Tuesday, June 01, 2010
An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel’s murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.
21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.
They clearly saw us, said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.
UPDATE 1: We Are All Gazans Now
Ajl has written an excellent article for Truthout that should be read in its entirely.
Before the attack, Israeli spokespeople and statesmen had sedulously tried to paint the flotilla in the colors reserved for scoundrels and terrorists. "Israel … invited the flotilla organizers to use the land crossings ... however, they're less interested in bringing in aid than promoting their radical agenda and playing into the hands of Hamas provocations…. [The organizers have] wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, but engage in political propaganda," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said that "the flotilla is an attempt at violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow a violation of its sovereignty at sea, in the air or on land." The flotilla carried hundreds of wheelchairs for crippled Gazans and a dental clinic for Al-Shifa Hospital.
The pattern of mind is one that views resistance as terror, self-defense as murder and pacifism as violence. Such a mindset cannot admit to the possibility of a legitimate or just challenge. So nonviolent sailing ships transmute to violent propagandists, "an Armada of hate and violence," as Ayalon described the Freedom Flotilla. International Solidarity Movement activists become human shields for bomb-planters, and the Palestinian resistance gets locked up in prison - there are about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; they make up 50 percent of the prison population. There are hundreds more in administrative detention. Israeli Arab lawmakers who contest Israeli apartheid are bludgeoned with politically motivated indictments and forced into exile, as Azmi Bishara was. Palestinian lawmakers and civil society leaders are locked in penitentiaries and tortured there, as Ameer Makhloul, the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms and the director of Ittijah, an umbrella group of hundreds of civil society organizations, has reportedly been. The tacit presumption is that Palestinian resistance is inherently illegitimate. The corollary is that Palestinians and their supporters have no right to resist Israeli actions. So when they defend themselves from corsairs intent on commandeering their ships, "They are directly responsible for the violence and the deaths that [occur]," as Israeli army spokesman Mark Regev comments. They should just take it.
Of course, one of the necessary preconditions for a successful campaign of civil disobedience is the prospect that people around the world will respond to any violence used against the participants and compel the perpetrators to acknowledge their demands. To date, that response has been absent, and Israel is a country where much of the populace celebrates the use of violence as a means of asserting their social identity, as is now happening in response to the attack. Such a celebration is quite tragic for the Israelis as well, but, for now, the primary victims of it are the Palestinians, as they have always been.
We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17 , an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.
One month prior, at another demonstration against land confiscation, Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas canister at the head of nonviolent American peace activist Tristan Anderson from California. Tristan underwent surgery to remove part of his frontal lobe and is still lying unconscious in an Israeli hospital. In 2003, the Israeli military plowed down American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a civilian home from demolition in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, an Israeli sniper shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall as he rescued Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. He lay in a coma for nine months before he died.
Despite the killing of these unarmed civilians and documented evidence of systematic human-rights abuses, the U.S. continues to supply Israel with approximately $3 billion in military aid annually, allowing Israel to continue abusing Palestinians and preventing any meaningful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Israeli government orders the confiscation of Palestinian land for one of two main purposes: to build or expand illegal colonies or to construct the Wall that the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004. In the case of Bassem's village of Bil'in, even the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to change the route of the Wall, though Israel has yet to comply. Consequently, Palestinian farmers cannot reach their crops and they are devastated economically. Israel's policy is intended to force Palestinians to give up and leave in order to survive.
When village residents gather weekly to protest, they use various creative methods of nonviolent resistance, including carrying mirrors up to the soldiers to show them "the face of occupation" or dressing as various politicians and wearing blindfolds to symbolize the world's blind eye to their struggle. The Israeli military meets them and their Israeli and international supporters with tear gas, grenades, and bullets.
If there is a contemporary nation state that readily confirms the anarchist condemnation of them, it is Israel and, of course, the US, which has a similar public relationship to the uses of violence for the purpose of achieving social cohesion. To lecture the Palestinians about how they would have already obtained their own state over 20 years ago, as Michael Tomasky does in the article linked above, is not only comical, but an insult to a people that have been subjected to extreme military violence every time that they have dared to organize collective resistance. No doubt the state that he envisions is one in which every important decision related to Palestinian life is one that must be pre-approved by Israel.