If it weren’t so tragic, it would actually be entertaining to watch Israel work every possible legal and political angle to get its way in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The IDF, intelligence agencies, and military lawyers would put those of Kafka’s The Trial to shame. And they’ve worked their magic once again in the case of Tristan Anderson, American peace activist who was shot in the head at an anti-Separation Wall demonstration several months ago, suffering serious brain injury for which he is still hospitalized.
It simply would not do for Israel to accept any responsibility for assaulting and nearly killing an unarmed, non-violent protestor who posed no threat to Israeli personnel. As a matter of principle, Israel believes it must refuse comfort to its enemies, even if Israel itself has inflicted the suffering. Thus we learn that the government has informed Anderson’s Israeli lawyers that he was shot under an “act of war.” This seems to be the equivalent in insurance lingo of an “act of God.” In other words, in the midst of war all sins are excused and no one is responsible no matter how heinous the act. Just witness the IDF’s approach to the Gaza war. Plenty of incidents verging on war crimes but somehow the army comes out smelling like a rose: it was an act of war, don’t you know.
The idea that an Israeli army facing a melange of Palestinian and international demonstrators armed with nothing more than the shirts on their backs and the sounds of their own voice constitutes an act of war is an insult to the world’s intelligence. Yes, some demonstrators at Bilin do throw rocks at heavily armed IDF soldiers who have rarely endured so much as a scratch. But Tristan Anderson was not one of these and there was absolutely no violence in the area when he was attacked.
Further, after B’Tselem admonished the IDF and insisted it direct its forces NOT to fire high velocity tear gas canisters at demonstrators’ bodies (heads, actually) as is its custom, no action has been taken. This would be the equivalent in a civil action where a defendant not only causes injury to the plaintiff but refuses to correct the dangerous condition that caused the injury. Any lawyer fresh out of law school could tell you that’s a recipe for a major financial penalty.
Israel has already agreed to pay the filmmaker James Miller’s family a $2.2-million settlement after the British attorney general threatened legal action against the government if it didn’t take heed. I expect the same thing will happen in this case, especially if the U.S. government acts as boldly as the Brits did (and they should). And I say more power to the Anderson family. If Israel can’t be made to see reason through moral suasion then stick it to them in the pocketbook. Enough of these settlements and maybe a few Israelis will begin to wonder why maintaining the Occupation is so costly. Whatever it takes.
William Smart says
Israel was eventually forced to admit culpability and pay compensation (£1.5 million in 2009) for the killing of Welshman James Miller (Gaza, May 2003).
For the killing of Tom Hurndall (Gaza April 2003) they were forced to find a scapegoat and prosecute and for killing Iain Hook (Jenin Nov 2002) they were forced to compensate. None of which would have happened but for external pressure.
But that’s because the British demanded action. It’s very much a nationality based business. As we were reminded by Bernard Mills of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk on July 01, 2005, the Lebanese are nowhere near as fortunate.
Sir, The guilty verdict on the Israeli army sniper who shot the British peace activist Tom Hurndall was hailed by Israeli officials as a vindication of Israel’s willingness to prosecute soldiers violating rules of engagement (report, June 28).
During my time at the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) as officer in charge of operations in South Lebanon (1983-95) and director of operations in Gaza (1986-88) I wrote several hundred detailed reports to the Israeli Occupying Authorities about the killing or wounding with live ammunition of Palestinian (and Lebanese) women and children by the Israeli Army, as witnessed by my UN staff.
Neither I nor any member of my international staff, who were eyewitnesses to many of these incidents, were ever interviewed by the Military Police, nor did I hear or read in the Israeli media of any courts martial taking place. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article1080710.ece
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for adding yr valued & first hand perspective to the discussion.
Andrew wilson says
I doubt many Israelis worry about the cost of the occupation with the vast subsidy paid by American taxpayers as a lump sum at the beginning of the fiscal year. Unheard of in any other example of US foreign aid! With only 75% of the military portion insisted upon as requiring to be spent in the US and very few restrictions on what the rest of the “aid” might be spent on at all! I wrote about this here http://ripple.us.splinder.com/post/737287/Happy+New+Year
Glad to see moderate voices from the US opposing Israel’s policies.
