas in such a way that it not only can, but will likely kill people.  The Forward article notes that at least one other such demonstrator died from tear gas inhalation, so Jawaher wasn’t the first.

Really, when you come right down to it, the IDF doesn’t give a crap about the lives of the Palestinians they kill (or the ones they don’t).  If they cared and felt they’d be held accountable for this massive shande, they’d behave differently.  You could even argue that the IDF is happy to kill them, perhaps thinking mistakenly it might be a deterrent to others who fear for their lives.  But I’d argue that these deaths and the furor they arouse inside and especially outside Israel will fuel, rather than quell the unrest in Bilin and along the route of what should be called the Land-Grab Wall.

Israel’s supporters grow apoplectic when you talk about the need for international justice and arresting Israeli generals and sending them to the Hague.  But what else can you do?  There can be no justice in Israel.  What judge has the stomach to look an IDF sergeant in the eye and call him a killer for firing tear gas canisters at Palestinians?  Let’s be real.  The only way to get justice is to go outside Israel.  Only an international court has the distance and resolve to judge these issues fairly.  I, like Richard Goldstone, would like to see Israel police itself, investigate and punish itself for the deeds of the guilty.  But it ain’t gonna happen.

Speaking of mendacious, underhanded IDF spin, Yossi Gurvitz writes a masterful post exposing the hitherto unidentified army source who spewed so much trash about Jawaher, which was eaten up by the Israeli media.  Gurvitz noted the two-pronged strategy of IDF media manipulation: the official spokesperson says little and notes there is an investigation.  But the senior army commander speaking anonymously trash talks about the dead woman.  This way, when his speculation and spin are exposed for the lies they are, the IDF can fall back on the official position and claim it never really officially said any of the things reported from the general’s mouth.  It really has to be read to be believed.

As Martin Luther King would remind us were he alive to do so, Israelis aren’t the only ones culpable for this death.  We all are.  Our own U.S. government exported this lethal agent to Israel and gave its blessing for use against defenseless Palestinian civilians.  A U.S. company manufactured this product and helped kill Jawaher as well.  In fact, I was delighted to hear that the day after her death, Israeli activists threw empty tear gas canisters collected in Bilin at the home of the U.S. ambassador outside Tel Aviv.  We should lay the weapon that killed Jahawer right at his doorstep and demand an answer from the government as to what it plans to do to ensure such murder doesn’t happen again.  So far things aren’t looking good in that vein:

Asked to comment on Israel’s use of the tear gas, a State Department representative told the Forward, “The United States expects any recipient of U.S. defense articles to use those items in accordance with the terms and conditions of any U.S. transfer.”

Israeli diplomatic sources said Israel had not, so far, received any inquiries from Washington regarding the use of tear gas in the Bil’in incident.

Well, Mr. State Department representative, just what are the “terms and conditions” of U.S. transfer?  Do they say that U.S.-made CS may be used to quell non-violent Palestinian demonstrations and kill innocent women?  As for the Israeli response, if the U.S. hasn’t “inquired” about this killing and our role in it they damn well should.  What do we pay you for, Madame Secretary (Clinton)??

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • shmuel January 6, 2011, 5:33 AM

    There is of course no justification for the killing whatsoever.

    No excuses.

    But please don’t say all the time that the demonstrations are “non-violent” from the Palestinian side. Sometimes there is stone throwing, and sometimes violence in the form of hitting soldiers with sticks, etc.Sometimes soldiers too are injured.

    Who started? No idea, but it’s not “non-violent” and neither side belongs to the 36 righteous.

    Again, no excuse for the killing.

    • Deïr Yassin January 6, 2011, 9:57 AM

      # Shmuel)
      “No excuse for the killing”. Thank you, the rest isn’t really necessary.

      I’ve heard the haredim can be pretty ‘violent’ too when they protest. Never heard of anyone killed, though.

      • Shai January 6, 2011, 12:38 PM

        Every idealistic and/or fundamentalist protester can be and usually is violent. From nationalist Palestinians to Jewish settlers, Haredim, and sometimes the far left.

        • Deïr Yassin January 6, 2011, 2:39 PM

          Yeah, but 21 persons have been killed protesting against the Wall. How many Haredim or Jewish settlers have been killed during protests ? We know from various Israeli Jewish sources that the IDF acts differently whether they deal with Jewish/Western or Palestinian protesters.

          • Shai January 6, 2011, 5:24 PM

            But of course, that is because Palestinian protesters are “the enemy”.

    • Richard Silverstein January 6, 2011, 1:13 PM

      THey key is that there had been absolutely no violence whatsoever at the time of the tear gas attack that killed Jawaher. This is confirmed by mulitple eyewitnesses. That’s why I use these terms. When there is stone throwing it’s almost always after the initial assault fr. the IDF. Were there no tear gas or shooting fr. the IDF there’d be no violence. In other words, whatever small amt. of violence there might be is entirely provoked.

