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.