Another Israeli Attack on a Peaceful Palestinian Village
I remember when growing up, as a Zionist, we were told of how Israel had made the desert bloom, drained the swamps whilst the Arabs sat around planning to kill them. How in 1948, despite entreaties from the Jewish settlers, the Arabs had voluntarily left in order to make way for the Arab armies. All of these were lies of course but this was the Zionist dream. Bi’ilin shows the reality of this dream.
Bil’in is a Palestinian village that is struggling to exist, to safeguard its land, olive trees, resources and liberty. Nearly 60% of Bil’in land has been annexed, i.e. stolen for Israeli settlements and the construction of Israel’s separation. Israel is creating an open air prison for Bil’in’s inhabitants.
Supported by Israeli and international activists, Bil’in residents peacefully demonstrate every Friday. And every Friday the Israeli army responds with violence, both physically and psychologically.
Bil’in residents have continued to withstand these injustices despite the frequent night raids of Israeli soldiers in the town followed by an increasing number of arrests of inhabitants and of activists. But now, the army has toughened the oppression by systematically arresting members of the Bil’in committee in charge of organizing the non-violent resistance actions. The aim of the arrests is to discourage Bil’in residents and reduce their resistance to the occupation.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah was killed last week by poisonous tear gas which asphyxiated her. Below are articles about the family’s reaction, a statement from the Popular Committee, an article from today’s Observer, and article about a new weapon in Israel’s armoury, ‘Skunk’, a foul-smelling liquid which is almost impossible to get rid of and an article casting doubt on Israel’s version of events (they were right of course and if you disagree you are automatically anti-semitic).
Ana Carbajosa, Bil’in, West Bank, The Observer, Sunday 9 January 2011
Sitting on a bed in the family house, surrounded by posters that commemorate the death of her son, Subhaia Musa Abu Rahme laments her latest loss. Jawaher, her 35-year-old daughter, died on New Year’s Day after collapsing in her home village of Bil’in during a demonstration against the Israeli separation barrier. Despite assurances to the contrary from the Israeli army, her family insist that she died after inhaling massive quantities of tear gas.
“How do you think I feel?” says Abu Rahme softly, a white scarf covering her head and an almost absent look in her eyes. She can hardly comprehend what has happened to her family or the repeated horrors that have been inflicted on it. The family has come to symbolise the Palestinian struggle against the occupation of the West Bank.
Last year, Abu Rahme’s son, Bassam – a charismatic member of the committees that organise “non-violent resistance” against the barrier – died after being struck by a gas canister at a demonstration. Another son, Ashraf, has been left with a limp after being shot at close range with rubber-coated steel bullets by an Israeli soldier. And now, Jawaher.
“She was the nicest girl in Bil’in. Here, everyone liked her. The wall confiscated our lands, and now my children are gone. I have nothing left”, says Abu Rahme, a 55-year-old widow. “But every time we lose someone we love, we gain strength to fight against the occupation,” she adds. “This is our land and we are going to defend it. We will not stop until we tear down the wall.”
Outside the house, on the patio, a group of men mourn Jawaher. They eat dates, drink spiced coffee and chain smoke – but barely speak. Next door, the women gather in a separate room, as tradition dictates. Political delegations, friends, relatives and schoolchildren pass by to express their condolences for the kind-hearted young woman who had worked as a carer for two disabled children in nearby Ramallah.
From the Abu Rahmes’ neighbourhood, the barrier that separates the Palestinian territories from Israel – and which cuts off the famil y from its olive groves – is clearly visible. For more than five years, they have participated with their neighbours in the struggle against the construction. But for them, more than for any other family in the village, the battle has brought tragedy. And last week, Jawaher’s death returned them to the headlines.
Her family are adamant she died after inhaling the tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during the demonstration in Bil’in. The army questions the reliability of Palestinian reports, including the hospital documents, and has complained in a statement of “lack of co-operation with the Palestinians”. It also says that although the army inquiry has not yet been completed, “a number of scenarios have been posited, among them the possibility that Abu Rahme’s death was entirely unrelated to the demonstration last Friday.”
For a visibly exhausted Subhaia Musa Abu Rahme, there is no such doubt.
“I was with my daughter, a bit far away from where the clashes were taking place, when the soldiers started shooting gas,” she remembers. “The wind brought the gas. We were very affected. I was feeling bad when my daughter told me that she could not take it any more and started vomiting.” Another of Jawaher’s brothers, Samir Ibrahim, 34, recalls calling an ambulance to take his sister to the hospital in which she later died.
