Haaretz reported today that “The United States embassy has demanded an investigation into how an American citizen lost her eye last week at the Qalandiyah checkpoint after being struck by a tear gas grenade”.
I would guess that “demanded” might be too strong a word.
[Later, I noticed that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, JTA, used the probably-more-accurate verb “requested”…]
The U.S. Embassy in Israel, and its Consulate in East Jerusalem which is responsible for the occupied Palestinian territory is not noted for the strength of its support for American citizens who have problems with the Israeli authorities or military.
Haaretz noted that the Israeli Foreign Ministry said: “We have not received an official request from the Americans on this matter”.
Still, Haaretz reported today, “The U.S. embassy has been in continuous touch with the family. Haaretz has learned that the embassy conveyed a demand that Israel investigate the incident”.
Haaretz also reported that “Henochowicz’s father, a doctor, is originally from Israel and she also has Israeli citizenship … In addition to losing her left eye, Henochowicz is suffering from fractures to her face. She returned to the United States on Saturday night for continued treatment”.
UPDATE: On 9 June, Haaretz reported that Emily Henochowicz’s mother, Shelly Kreitman, said in an interview that “To say that she threw something is just a lie. The claim that the teargas canister first hit the wall is an absolute lie. I say this because I saw the video and I also had confirmation from the doctors that it was a direct hit because there are burns on her face from the canister … She has a fractured cheekbone, in her eye socket, and her left eye was removed entirely. Her jaw was sewn shut. Luckily she is young, healthy and did not suffer any brain damage We intend to file a civil suit for all the suffering that my daughter and my family have suffered. We want an investigation because we cannot accept what happened to our daughter and to other people … [But] We want to make clear that she has not stopped loving Israel because of what happened”. This was published here.
The video, below, was posted on Noam Sheizaf’s blog, The Promised Land , and said he got it from the New York Times blog, The Lede, here. It seems to have been captured from a television news feed. This is the clearest and best video of the shooting and wounding of Emily Henochowicz at the small demonstration held at Qalandiya Checkpoint (between Jerusalem and Ramallah) a week ago to protest the Israel assault at see of the Freedom Flotilla that was sailing toward the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The relevant part of this video starts at 45 seconds in, and the shooting is at 1’05” (it is extraordinary to see the reaction of the Israeli forces when they realize that they’ve injured someone — in this case, Emily):
AP reported at the time that “Israeli police spokesman Moshe Fintzy [Pinchee] said an initial investigation said the tear gas was fired ‘according to procedures and there was no deviation from those procedures’. But Sarit Michaeli, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, questioned the police’s tactics. She said police and soldiers often fire tear gas canisters directly at people — a practice she called ‘illegal and dangerous’. ‘B’Tselem has documented dozens of cases in video’, Michaeli said. ‘The army’s own laws on how tear gas canisters must be used are very clear: you mustn’t fire it at a person’. In March 2009, another U.S. citizen, 38-year-old Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was badly wounded after he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister during a West Bank protest. Anderson lost his right eye and suffered brain damage”. This AP report is posted here.
According to Haaretz today, “an internal probe by the Border Police indicates that the tear gas projectile hit a wall and subsequently flew at Henochowicz. A statement from the Border Police spokesperson said: ‘The investigation carried out by the IDF showed that the forces operated at the site impeccably and utilized means according to procedure. There was no directly-aimed fire in the incident’.”
Michael Sfard, the noted Tel-Aviv-based human rights lawyer, did not agree, and today filed a demand for a police investigation stating: “According to testimony I have begun to receive, the firing was at close range and was directly aimed, and if this is correct, it is clearly a criminal act for which those involved must answer. My client and her family have authorized me to say that they demand that her unnecessary injury be fully investigated, and that we spare no effort to ensure that law enforcement authorities carry out their duty in this matter”.
Meanwhile, it was just reported that Tristan Anderson returned home to California, after spending more than a year in an Israeli hospital.
A support website says that “Tristan was critically injured when he was shot in the head at close range with a metal high-velocity tear gas canister at the Israeli Separation Wall on March 13, 2009, while taking photos following a demonstration against the apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. The shooting caused severe traumatic brain injury and blindness in his right eye. Tristan, 39 years old, has not yet regained the use of the left side of his body and faces a long period of cognitive and physical rehabilitation and remains in a wheelchair. However, in the last several months he has made significant strides forward, including regaining his ability to speak. He is currently staying at his family’s home in the Sierra foothills, and looking forward to reuniting with his extensive community in the Bay Area. Tristan’s partner Gabrielle Silverman said, “After a very long period of hospitalization, Tristan is ready to finally re-enter the world … Just prior to the one-year mark of the shooting, Israel released its official report of the incident, calling it ‘an act of war’, with no concomitant liability, bringing no charges, and then closed the case. An appeal to reopen the investigation has been filed, since the report was inconsistent with the injuries Tristan sustained and with eyewitness testimony. In addition, his parents have brought a civil case against the Israeli military, in part to deal with the lifetime of medical expenses, lost wages and continuing care that Tristan will need as a result of the military action” This is posted here.
Gabrielle Silverman wrote, elsewhere on the website: “Tristan was shot in the forehead above his right eye and was primarily injured in the right frontal lobe of his brain … He is still in a wheelchair … [E]ye witnesses uniformly testified that the shots were fired from a nearby hill. Even though the military has confirmed that indeed there were Border Police armed with high velocity tear gas positioned on that hill, the entire investigation into Tristan’s shooting relates instead to the irrelevant conduct of an irrelevant squad of Border Police positioned on the other side of town. To date, the Border Police on the hill where the shots were fired have never been questioned”.