Death by Tear Gas: On West Bank ‘Calm’

By Stephen Lendman

Daily accounts can be followed on important sites such as Palestine, Palestine, and the Electronic as well as others like Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz, available online in English.

They and others document harrowing crimes virtually ignored in the West, especially by America’s media offering one-sided pro-Israeli reports with imperfect exceptions like Isabel Kershner’s January 7 New York Times article headlined, "Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian, 65, in His Bedroom," saying:

"Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed 65-year-old Palestinian man….in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. The man’s wife said he was sleeping and she was praying when soldiers burst into the apartment before dawn, entered the bedroom and immediately opened fire."

Without explanation, "(t)he Israeli military expressed regret," she said, and promised "a speedy investigation, with conclusions to be presented as early as next week." In fact, all Israeli "investigations" whitewash crimes to absolve guilty commanders, troops, and top government officials who sanction occupation, violence and wars of aggression.

Rarely ever do US media journalists report anything less than fully supportive of Israel. Even Kershner’s account wasn’t fully accurate or candid, suggesting "mistaken identity" when killings, assaults and other abuses happen regularly against targeted individuals and others who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – "collateral damage" for the Pentagon and Israel when, in fact, it’s willful, at times, indiscriminate cold-blooded murder, a US and Israeli specialty.

Kershner’s article also misreported "a period of relative calm" preceding the killing and two others when, in fact, daily violence and repression define life in Occupied Palestine. It also mentioned what she covered in a January 1 article, headlined, "Tear Gas Kills a Palestinian Protester," saying that Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a 36-year old Palestinian woman "died Saturday after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces a day earlier at a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in a West Bank village."

Again, she highlighted Israel’s side, calling the protest a "violent and illegal riot,’" when, in fact, demonstrations against occupation and Israel’s (International Court of Justice July 4, 2004 ruled illegal) Separation Wall are always nonviolent and legal on Palestinian, not Israeli, land. Israeli-initiated violence always follows, victimizing, injuring, and at times killing peaceful protesters like Jawaher.

Kershner also ignored the type and origin of the dangerous tear gas used. Called CS, it’s supplied by the Defense Technology Corporation of America, and may either be fired randomly into crowds, homes, or aimed directly at targets at close range, increasing the possibility of serious injury or death. In fact, a CS canister blow to the chest killed Bassem Abu Rahmah, Jawaher’s brother, in April 2009.

US television news ignores these crimes, and rarely ever do even distorted accounts appear in print. When they do, however, they’re never fully accurate or candid. Kershner, like other US reporters, highlights Israel’s version of events, never hinting that regular outrageous crimes occur, that Israel’s occupation and Separation Wall are illegal, and that since June 2007 over 1.5 million Gazans are suffocating under siege.

Moreover, most important is what’s omitted in reports, especially background information on this decades-long conflict, why it continues, and that Washington supplies Israel with billions of dollars annually, the latest weapons and technology, interest-free loans, and virtually anything else Israel requests, even when doing so harms US interests.

One Palestinian CS survivor described the experience as feeling "like a million blue shards of glass tearing at your alveoli (air sacks in lungs) and shredding your eyes…Every breath tears at your insides; vicious animals live in your lungs. I’d rather not breathe than take one more anguished, searing, charred breath. Then, you don’t have a choice; you can’t breathe."

Kershner omitted those and other facts from her articles or that weapons this dangerous should be prohibited. All high-velocity projectiles also, what killed Bassem Abu Rahmen and others, fired directly at them at point blank range with intent to seriously injure or kill. Terror weapons, they’re regularly used against nonviolent protesters to disperse, intimidate, and/or willfully cause harm.

On January 4, Kershner’s article headlined, "Israeli Military Officials Challenge Account of Palestinian Woman’s Death," saying:

"….Israeli military officials, who insisted on anonymity (always a red flag) while their investigation (read whitewash) was continuing, told various journalists and bloggers that they had never heard of tear gas killing anyone in the open, and raised the possibility that (Jawaher) had some pre-existing ailment, that alone or compounded by the tear gas, caused her death."

