By Stanley Walinets
January 9, 2011
I drew attention last week to the West Bank protest against the 'Security Fence' and the death of a Palestinian woman from tear gas. Not surprisingly, my blog drew angry responses and denials. Typical, perhaps, was the response from Jonathan Hoffman, headed with his usual politeness: "@Walinets, you piece of ordure - you going to apologise?".
Jonathan's and others' responses (all very polite of course...) were denials of what happened - was the 36-year-old woman killed or not? was she there or not? Jonathan's 'evidence' included this:
"a military investigation found that the woman who supposedly died when she inhaled tear gas at a demonstration Friday was not even present at that protest. She did not die of tear gas inhalation but of cancer, the IDF found, and had been lying in a hospital bed for ten days before passing away.
Arabs and leftists propagated the story that the woman, Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, had inhaled tear gas at the weekly riot at Bilin, in Samaria. Adding pathos to the story was the allegation that she was the sister of an Arab who was killed in Bilin in 2009 after being struck by a tear gas canister."
Let me now draw your attention to the report by Anshel Pfeffer in Jerusalem in this week's JC. (I've numbered the paragraphs for ease of reference):
"WAS IT CANCER OR TEAR GAS? THE DEBATE RAGES
1) A Furious debate has broken out in Israel and across the blogosphere over what caused the death.....
2) The villagers of Bil'in in the West Bank claim Jawaher Abu Rahme was suffocated by tear-gas shot, by Israeli soldiers. The IDF maintain she died of an illness that she was already suffering from.
3) Ms Abu Rahme died on Saturday morning, but that is just about the only detail that is not in dispute. Her family in Bil'in and activists who took part in the weekly demonstrations against the separation fence near the village claimed that she had started suffocating after inhaling tear-gas shot by Israeli security forces at the demonstrators on Friday afternoon.
4) Demonstrations in Bil'in have taken place every Friday for the past six years, ever since the separation fence cut the village off from a large part of its agricultural land. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled three and a half years ago that the route of the fence should be changed in the village's favour, but the Defence Ministry has yet to carry out the order.
5) Twenty-one Palestinians have died in demonstrations against the fence, but over the past 20 months, there have only been a handful of light casualties, mainly due to changed IDF procedures.
6) An IDF officer said under condition of anonymity that "we received the medical reports from the Palestinians only after three days and they were full of inconsistencies. An earlier report has her leaving hospital on Friday with no serious injuries. There is no proof that she even participated in the demonstration and we have information that she was being treated for cancer."
7) Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer representing the Abu Rahme Family, said: "Jawaher was suffocated by tear gas, and she did not leave hospital before her death. She certainly did not have cancer."
Perhaps Anshel's article still doesn't give an absolutely clear answer. But if you're prepared to read it carefully, then re-read Mr Hoffman's version, you will see Mr H has not checked his sources honestly (perhaps he was overcome by his perceived smell of ordure...).
What's really important is that we read especially carefully paragraphs 4,5,and 7. They show there's a whole important background to this incident going back several years; mentioning the IDF's refusal to carry out the Supreme Court Order; the 21 Palestinians who've been killed and others injured during these protests; and the reasons behind these protests - the village cut off from a large part of its agricultural land.
I sincerely hope, dear friends, that you will consider this event and its history and begin to think how we ourselves would like to be treated like this.