I wrote recently about a Forward article which portrayed a 2002 study by IDF toxicologists which noted that high concentrations of CS gas could be lethal. The article attempted to explain how Jawaher Abu Rahme could’ve been killed by the inhalation of CS gas at last week’s Bilin demonstration.
Today’s Haaretz references that study (without crediting the previously published Forward story) and adds new information–that the IDF is using a new tear gas launcher which can fire six canisters simultaneously, thus saturating an area more intensely than ever before. Though the story notes that gas concentration would have to be 800 times the average level used to quell demonstrations in 2002, the new weapon, which dishonors the name of Beatle Ringo Star, could likely achieve such an level especially if the shells landed in very close proximity to each other and the victim.
Despite this, the IDF continues slinging the lies:
The IDF Spokesman responded that soldiers use the Ringo only “in compliance with the binding professional orders for using this weapon, and with the rules of engagement applicable under the circumstances. CS gas is less poisonous than other tear gases. Therefore, it is the tear gas commonly used worldwide.”
Here the official blows smoke up our asses by deliberately obfuscating the problem with the Ringo. The problem isn’t that the weapon is being used contrary to specifications. The problem is that it IS being used according to military orders and those orders are not only likely, but destined to kill someone. In fact, at least one of the other 21 Palestinians killed at Separation Wall protests was killed from gas inhalation. This isn’t a new problem for the IDF.
Again, the army placed blame squarely on the Palestinians for her death with more sophistry:
…The study found that “treating people exposed to CS gas is simple, and any medical crew can treat victims of the gas with simple and readily available medical means.” Therefore, it concluded, there is no reason “to change the policy for using the gas.”
Note the unproven claim that a 2002 study by Israeli army doctors found that under typical Israeli conditions is easily treatable. However, conditions prevailing in 2002 don’t prevail now. The IDF uses vastly greater firepower in confrontations with Palestinians; and when they are injured the medical facilities available to them are not as sophisticated as treatment available to Israelis.
Any IDF officer who makes a statement that it should not change a policy that kills people should be a candidate for the Hague. Plain and simple.
I have yet another candidate in mind. Without offering any proof whatsoever, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon blames Abu Rahme’s death on the Palestinian medical system:
“She most probably died as a result of other complications, combined with problems in the medical care she received at the Palestinian hospital,” Nitzan said.
Every piece of actual documented evidence I’ve read shows that the only complication Abu Rahme had was an inner ear infection treated before her death. She was taking no medications at the time of her death. She had no medical complications at the time of her death. There is NO indication of anything remiss in the medical treatment offered to her in the Ramallah hospital that treated her. I note that the IDF, just after her death, lied once again in claiming that the hospital released Abu Rahme and she went home where she died. It was at that time attempting to insinuate that the hospital thought her condition mild enough that it released her. This would thus absolve the IDF and CS gas of any responsibility in her death.
Now the IDF concedes that the victim did stay in the hospital till her death, but that medical treatment (or lack thereof) killed her. Considering again that they offer no proof for this “theory” it’s worth about the same amount as the earlier nonsense they tried to peddle.
I am sorry to speak in such extremes but these people are not just cruel, or mean-spirited or self-serving. It goes beyond this. They are evil. Or perhaps if you want to let them off the hook a bit you can say that they’re reinforcing an evil system and therefore have absorbed the immorality of that system. But I believe that human beings have agency. They have responsibility for moral thought. Even soldiers. Even senior officers. Especially senior officers.
Israel and officers like Nitzan must know that no matter what their army and nation tells them to do, that there are others watching this evil and keeping accounts. That these accounts must be answered in time. They will be held accountable.
When you think about it, even if Israel adopted a slightly more accommodating approach and admitted error or expressed remorse. Even if it didn’t end the Occupation, it would still earn some measure of decency in the opinion of others and perhaps even some Palestinians (not that I advocate such half-measures). But Israel disowns its actions by claiming that Jawaher died for her own sins. It takes the approach of bullies and monsters throughout human history: if they admit any weakness, any error, their enemy will exploit it ruthlessly and that will be the end of their privileged, superior status. And bullies never willingly relinquish their power.
This is the tragedy of modern Israel. It could have half a loaf and everything that comes with it: peace, security, prosperity, good relations with its neighbors. Instead, again like those bullies I mentioned, it will take the whole loaf or destroy everything trying to get it.