Hello William and Andrew, and Richard,
As a Palestinian American woman I am as you may surmise, horrified by Israel’s actions against peace activists and journalists, as you can see, even they’re not safe from Israel’s criminal policies. Let us not forget, however, the brave courageous soul who lost her life crushed under a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003, Rachel Corrie. I’ve seen pictures of her mutilated body, and it looks alot like the bodies of so money other victims of Israeli malevolence, smashed to pieces, broken and disrespected.
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what are your silly rules? praise only for the evilness of zionism? freaking booklicks
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Richard Silverstein says
I reserve the word “ignoramus” for people like you. You haven’t a clue what this blog is about & yet you proclaim yr ignorance to countless people reading yr comment. Ignorance runs deep on the right and extreme left it appears.
My “silly rules” attempt to preserve a certain minimum level of civility in the comment threads here. Cavalierly calling Zionism “evil” as if it was a slogan and you were scoring pts in a soccer match isn’t what this site is about.
The state of Israel has changed for the worse and this kind of brutality has crossed the line, one too many times. If this kind of violence against innocent citizens occurred here in the states, it would have garnered noticeable headlines, the justice system and public outrage. But not in Israel. For shame. I can not support Israeli politics and the IDF under these circumstances, and I am one of many.
I really think that we need some context here.
What really occurred on the day cannot be known. The media is renowned for its dramatisation of events like this, and I am just interested in what the facts of the case are.
Its all good and well to condone Israel’s actions here – and I dont advocate violence at all, but comments like this
“The state of Israel has changed for the worse and this kind of brutality has crossed the line”
dont solve any problems.
In fact, I wonder what an actual solution to this problem is.
How do you see peace in the Middle East? There is no real reason for violence there, and the Israelis have taken enormous steps to promote peace. On the other hand, Fatah, at its latest meeting advocated the use of violence in their ‘struggle for freedom’….
Frank Top says
First of all this guy was no victim. He had just finished a stint of radical tree sitting in Berkeley, another fight he had no part or business in. Classic liberal guilt drives him to interfere in conflicts that aren’t his, and he pays the price this time. He had no business there, it was a fluke accident, and this is the result.
None of them are victims. Palestinians will not be satisfied with their own state or land. Their vision and that of all muslims is the caliphate, the complete domination of islam. Don’t be dhimmis.
Richard Silverstein says
I didn’t know tree-sitting was ipso fact a “radical” activity. Nor did I know that it justified shooting someone in the face and turning him into a vegetable. Last I checked by the way, it was legal for Americans to protest activities in foreign countries with which they disagree. Your justification for Israel’s heinous attack on Tristan is cold-blooded & heartless. Congratulations, you win the award for moral blindness.
How, btw, do you personally know what the Palestinians will or won’t be satisfied with? Do you have some special access or knowledge on this subject to which the rest of us are not privy.
Your comment is a serious violation of my comment rules. Read them if you choose to comment again.
I have been a regular participant on digg.com and have had lengthy discussion on the website with a number of Zionist Jews, one of whom lives in Israel. I have attempted to understand their viewpoint regarding the conflict, and attempted to share with them, in a civil, open-minded way, my differing views especially where it concerns humanitarian issues. I’m shocked and discouraged at their unanimous condemnation of the Gazans as being totally to blame for their situation because they chose to elect Hamas in 2006. Operation Cast Lead, the blockades, the people who cannot get medical help or adequate food, well, it’s “tough”, they say, but they should overthrow Hamas and everything would be fine.
There is also always a handy explanation for why the separation barrier was erected and why it was necessary to snake it into Palestinian land. Although Shin Bet says the wall does not keep out terrorists (improved security is actually the reason for the end to suicide attacks), the prevailing attitude is, whatever indignities Israel inflicts and whatever it steals, it is justified because the Palestinians cannot be trusted.
