Another tragedy: Jawaher Abu Rahmeh (Abu Rahmah) of Bil’in, in the occupied West Bank, died on this first day of the year in Ramallah Hospital from the effects of massive quantities of IDF-fired tear gas used to disperse demonstrators at the regular weekly Friday demonstration against the route of The Wall through their village lands.
Doctors at Ramallah Hospital struggled all night to save her life, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee [PSCC] reported by email and on their website.
UPDATE: A photo of Jawaher’s funeral procession on Saturday afternoon is posted on the Twitpic website here:
Apparently, Jawaher was mortally wounded from toxic poisoning due to one of the active chemical ingredients used in the tear gas. According to PSCC member Joseph Dana (Ibn Erza), here, Jawaher was unconscious upon arrival at the Ramallah Hospital, and did not respond to treatment.
The tear gas was fired after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad left the village, which he visited in a brief symbolic show of support. [Israeli Security coordinates and reportedly also accompanies Fayyad on his high-profile and well-publicized trips around the occupied West Bank.]
If only Fayyad had stayed longer, and actively participated in the Bil’in demonstration … maybe Jawaher would still be alive this afternoon.
The demonstrators moved out of the village, towards The Wall [which is in the form of a fence in that rural area], where they were met by volleys of tear gas.
The Israeli Supreme Court over three years ago ordered a change — which hasn’t yet happened — in the route of the Wall in Bil’in, where it cuts off and makes inaccessible large swathes of the village agricultural land, apparently in order to increase a “security” no-go zone around an adjacent Israeli settlement [is it Modi’in Illi? or Matityahu Mizrah, as Yossi Gurvitz reported here]. Whichever it is, this settlement is itself over the Green Line, and sitting squarely in the West Bank.
UPDATE: Here is information contained in an email just received from the Stop The Wall campaign — it does not supply a full answer, but it is still information: “At the beginning of the 1980s, the Matityahu settlement was built on a portion of Bil’in land and, at the beginning of the 1990s, another portion of land was confiscated for the Kiryat Sefer settlement. At the start of the millennium, yet another new settlement (Matityahu East) was built on Bil’in’s land. Modi’in Illit is now the most populated Israeli settlement in the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem, with a current population of almost 40,000. According to Israeli government plans, the target population for Modi’in Illit by the year 2020 is almost 150,000 residents”. The same email also notes that “In April 2004, Israel began construction of its illegal Apartheid Wall on the western side of the village. The existing route of the Wall isolates 1,980 dunums, or 49 per cent, of Bil’in’s land from the rest of the village by the Wall”.
Here, via a link on Joseph Dana’s website, is a video of yesterday’s demonstration in Bil’in [note the many yellow Fatah flags, the Israeli musicians, the Palestinian in a wheelchair with gas mask on, and the demonstrators carrying neatly rolled pieces of the chainlink fence]:
A report on the Israeli YNet website here says that “The IDF said that soldiers used tear gas to disperse Friday’s protest in a routine manner. The army added that an initial examination raises doubts regarding Abu Rahma’s [Abu Rahmah’s] cause of death as she initially sustained light wounds, was released from hospital and later died of her wounds in her home”.
The IDF yesterday accused all 250 “rioters” it said were in Bil’in of throwing stones. This makes it a “violent” demonstration, according to the Army’s usual discourse.
Activists present said yesterday that the accusation of stone-throwing was a “lie”. They maintain that their strategy is to pursue only non-violent resistance.
During the demonstration on Friday, however, Joseph Dana reported by Twitter that he believed Israeli provocateurs had infiltrated the protest to instigate problems… Here is his Tweet from Bil’in (which I retweeted at the time): “There are special forces inside the protest in bil’in. They are preparing an attack on the nonviolent demo from inside” 1:44 PM Dec 31st via Twitter for BlackBerry® Retweeted by you and 19 others
UPDATE: Joseph Dana has just reported on his website that “Small organized groups of protesters then spread across the Wall to try and implement the popular committee’s announcement that he last day of the decade will indeed also be the last day of the Wall on Bil’in’s land. An overwhelming number of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers spread along the path of the Wall, but were not able to stop demonstrators equipped with bolt-cutters from breaching through the Wall in three places. In one place, the protesters actually managed to carry a rather significant chunk of the Wall back to the village”… This is posted here.
UPDATE: A later report on YNet said that “The IDF and the Civil Administration [n.b.-this is also part of the Israeli Army] have opened investigations into the death. IDF sources claimed surprise at the death, because, they said, there had been no exceptional use of tear gas – neither quantity nor type. Muhammad Abu Rahma [Abu Rahman], Jawaher’s uncle, spoke of her activities and the moment she was hurt. ‘She came to all the protests during the last five years’, he said. ‘Yesterday (Friday) they fired an unprecedented quantity of tear gas at us, and Jawaher was trapped in an area where there was a huge cloud of gas. She didn’t manage to get out, lost consciousness, and inhaled large amounts of gas. We managed to locate her only after some minutes, because the gas made it hard to find her’.” This report is posted here.