      • Deïr Yassin January 6, 2011, 2:47 PM

        I have no link as I can’t remember where I read this. But I’ve read that Mistaravim infiltrate the non-violent protests in the West Bank, that they act very violently, and the source said that that’s how they realized they were infiltrators. I know this happened also recently during the protest againt a right-wing rally in Umm al-Fahm. An infiltrator was wounded when participating in the protest (Maan News).
        If someone has any informations on the West Bank mistaravim, I’ll be grateful.

        • dickerson3870 January 6, 2011, 3:43 PM

          RE: “I’ve read that Mistaravim infiltrate the non-violent protests in the West Bank…” – Deïr Yassin
          FROM HAARETZ, 09/24/10:

          The IDF has admitted in court in the past that mistaravim sometimes joined the rock-throwers. They say they did so in order not to blow their cover. No exposure could be greater. For who can distinguish the pretend Palestinian rock-throwers from all the actual Palestinians who wish to make their voices heard – and say who is really interested in throwing rocks. Disguises are always deceiving, dependent on context. If rock-throwing is absolutely reprehensible, then joining in is just as reprehensible…

          SOURCE – http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/slings-and-errors-1.315482

          • Richard Silverstein January 7, 2011, 1:43 AM

            If the IDF allows their own agents to throw rocks at its soldiers you can imagine just how dangerous the rock-throwing really is to them.

          • Deïr Yassin January 7, 2011, 8:27 AM

            Thank you, dickerson3870.
            In fact, the source that I’m referring to went much further. According to him, the infiltrators did not throw stones in order not to blow up their cover. They actaully initiated the violence in non-violent protests. I think it was some Israeli peace activist, former IDF.

          • dickerson3870 January 7, 2011, 1:12 PM


            (relevant excerpts)…Riyad Muhammad Yassin Barnat, a 28-year-old construction worker and farmer, father of four, and ‘Alian Ibrahim Ahmad Abu Rahmeh, a 29-year-old school-bus driver, father of two, have been detained by the Israeli army following a peaceful demonstration in their West Bank village of Bil’in on 28 April 2005
            …Some 500 Palestinian villagers and around 200 Israeli peace activists participated in the demonstration. They informed the Israeli troops present at the scene, through loudspeakers and in Hebrew, that the march was strictly peaceful. But as the demonstrators gathered on the outskirts of the village and began marching in the direction of the fence/wall, Israeli forces shot tear gas at them, pushed and shoved some of them, and fired rock salt projectiles, injuring several of the demonstrators.
            Several masked mistaravim (a Hebrew term meaning ‘those who pretend to be Arabs’), undercover agents belonging to the Israeli Prison Service started to behave aggressively and threw stones at the soldiers. When the Palestinian villagers called on them to stop using violence and to leave the demonstration, they revealed their identity, pulled out their weapons, and arrested two Palestinian and four Israeli demonstrators…

            SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2010/02/50-years-after-we-were-liberated-by-north-carolina-lunchcounter-sit-in-times-calls-west-bank-protests-theatrical-spectacle.html

          • Deïr Yassin January 8, 2011, 3:52 AM

            Thank you so much, Dickerson3870.
            That was exactly the kind of things I’d been reading. Call you next time I can’t find my keys :-)

      • mary January 10, 2011, 11:46 AM

        When her brother Bassem was shot in the chest with a tear gas canister in 2009, there was no sign of violence then, either. Bassem was non-violent, discouraged stone throwing and always asked the soldiers to put down their weapons and listen. He wound up dead and no one was ever charged in his murder.

    • RichardL January 9, 2011, 1:23 PM

      Dear Shmuel,

      What are the sources of your information on the violence against the Israeli soldiers at Bil’in?

      I only went to the demo three times but I never saw a soldier hit with sticks nor anything like it. We always got tear gassed though. Sometimes the tear gas cannisters were thrown back and we cheered when the soldiers ran away from their own chemical weapons. Do you disapprove of that too?

      The stone throwing by the shabab takes place at a seperate part of the fence, or after the main demo has dispersed.

      I have never seen film of any soldier being hit at Bil’in either.

      If you don’t believe me why not go and take a look for yourself? But if not please refrain from regurgitating misinformation.

      As to who started it, I would say the occupying forces, the ones who stole the land, the ones who have ignored the Israeli Supreme Court decision to re-route the fence, the ones who occupy Palestinian land in defiance of the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN resolutions. Did you not know this either? You do have a lot of homework to do!