By the same token, the grievious injuries suffered by activists are perceived by them to be the fault of the victims, who shouldn’t have been where they were, doing what they were doing. Occasionally I will read an activist’s blog where it seems that it is all a lark, and the college kid will go back to his or her cozy little life and enjoy telling their friends how they stood up to the IDF. Actually, I think the wall protests are useless and that anyone seriously concerned with this issue would be helping more by pushing the Obama Administration to get going on the peace talks and bring all economic leverage to bear on the Israelis.
Noah M says
I am sorry that you had such negative interactions with Zionist Jews. I am a Jew, and believe very strongly in Zionism without pretending that the policies of the Israeli government are justified in all or most cases. I too have had to deal with the obstinacy of members of “my camp.” I urge you to look up organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights, which see criticizing the government and improving the conditions of Palestinians and Bedouins as natural implications of their Zionism. If you drop me an email address, I can send you their newsletter. Feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Smart says
@Noah – you’ve pointed us towards “Rabbis for Human Rights” and it is true they don’t criticise the existence of Israel. Instead, they publish articles such as this from Rabbi Sidney Schwarz (June this year):
It had been at least 20 years since I was in New York for a Salute to Israel Parade [afterwards] there was going to be an Israel-themed concert in Central Park so we decided to attend.
…. a band launched into a rousing rendition of Am Yisrael Chai. … A group of young men in their 20’s with kippot and tziztzit were right in front of me dancing in a frenzy. But they alternated the verse that meant “the people of Israel lives” with “all the Arabs must die.” It rhymed with the Hebrew. Given the way all joined in, it was clear that this was not the first time it was sung.
I leaned over to a young man who was next to me, also wearing a kippah and tzitzit. I nodded at the dancers and asked: “Does this song bother you?” He looked at me with a suspicious look and replied: “This is Zionism.”
There were a dozen or so sponsors of the rally including the Zionist Organization of America, Americans for a Safe Israel and the National Council of Young Israel. Rally sponsors cannot control every statement of every speaker and they certainly can not control the actions of those in the audience. Yet the messages from the stage were all in ideological alignment and the MC was generously doling out yasher koachs after each presentation. http://www.rhr-na.org/opinion/this-is-zionism
So, Noah, put on your preaching cap and tell us more about modern Zionism. You might choose to use comparisons with the most important event in history and speculate on the size of the next mass-murder on religious/racial lines. Or will you ignore even the most damning evidence from unimpeachable sources, as those concerned about severe oppression have come to expect?
William Smart says
@ emman … horrified by Israel’s actions against peace activists and journalists … Let us not forget … Rachel Corrie.
There was a time when Israel freely killed British people while elements within our own society obstructed even the publicising of it – eg there were 784 members of the British armed services buried in Palestine between 1945 and 1948, most of them murdered by the Zionists. That’s a bigger death toll than the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan put together, yet they were not even memorialised until 2001. (http://www.britains-smallwars.com/Museum/Palestine/memorial.html)
Things have got a lot better for British victims of Israel since then, as you can see. Israel wouldn’t dare kidnap George Galloway off the high seas and imprison him in Israel for fear of the protests. But they can and will do it to the likes of Cynthia McKinney, ex-Congress member.
Noah M says
For argument’s sake, allow me to construct a different narrative using the same facts.
– “B’Tselem admonished the IDF and insisted it direct its forces NOT to fire high velocity tear gas canisters at demonstrators’ bodies”
– “Yes, some demonstrators at Bilin do throw rocks at heavily armed IDF soldiers”
– “But Tristan Anderson was not one of these and there was absolutely no violence in the area when he was attacked.”
A protest occurs at an Arab village near the Wall, one of many similar demonstrations. Israeli soldiers arrive and having dealt with violence here before, attempt, after an undetermined amount of time, to break up the protest. Words and warnings may have been used, but failed, (it hardly seems likely that the unit would opt for tear gas when this kind of outcome is possible). Tear gas, a common tool used to break up riots and protests, is put in the hands of an inexperienced and unskilled soldier who accidentally shoots one of the protesters. An Israeli ambulance arrives and brings him to a hospital where he is treated. The Israeli health system pays for his care.
