Not content to have killed Jawaher Abu Rahme with a lethal CS teargas barrage at the concluding weekly demonstration against the Separation Wall of 2010, the IDF is now smearing her memory and attempting to deprive her in death of the dedication to the cause for which she gave her life. Like someone who throws spaghetti on the wall to see which strands will stick, the IDF first tries one lie and then, if that doesn’t work or resonate in public discourse, it tries another.
The first lie they tried was to claim that Abu Rahme had asthma which either caused or contributed to her death. The IDF whined that the family refused to share with it her medical records so it could get itself off the hook. Not a whit of awareness that personal medical records are private and don’t have to be shared with anyone, especially the party which murdered her (more on my use of this term later).
They also claimed the teargas came as a result of stone-throwing on the part of the protesters. But eyewitnesses noted that the teargas actually preceded any acts of violence on the part of the anti-Wall activists. In fact, they weren’t even in the vicinity of the Wall when the gassing occurred, which is the usual MO for these events.
The latest lie is to claim she wasn’t even at the protest. Which means she died of teargas inhalation how? Israeli anti-Wall activists who themselves were at the demonstration and witnessed her injury tweeted about it en masse. Were they making it up? Or perhaps they weren’t there either. Perhaps, instead they were all out partying in Tel Aviv.
Yonatan Pollak, one of the Israelis who witnessed Abu Rahme’s injuries, begs to differ:
“I saw that Jahawer [sic] took an active role in the protest,” he told Ynet, while presenting his update on the incident in his Twitter account.
“I saw how they put her in the ambulance that took her to the hospital. I know with certainty that she arrived there and stayed there, and later died at the hospital,” he said.
Despite the problematic findings presented by the army, Pollack insisted that “the IDF’s version isn’t based on any facts…the only thing the army’s claims are based on is the error of a doctor who got one digit wrong when he wrote down the time.”
Now a word about CS and other lethal weaponry used by the IDF to suppress mainly non-violent protest. Such weapons have regularly proven lethal in the past. In fact, such a canister fired from a high-velocity rifle into the chest of her brother, Bassam, killed him last year. 21 Palestinians have been killed in anti-Wall demonstrations. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the dead hadn’t engaged in any violent act at all. In Bilin you can be killed for shouting a slogan, which is what happened to Bassam. He was known as a fiery leader loudly chanting calls for justice for his fellow townspeople. The IDF response, a tear gas canister in the chest to shut you up. An American protester, Tristan Anderson, suffered a massive head injury and brain damage from a similar injury. American Emily Hochnowitz recently marked the first anniversary of her loss of an eye at a protest at another village along the route of the Wall. The U.S. government response? Little or nothing: if you don’t want trouble, stay away.
These are largely non-violent protests against the blatant theft of Palestinian land. Such theft is a violation of international law. Which means that the IDF is murdering non-violent Palestinians because they are demanding that Israel adhere to international law and return their land to them. Not to mention that the Israeli High Court itself has directed a rerouting of the wall in the Bilin zone which the IDF has so far refused.
Haaretz has noted that CS gas, though used by some police forces to quell civil disturbances, can be a lethal weapon when used under certain circumstances. In fact, the British medical journal, The Lancet, urged a moratorium on its use two years ago. A study commissioned by the federal government task force investigating use of CS in the Branch Davidian assault found that the gas could be lethal if breathed for a sustained period in close quarters. Exposure to the agent has caused women to miscarry. The U.S. Army Center for Preventive Medicine found that at “specified concentrations” it was an imminent danger to life and health.” The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention outlaws use of CS in war because of the fear that use by one nation against another might spur retaliation and use of even more dangerous agents by the victim nation.
There can be little doubt that, while at Bilin demonstrators are engaging in legitimate protest, the IDF is engaged in a war against them. The repeated use of CS and other lethal weapons, the late night massive assaults on villages housing leaders of the anti-Wall protests, and their incarceration using trumped-up charges as in the case of Abdullah Abu Rahme, can only mean that Israel sees itself justified in waging what is virtually a war. The IDF knows these weapons and agents are lethal. It doesn’t care. It kills with them repeatedly and yet continues to use them. That’s because there is no Judge Goldstone looking over their shoulders and threatening them with international opprobrium for their cold-blooded killings.
Hundreds of Israeli protested against Jahawer’s death in full force yesterday and blocked roads around the Kirya (Israel’s Pentagon) and near the U.S. ambassador’s home (a U.S. company of course makes the teargas used to kill Jawaher). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a sense of solidarity and anger within Israel over the death of a Palestinian.
I want commenters to be very clear that I will not countenance anyone in threads here raising bogus Truther/Birther nutcase claims regarding Jawaher’s death. If you want to believe delusions that absolve the IDF of responsibility I invite you to the Jerusalem Post Talkback section or Debka Files. That’s where you belong. I’m prepared to debate the legitimate issues. But claiming a murdered woman wasn’t at the place where she was murdered or that asthma killed her is so absurd, so breathtakingly cruel and heartless, that I won’t be part of it.
The IDF lies. Period. If you want to accept the lies of the IDF based on no evidence whatsoever other than the claims of known prevaricators, you’re welcome to do so. But you won’t speak ill of the dead here.
- From Bilin to Tel Aviv, outrage at killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah (josephdana.com)
- IDF Kills Unarmed Protester, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, May Her Memory Be For A Blessing (jeremiahhaber.com)
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.