“She was in a very bad condition,” he says. “They took her to a house and she was vomiting foam from her mouth. In four or five minutes, an ambulance came. They [the doctors] told us that she lacked oxygen due to the gas.”
Every Friday, Samir attends the demonstration against the Israeli separation barrier, built in the aftermath of the second intifada.
Clashes at the protests are common, with some Palestinians throwing stones and the army shooting tear gas, a fetid liquid known as skunk and employing other crowd dispersal weapons. A dense cloud of smoke fills the air and spreads over the village within seconds. It is not unusual for people to vomit in the streets, their eyes burning from the tear gas. But still, Samir, his family and friends keep up their display of defiance.
“We go to show our suffering,” he says. “It is our way to denounce that they are raping our land.” When asked if the hardships his family has gone through make them special, he says no. “We are like the others. This is only a test from God.”
Bil’in, about two miles from the 1967 armistice border, or Green Line, has always been an agricultural village. But the villagers, according to Michael Sfard, the Israeli lawyer representing them, are now prevented from getting to about 50% of their farmlands by the barrier. The impoverished Abu Rahmes are among those who lost their land.
Like the rest they can, in principle, enter their groves through a gate that the army is obliged to open for a certain number of hours a day. However, according to Sfard, the army does not always comply.
Back in the family home, Ashraf, the brother who was shot two years ago, listens attentively to his mother and Samir, a red-and-white Palestinian scarf tied around his neck. His shooting was filmed by an Israeli human rights group and the images travelled around the world. He considers himself lucky; not only did he escape with relatively minor injuries, but the lieutenant-colonel who ordered the shooting is now being judged in a military court. But last week there was no reason to be cheerful. “Our family is destroyed,” he says. “There will always be sadness in our family.”
Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah who was also killed during a peaceful protest in Bil’in on April 17th, 2010.
Doctors at the Ramallah hospital fought for Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life all night at the Ramallah Hospital, but were unable to save her life. Abu Rahmah suffered from severe asphyxiation caused by tear-gas inhalation yesterday in Bil’in, and was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital unconscious. She was diagnosed as suffering from poisoning caused by the active ingredient in the tear-gas, and did not respond to treatment.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bil’in activist, Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was shot dead with a high velocity tear-gas projectile during a demonstration in the village on April 17th, 2009.
Mohammed Khatib, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee said this morning: “We are shocked and furious for Israel’s brutality, which once again cost the life of a peaceful demonstrator. Israel’s lethal and inhumane response to our struggle will not pass. In the dawn of a new decade, it is time for the world to ask Israel for accountability and to bring about an end to the occupation.”
Adv. Michael Sfard, who represents the village in an appeal against the Wall added: “The son was killed by a directly aimed projectile, the daughter choked in gas. Two brave protestors against a regime that kills the innocent and doesn’t investigate its criminals. We will not quiet, we will not give up, we will not spare any effort until those responsible will be punished. And they will.”
Stop Deadly Tear Gas!
I was yesterday in Biliin and was hit – soaked – by the Skunk’s stinking water. I am still trying to get rid of the stench.
5 buckets of salty water and about 20 times of soap+shampoo+shower were needed to get rid of the stuff from my skin and hair, but the clothes and shoes were not impressed by the washing machine. In fact, I had to rinse the washing machine twice with bleaching liquid, to get rid of the stench, and I can still smell some traces of it.
In short, this is quite a nasty and expensive punishment (I’ll have to throw away my clothes and shoes). Many demonstrators say they prefer tear gas… All the best,
To see Israeli Occupation forces using this chemical stench liquid on demonstrators, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTEAHMuHCkM&feature=player_embedded http://www.bilin-ffj.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=339&Itemid=1
Also see BBC Report on Israel’s Use of Skunk, which they hope to market commercially!
Tuesday, 04 Januray 2010
Substantial evidence contradicts the army’s version of the events surrounding the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah
The evidence surrounding the events leading to the death of Bil’in resident Jawaher Abu Rahmah disproves completely the army spokesperson’s version, to the point of putting the army in a ridiculous light. The army’s version is based on claims made anonymously, without any supporting evidence – unlike the version of the Abu Rahmah family and the Popular Coordinating Committee of Bil’in, which is detailed below.