I do not deny that what happened to this protester is tragic and that the situation that brought him to Bilin is equally so. I do however, find the value judgements drawn about Israeli as a whole from this incident to unwarranted.
P.S If you could post sources that shooting at protesters heads is IDF custom i’d be obliged.
Richard Silverstein says
This is not what actually happened.
The IDF soldiers who police the Bilin protests have a long history of brutality. They regularly & consistently use the high velocity tear gas canister as a weapon, rather than crowd disperal tool. The IDF is known for doing this, not just in Bilin. It is contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions about how the weapon & munition is to be used. But Israel uses it in this way anyway, which is callous & malign.
No Israeli ambulance arrived to take the victim away. Instead brave Palestinian medics braved multiple additional rounds of tear gas shot at them to evacuate the wounded person. A Palestinian ambulance took him to a gate in the fence where Israeli forces prevented it from entering Israel, despite the fact that the victim was near death. An Israeli ambulance was summoned. And even after it arrived IDF soldiers deliberately delayed a transfer of the patient. Eventually he was taken to an Israeli hospital. I don’t know who’s paying for his care. Assuming that it is Israel is not necessarily correct & you should do more research about this claim.
You’ll have to trust that I, who have been reading about this subject & incident for months, have read this in a credible source. I’m not about to ferret it out right now for you since I have other things to do. But any Israeli peace activist working in the W. Bank can tell you that this is the case. You can also write to B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Taayush & other organizations doing similar work who can confirm the fact for you.
Unfortunately, your little story has no relationship to what actually happened. It looks like you made that up out of your head because that is what you would like to believe happened. Unfortunately you cannot fool the people here, so maybe you ought to peddle your made-up propaganda stories among people who are less experienced and knowledgeable.
William Smart says
Noah – you are dabbling in hard-core denialism by demanding proof that shooting at protestor’s heads/neck/upper torso is IDF custom. These reports come just from a single Israeli source:
1992: “Some of the people went into Al-Aqsa to get away from the shooting, and some fled towards the Dome of the Rock. Police from the special forces unit shot at the upper part of the bodies.”
1993: “An examination of IDF Spokesperson announcements shows that during the Intifada at least 141 Palestinians have been shot to death while the security forces were implementing the “Procedure for Apprehending a Suspect” and not in a life-threatening situation. Of these, 52 were children, of whom 18 were below the age of 14. Nearly all of them were shot in the upper part of the body.”
1998: “Scores of those wounded were struck in the upper part of the body, even though the Regulations only permit firing at the legs of the rioters.”
2000: “within fifteen minutes from the start of firing, some fifty people, most wounded in the upper part of their bodies, reached the clinic. The data provided to B’Tselem by al-Mokassad Hospital and testimonies obtained by B’Tselem describe injuries to the upper part of the body. … B’Tselem has testimonies indicating that bullets were fired at the upper portion of the body, in violation of the Regulations, which allow firing only at the lower portion of a person’s body. … Many people were wounded in the upper part of their bodies, and the bullets were fired, at least in some instances, at people who had fled the scene or were involved in evacuating the wounded.”
2009: “in recent years, many Palestinians have been killed or wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets … The illegal use includes, for example, firing from very close range, firing at children, and firing at the upper part of the body – all violations of the Open Fire Regulations.”
Just to make it extra clear, the same B’tselem carries this from October 2000: “Major General Giora Eiland, head of the IDF’s Operations Branch, wrote “A large portion of those injured by live bullets (the majority!) were those that we indeed wanted not only to wound but to kill. They are the ones who fire live ammunition at us. The fact that most of the persons injured were struck in the upper part of the body or the head is a positive thing.”
Now then, are you really going to try and deny that Israel treats all Palestinians as fair-target to kill and habitually use their weapons for this purpose? Shame on you!
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