      • Richard Silverstein January 9, 2011, 6:25 PM

        Soldiers have been wounded though in almost every case superficially by rocks thrown. I think possibly in one case I heard of a broken bone. Compare that to 21 dead on the Palestinian side.

  • dickerson3870 January 6, 2011, 3:07 PM

    RE: “The problem was the human beings (let’s be charitable, shall we) who determined to use the gas in such a way that it not only can, but will likely kill people.” – R.S.
    MY SNARK: No, let’s not be charitable. I’m convinced they are actually “Pod People”. “They come from another world.”

    (excerpts) Invasion of the Body Snatchers received universal acclaim from critics and is considered one of the best films of 1956.[6][7][8] The film holds a 97% “Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[9] In recent years, critics have hailed the film as a “genuine Sci-Fi classic”[10] and one of the “most resonant” and “one of the simplest” of the genre.[11] The BBC wrote, “The sense of post-war, anti-communist paranoia is acute, as is the temptation to view the film as a metaphor for the tyranny of the McCarthy era.”[12]…
    …The film is widely viewed as a covert indictment of McCarthyism, with the turning of people into their characterless doubles when they fall asleep representing the dangers faced of America turning a blind eye to McCarthyism. Others, though, have viewed it as a metaphor of alienation in modern mass civilization, or an allegory for the loss of personal autonomy in the Soviet Union, or of bland conformity in postwar Dwight D. Eisenhower-era America. It is sometimes argued to be an indictment of the damage to the human personality caused by reductionist modern ideologies of Right and Left…

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Pod People) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Body_Snatchers
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Official Trailer [1956] (VIDEO, 02:20) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFnSxeDfENk

  • PersianAdvocate January 6, 2011, 8:49 PM

    The following texts from the Talmud EXPLICITLY forbid the killing of non-Jews:

    Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 26b sv. Velo; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Rotze’ach 2:11, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 10:1; R. Yoel Sirkes, Bayit Chadash, Yoreah Deah 158; Taz, Yoreh Deah 158:1; Beit Meir, Even HaEzer 17:3; R. Yosef Babad, Minchat Chinuch, 93:2; R. Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz, Chazon Ish, Bava Kamma 10:16.

    Now, how do we not know this is war? Let’s ask the poster boy for dishonesty:

    “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel”‎ ~Benjamin Netanyahu

    What do you do to figure out the truth? Simply invert what he said: “If Israel put down its weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Palestinians put down heir weapons today, the Palestinians would be ethnically cleansed, occupied under even harsher circumstances, or otherwise kept in a diminutive status.”

    Cast Lead is the prime example. “10,000 rockets” (figure probably exaggerated) killed less than you can find pictures of unique Palestinian BABIES if you simply type “Gaza” into Google Image Search. 10,000 so-called rockets killed less than the Carmel Fire.

    Now compare the statistics, or just simply look at this site which accurately compares them for you:

    I want the replies to my post to show CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE, not propaganda, not opinion, but real and substantive evidence. Thank you.

    • mary January 8, 2011, 10:26 AM

      Persian, I saw your post last night when I posted mine, but didn’t have a chance to really read it until now.

      Anyone who tries to post “contradictory evidence” will be spouting hasbara, i.e., lying. In fact, if one were to list all the incidents where Israeli soldiers killed Palestinian civilians during the past year alone, or stole land or poured sewage on farm fields, destroyed olive groves, bombed factories, flew fighter jets over Gaza in a threatening manner, shut off water, tore down homes and entire villages, you would find more justification for the Palestinians to go to war against Israel than any reasons Israel could come up with to justify attacking Gaza.

  • mary January 7, 2011, 2:12 PM

    I have watched so, so many videos of the Bilin demonstrations and I know one thing – the Israelis start firing tear gas as soon as the demonstrators come within range. They don’t wait for any stones to be thrown or for any other perceived aggressive acts, they just do it, and they do a lot of it.

    Years ago I took a basic course on handling and administering tear gas – at the time, I worked in a prison and I took the training as part of my job. One thing that the instructor was very, very clear about was that CS gas is deadly in heavy doses, so you must be very, very careful how you use it.

    Richard, you’re right. The IOF doesn’t give a crap if it kills Palestinians. What I find so disgusting is the lying – it’s like a child would lie with its hand in the cookie jar. It’s the cookies’ fault for being there, not the child’s fault for taking them. Any cookies taken were defective so it didn’t hurt anything to take them, right? According to the Israelis, all the Palestinians got what they deserved. The people who died on the Mavi Marmara got what they deserved. The 1,400 people who died in Cast Lead got what they deserved.

    I just wish they would explain why they think they are justified in killing people who object to having their land stolen. I’m waiting to hear this one, but I imagine it will be, “it’s what they deserve.”

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