Unarmed Palestinian Protester Killed by Israeli Tear Gas

From +972 blog:

Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah who was also killed during a peaceful protest in Bil’in on April 17th, 2010.

While the details remain under investigation, this appears to be the latest in a string of serious injuries and deaths from the excesses of Israel’s suppression of unarmed protests throughout the West Bank and Israel – including the use of steel-coated rubber bullets, beatings of activists (tonight, a former Israeli Member of Knesset), and the firing of tear gas directly at protesters. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered in 2007 that the security barrier should be re-routed to take less of Bil’in’s agricultural lands; the barrier has not been moved and the residents of Bil’in have waited long enough. More details on the event from Reuters and NYTimes.

See the video of the protest (not including Jawaher’s death) here. Towards the end, one can see that the Israeli troops fire tear gas directly at the protesters, in contravention of Israeli and international law. The protesters chant slogans and play music, while the nonchalant soldiers fire their own instruments of asphyxiation. And who are these protesters but Palestinians or Leftists, protesters whose lives cease to matter or be “grievable,” to use Judith Butler’s term.

In response, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement and others demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Defense tonight in Tel Aviv, and 8 were arrested, including former MK Mosi Raz. Highlighting American implication in the suppression of West Bank protests, Israeli activists “returned” spent tear gas canisters from Bil’in to the home of U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham. Tear gas canisters used by the IDF in Bil’in are manufactured by Combined Systems, Inc., a U.S. company based in Jamestown, PA.

On the heels of its expulsion of Palestinian organizer Adnan Gheith from Jerusalem through an arcane British Mandate law, and the imprisonment of Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak for a bike-ride in protest of the Gaza siege (this past week alone), Jawaher’s death is a result of Israel’s continued, unjustified suppression of non-violent resistance to the occupation.

There is perhaps little to say, but that the joint unarmed struggle continues in various forms, from Sheikh Jarrah to Bil’in. “This is our land,” one can hear a Bil’in resident call to the Israeli soldiers, as they both stand on Bil’in lands. With official talks at a stalemate and Israeli settlement continuing, demonstrations and direct action are the ways that Bil’in residents reclaim their stolen land in solidarity with Israelis and internationals: more primary than opinion battles or pleas to the Israeli courts, where, in this case as in the “Lemon Tree” case and many others, even victories are not exactly victories! I am not saying the court victories are not powerful, only that while one waits, and really whenever, direct action is the core of the struggle itself, and the grounds on which solidarities are built. And I’m not saying one can’t theorize this – only that the theory must first and foremost take account of this action.

As Bil’in residents continue to cut through pieces of the fence, with support from throughout Israel, Palestine and the world, those of us interested in a just resolution of this conflict – whatever our motivations – ought to take up pliers and megaphones with them. Because there is another party here, the Israeli consensus and its supporters, whose continued unwillingness or inability to end the occupation or even tolerate unarmed resistance to it seems to be a sick invitation to armed elements to take over (which would confirm this consensus in its cynicism). For Israelis and others who know full well what injustices have been done (Benny Morris knows, for example), but are afraid of Palestinian resistance, it might behoove them to recognize that the struggle in Bil’in is not about pushing anyone into any seas, but about the dispossessed reclaiming their land – in short, about people’s basic ability to live in dignity, which needless to say applies to Israelis too.

The unarmed struggle is an invitation to take this side, to let expanded, perhaps unlikely, but diverse solidarities direct the future of this place. Because the old ones alone aren’t working.

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