Jawaher was the sister of Bassam Abu Rahmah, who was killed within minutes of receiving a direct hit to the chest from an IDF-fired high-velocity tear gas cannister at a regular Friday anti-Wall demonstration on 17 April 2009.
Photo of Bassam Abu Rahmah published on the YNet website today:
At least two other members of the extended Abu Rahmah family have been shot and injured in demonstrations in recent years. As YNet reported, “Ashraf Abu Rahma [Abu Rahmah], was shot during a protest in Naalian [Nil’in] while being bound. Some six months ago a military court convicted Lieutenant-Colonel Omri Borberg, former commander of the Armored Corps’ 71st Battalion, of attempted threats and the soldier who shot Ashraf with illegal use of weapons. The two were also convicted of conduct unbecoming and their sentence will be given next week”.
And, at least two others members of the Abu Rahmah family have been detained and imprisoned for extended periods. Adeeb Abu Rahmah was released on 12 December. Abdallah Abu Rahmah, whose case has been publicly taken up by the European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton (her statement called him a “human rights defender” whose rights to demonstrate peacefully have been suppressed), is still in jail although he has already served a one-year sentence imposed by a military court. Abdallah, one of the organizers of the weekly demonstrations held in Bil’in, was convicted of incitement (but not on charges of stone-throwing or possession of a weapon). Upon appeal, his sentence has been extended…
Activists present in Bil’in yesterday reported that about 1,000 people were there — more than the usual number. Earlier this year, in an effort to prevent the demonstrations, the IDF issued an order closing the village from 8 am to 8 pm every Friday. Only village residents are supposed to be in the area during those 12-hour periods.
There were many reports yesterday from activists on the spot that unusual quantities of tear gas were being used. Rubber bullets were also reportedly fired by the IDF at the protestors.
The PSCC is now reporting on its website that “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 … 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.” And, the PSCC website says that Attorney 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 [be] quiet, we will not give up, we will not spare any effort until those responsible will be punished. And they will.” This is posted here.
Ma’an News Agency reported on Saturday that in the demonstration on Friday Israeli forces also hit “one teenager in the face and sending him to hospital”. No further details were given. This Ma’an report is posted here.
Israeli activists announced they would hold a demonstration protesting Friday’s army violence at 19h30 Saturday night near the Israeli Defense Ministry headquarters, or Kiriya, in Tel Aviv.
UPDATE: Activists and journalists on the scene of the demonstration are Tweeting that about 200 people are participating, and that police have declared the demonstration illegal, put up roadblocks, and are beating and arresting participants and “tossing people into vans” — all in downtown Tel Aviv… The protesters blocked Kaplan Street in front of the Kirya for over an hour. Reports indicate that 8 people were arrested — including Meretz former MK Mossi Raz, who was apparently treated roughly. A video of his arrest posted on the YNet website here shows Raz being accosted by surprise, and then grabbed by the arms and marched down a street before being stuffed into a van. He appears to try to reason with the police arresting him. Lisa Goldman, who was right on the scene, reported overnight on +972 Magazine here that “Raz says to the police, as they push and drag him toward the police van, ‘Did you see me resisting arrest? Did you’?!” Another report said he had been slapped by police forces. By 2 am, Joseph Dana sent out a Tweet announcing that all those arrested had been released.
UPDATE: Dana also reported that other demonstrators went to Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, and demonstrated outside the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, where they “returned” used tear gas cannisters from the Bil’in demonstrations. In an article posted on the website of +972 magazine, Dana wrote that “The tear gas used by the Israeli forces in Bil’in is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc.; a United States company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. This is the first protest where empty tear gas canisters have been returned to an ambassador’s home. Approximately twenty five Israeli protesters gathered in front of the residence of American ambassador to Israel, James B. Cunningham around 1am local time. The protesters ‘returned’ loads of spent tear gas canisters collected in the West Bank village of Bil’in in protest of the murder of Bil’in’s Jawaher Abu Rahmah. The demonstrators also made noise throughout the Ambassador’s neighborhood informing residents of how American military aid to Israel is being used to kill unarmed and nonviolent demonstrators in the West Bank … The action in front of the American ambassador’s residence completed a day of protest throughout Israel and the West Bank stemming from Abu Rahmah’s death”. This article is posted here.
UPDATE: On Sunday morning, when a Court hearing was held for the demonstrators arrested in Herzliya, it became clear that 11 people had been arrested overnight — “including two women over 60 years old”, Dana remarked — and jailed. Joseph Dana reported that police asked that they be kept in jail at least 7 more days, on charges of “possession of firearms” — i.e., the used tear gas cannisters tossed over the fence at the American Ambassador’s residence — but the Judge ordered an extension for 2 days, for holding an illegal demonstration and resisting arrest. The Court will reconvene on Tuesday.