I was at the demo on Friday and at the funeral on Saturday — along with Jen Marlowe. Also Dorothy Zellner came with me on Saturday.
Hundreds of Palestinians from the border area villages, internationals, and Israelis gathered in Bil’in for the Friday demonstration. Notables like Salam Fayyad showed up to make speeches, but I did not see them join the march. The IOF commenced firing heavy tear gas before demonstrators were within five hundred yards of them. A small number of people managed to penetrate the gas and get to within 15 feet of the soldiers. Obviously, this was a non-violent demonstration because they simply remained there, talking to the soldiers for at least an hour.
The gas, according to several people I was with, was much more debilitating than they had experienced before. I can say, in addition to burning the eyes and nose, it caused significant chest pain. It also remained effective even when it was no longer visible in the air. You would think you had moved away from it and suddenly you couldn’t breathe. While I was never closer to the IOF than 300 yards, a young boy only six feet away from collapsed from the gas effects and was taken to the hospital.
I can say that Isabel Kershner’s comment in the New York Times, that these demonstrations “inevitably end in clashes, with young Palestinians hurling stones and the Israeli security forces firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets” completely reverses the course of events. The IOF commenced firing tear gas long before any demonstrators neared them. There was little stone throwing during the demonstration and it did not commence until long after the tear gas.
For a group of demonstrators that got closer than I did (maybe 100 yards or so from the IOF), the soldiers fired a tear gas barrage in front of them, then behind them — trapping them. Then numerous tear gas canisters were fired into the center of the group — clearly a punitive, not defensive, action.
In addition, the IDF spokeman is claiming that Jawaher Abu Rahme was released from the Ramallah hospital and died at home. This is just an effort to complicate the chain of evidence that she was asphyxiated by tear gas. She died at 9 am in the morning at the hospital and many people, including Andrew el Kadi, waited there until her body was brought out to be taken to Bil’in for burial.
New York Times — all the news that’s fit to print!
How many members of the Abu Rahme family will be killed, shot, jailed as they fight for their rights and their land?