They've shot an American. Does America care?
SIX years after American peace protestor Rachel Corrie was crushed and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer as she tried to oppose a house demolition, another young American is lying critically injured in hospital after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister. Four Palestinians were hit with rubber-coated bullets in same attack which took place in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, on Friday.
The wounded American, Tristan Anderson, from Oakland, California, had joined Palestinians protesting the Israeli separation wall, which cuts villagers off from their own land in this area. Like Rachel Corrie he was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.
“He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible,” one protester said. Demonstrators had marched through the streets of Ni’lin toward the separation wall chanting slogans calling for Palestinian national unity and for resistance to the occupation. Then “the Israeli soldiers attacked the peaceful demonstration using rubber-coated bullets gas and stun grenades.”
The coordinator of the Popular Committee in the village, A’hed Al- Khawaja, added, “Four were injured [and] others choked after inhaling gas.” According to Teah Lunqvist, a Swedish protestor, "Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters."
“I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After five minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed," she said.
According to David Jacobus, a fellow-American, the demonstration was over and Tristan was back in the village when the soldiers attacked. David says the type of canisters used are more dangerous now, being fired from an M16 rather than just thrown. In this case the canister was fired at close range. At the hospital where he accompanied Tristan surgeons said they were extracting bone fragments from the young man's upper forehead.
Residents in the village of Ni'lin, like those at nearby Bil'in, have been demonstrating against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni'lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni'lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the construction of the Wall.
Four Ni’lin residents have been killed during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land.
Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29th July 2008. The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead. He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces. He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008. That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead. He died three days in a Ramallah hospital.
The Israeli army began using to use a high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008. The black canister, labelled in Hebrew as "40mm bullet special/long range," can shoot over 400 meters. The gas canister does not make a noise when fired or emit a smoke tail. A combination of the canister's high velocity and silence is extremely dangerous and has caused numerous injuries, including a Palestinian male whose leg was broken in January 2009.
When the international and Israeli volunteers started joining peaceful demonstrations at places like Nilin the idea may have been that Israeli forces would be more restrained by their presence. The shooting of Israeli anarchist Matan Cohen at Bil'in, like the deaths of Rachel Corrie and British photographer Tom Hurndall (shot in the head by an army sniper) might have put this hope in doubt. But at least if there were international volunteers in the firing line the world media might take notice, so people might have thought. Unfortunately even when Nobel prizewinner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire was hit by rubber bullets and affected by tear gas at Bil'in, the British and Irish press which once gave her front-page coverage seem to have decided she was no longer of interest.
Will Tristan Anderson find himself similarly ignored?
An Israeli friend was saying at the weekend that he feared the soldiers were becoming trigger-happy. That may be a reflection of the worsening state of Israeli politics. But it could also be related to the army feeling confident that the Western media will stay out of the way.