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)??
- From Bilin to Tel Aviv, outrage at killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah (josephdana.com)
- A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Abu Rahmeh Story (jeremiahhaber.com)
- Combined Systems Inc’s lethal products (warincontext.org)
- Open letter to Combined Systems Inc, Maker of Israeli Tear Gas (josephdana.com)