Encourage Nonviolence Through Accountability


[This guest blog was submitted by Ashraf Nubani after the Washington Post, the New York  Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times all declined to publish an earlier version.]

There has been much criticism of the Palestinian response to Israeli occupation — especially the use of violence against civilian targets. We Americans, whose history includes a violent revolution, a civil war, and two world wars, are quick to call for the use of nonviolent resistance when it comes to non-Western peoples and areas of conflict. What then should be our collective response to those killed or injured while engaging in nonviolent resistance? Certainly, we should not blame the victim — especially if the victim is an American.

Tristan Anderson, 37, of Oakland, Calif., was been critically injured in the village of Ni’lin on the occupied West Bank after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear gas canister on Friday, March 13, 2009.  I have known him for many years and our hearts go out to him and his family. The canister penetrated Mr. Anderson’s skull and surgeons had to remove a portion of his right frontal lobe due to bone fragments lodged in his brain. Reconstructive surgery was required near his right eye. His parents and sister arrived in Israel on Monday.

Demanding an immediate, fair and independent investigation into his shooting is the minimal response we should expect to this blatant act of aggression that left Mr. Anderson fighting for his life at Tel Hashomer Hospital outside of Tel Aviv. Any investigation must provide satisfactory answers to several issues.

According to the International Solidarity Movement, the Israeli army began using a high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008.  The black canister, labeled in Hebrew as “40mm bullet special/long range,” can shoot over 400 meters. It emits no noise, no smoke trail, and virtually no warning when one is fired. The combination of the canister’s high velocity and silence is extremely dangerous and has already caused numerous injuries to Palestinians.

According to eyewitness testimony, media reports and Israeli officials, the incident took place inside the village of Ni’lin and not near the separation Wall where demonstrators earlier had clashed with Israeli troops. Everyone agrees the incident took place at about 4:30 p.m. local time, after the four-hour demonstration had dwindled.  According to eyewitnesses, Teah Lindquist and Gaby Silverman, Mr. Anderson did not participate in the earlier clashes nor did he throw stones at Israeli troops. In addition, Ms. Silverman told one of our representatives that Israeli occupation forces delayed Mr. Anderson’s ambulance for nearly 20 minutes at the checkpoint before allowing it to make its way to the hospital.

As regrettable as this incident is, it does, however, draw attention to the very cause that Mr. Anderson placed his life in harm’s way to defend: Israel’s concrete separation barrier, which the International Court of Justice has deemed to be illegal because it is being built on Palestinian land. Ni’lin will lose approximately 625 acres of agricultural land when the Wall is completed. The village comprised 228 thousand acres in 1948, was reduced to 132 thousand acres after the 1967 war, and currently is 40 thousand acres. When the Wall is finished, 30 thousand acres will be all that’s left of Ni’lin. Residents have been protesting the Wall for months.

Palestinian, and now American, life is needlessly being endangered and lost every day because Israel, an ally of the United States, continues its illegal occupation by force of arms. Mr. Anderson is not the first to make this trek and pay a large sacrifice for it. This week marks the sixth anniversary of another conscientious and brave American who lost her life while defending against the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip: Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer (supplied by Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc.) The U.S. still has not conducted an independent investigation into her death which the Israelis ruled “an accident.”

If the past is an indicator, we can’t rely upon Israel’s claim it is pursuing an investigation. In the report “Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing,” Human Rights Watch questioned the objectivity and integrity of the Military Police investigation into Ms. Corrie’s death. It faulted the investigation for poor preparation and for posing questions to witnesses that were “hostile, inappropriate, and mostly accusatory.” The report described other instances in which short summary findings were made available to the media after closed investigations with no involvement of nonmilitary witnesses nor victims or their families.

If we want to show the Palestinians a better way to achieve their quest for self-determination, we must show them that at the very least we seek justice and accountability for one of our own nonviolent protesters.

Hatem Bazian
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)





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