Since yesterday, the army has been promoting in the Israeli media a mendacious version regarding the events that led to the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah of Bil’in on Friday, 31 December 2010. According to the army’s version, Jawaher was not injured by tear gas and was possibly not even present at the demonstration. The army spokesperson did not see fit to publish an official statement on the matter, instead passing the information to the media in the name of anonymous “army sources.”
The facts of the matter, which are supported by the testimony of eyewitness who were present at the demonstration, as well as by the ambulance driver who evacuated her to the hospital, contradict completely the army’s version:
Soubhiya Abu Rahmah, mother of Jawaher: “I was standing beside Jawaher on the hill that is near the place where the demonstration took place, when we were injured by a cloud of tear gas. Jawaher began to feel unwell from inhaling the gas and started to move back from the place; soon after that she vomited and collapsed. We took her to the nearest road, and from there she was evacuated by ambulance to the hospital, where she remained until her death. She was not sick with cancer, nor did she have any other illness; and she was not asthmatic.”
Ilham Fathi: “I was on the roof of my house, which is located a few meters from where Jawaher stood. When the cloud of tear gas moved in our direction, I went downstairs in order to close the windows. While I was closing one of the windows, I saw her lose consciousness from the gas and ran over to her, together with Islam Abu Rahmah, in order to pull her away. We picked her up together and carried her to my garden. We called for help and she began to vomit and foam at the mouth.”
Islam Abu Rahmah: “I was standing with Jawaher, her mother and my grandmother in order to watch the confrontation that was going on just in front of us, in the area of the fence. The wind moved the gas in our direction, making our eyes itch and tear up. After that she (Jawaher) began to cough and foam at the mouth. Soon after that she became weak and lay down on the ground. I succeeded in carrying her as far as the Abu Khamis home, about 40 meters in the direction of her house, but then she became terribly weak, vomited violently and foamed at the mouth. She was having difficult breathing and lost her sense of direction. We got a few women to help her by waving a paper fan over her face in order to provide some oxygen. After that she was taken to the hospital.”
Saher Bisharat, the ambulance who evacuated Jawaher: “We received Jawaher near the entrance that is parallel to the fence, which is where the demonstration was taking place. She was still partially conscious, answered questions, and said that she had choked on gas. I took her straight to the hospital.”
The army has also claimed that the reports about Abu Rahmeh’s injuries started to arrive only several hours after the incident, in the evening. That claim is contradicted by a tweet sent by the NGO Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), which reports the injury of Jawaher, including her name, in real time (click here to view). The tweet was sent at 2:36 pm (4:36 am on the West Coast of the United States). Wafa, the Palestinian news service, published a report that includes the injury of Jawaher Abu Rahmah shortly after the event.
Also according to “army sources,” which remain anonymous, Jawaher Abu Rahmah suffered from a serious illness, possibly leukemia; the “sources” postulate that she died from a pre-existing condition rather than tear gas inhalation. Several sources reject that claim. Dr. Uday Abu Nahlah: “Jawaher Abu Rahmah was employed in my home on a regular basis. On Thursday she was at work as usual, healthy, only one day before her death.”
Jawaher had an inner ear infection, which affected her balance, for which she was recently given a CT scan. The radiologist who performed the CT scan, Dr. Hamis Al Sahfi’i, confirmed that the brain scan was normal (for the CT scan results click here). Jawaher had a minor health issue involving fluids in her inner ear. Her physicians insist that she did not suffer from any illness or from any symptoms that might, if combined with tear gas, lead to her death.
There is not, nor could there be, any indication that Abu Rahmah had cancer; in fact, she was in good health. The director of the hospital refutes the claim that she died from a pre-existing condition:
Mohammed Aida, director of the Ramallah health center where Abu Rahmah received her care: “Jawaher Abu Rahmah died from lung failure that was caused by tear gas inhalation, leading to a heart attack. She arrived at the hospital only partly conscious, and then lost consciousness completely.”
Mohammed Khatib, a member of Bil’in’s Popular Coordinating Committee: “The army is trying to evade its responsibility for Jawaher’s death with lies and invented narratives that have no basis. They are spreading these lies and invented narratives via the media, which is not bothering to do basic fact checking. Our version is supported by named sources and with medical documents. In a properly functioning society, the army’s version, which has been spread by anonymous sources, would not be considered worthy of publication.”
Bil’in Popular committee Iyad Burnat 0598403676 Ibel3in@yahoo.com www.bilin-ffj.org