Jawaher, in fact, was fine. She was at work the previous day, and her brother, Samir, said she was happily looking forward to spending time with her family over New Year’s. Moreover, hospital records confirmed "no history of chronic disease." Recent medical tests also showed everything was normal.

Israeli forces routinely use CS gas against protesters. On January 3, Haaretz writers Avi Issacharoff and Anshel Pfeffer, headlined, "Protester death shows IDF may be using most dangerous type of tear gas," saying:

The Ramallah hospital treating Jawaher reported "her death was caused by respiratory failure resulting from the inhalation of tear gas….In recent years, a number of studies have cast doubts about (CS) gas; there have been reports of several deaths caused by" inhaling it.

"One of the main factors influencing the extent of (its) damage….is the amount of particles in the air," according to Israeli Dr. Daniel Argo "who regularly takes part" in anti-Wall protests. "He also trains activists to (treat) injuries caused by police and soldiers using crowd-dispersal techniques."

Argo explained that CS is known to cause eye and lung injuries, as well as skin diseases, saying:

"There are other types of tear gas that are not as dangerous as CS; why the defense establishment insists on continuing it use is not clear. In addition, since no studies have (addressed its) long-term effects, security personnel who use it frequently should be worried about their own health."

Protest participants say Israel uses "barrages of tear gas both in front and behind" them, trapping them. Moreover, the gas remains effective even when no longer visible. It’s also used beyond its expiration date to increase its deadliness. Whenever deaths or serious injuries result, Israel denies responsibility, blaming peaceful protesters for provoking violence, when, in fact, thuggish police, military or other security forces alone are to blame.

Legal Right to Protest Peacefully

A January 4 Haaretz editorial headlined, "Israel must allow Palestinians to protest in peace," saying:

Tear gas killed Jawaher, her brother Bassem, and her "third brother, Ashraf, was caught on camera as he was shot by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed." Yet, peaceful protests "are entirely legitimate. (Palestinians) have the right to protest (occupation and) the theft of their land for the giant settlements," pockmarking the West Bank as well as the illegal Separation Wall.

Jawaher "died in vain. She didn’t endanger anyone. There’s no need to mention the countries where the regimes kill people who demonstrate against them. Israel must not become one of them."

Israel, of course, has been one for decades, Palestinian sources confirming 21 West Bank protesters killed since 2005, besides thousands more over Israel’s decades long reign of terror – information Kershner and other US journalists won’t report.

Nor that in 2004, the IDF Medical Corps published a study on CS gas in the Israeli medical journal Refuah and the Germany-based Archives of Toxicology. It concluded that high gas concentrations can cause serious harm or kill. Yet in Bil’in and other villages, Israeli military forces routinely fire multiple canisters into small areas, releasing thick clouds of gas. The clear motive isn’t just crowd control.

In Memory

On January 8, Stop the headlined "Hundreds march in memory of Jawaher," saying:

"Hundreds of Palestinian and international activists, members of Palestinian women’s institutions and unions, and Palestinian political officials and leaders joined in the protest in Bil’in this week to honor Jawaher Abu Rahmah" who died New Year’s day in a Ramallah hospital from CS gas inhalation.

They also wore yellow Stars of David, symbolizing ones Nazis forced Jews to wear, their message saying: "the Occupation is bringing down on us what was practiced against the Jews by the Nazis, using all its deadly weapons to exterminate the Palestinian people."

Israeli soldiers confronted them with massive amounts of CS gas, sound bombs, rubber-coated metal bullets, and water cannons spraying skunk water (raw sewage). Numerous injuries were reported, including dozens from inhalation and the effects of contaminated water. Several protesters were also beaten and one or more arrested.

Nabi Saleh protests were also viciously attacked, including by tear gassing nearby homes. Mahmoud Samir Shehada’s house was filled with gas, suffocating everyone inside. His wife collapsed and was rushed to Ramallah hospital for treatment.

Al Ma’sara residents protested Jawaher’s killing despite Israeli soldiers kicking and beating them with rifle butts. In Ni’lin, residents commemorated the second anniversary of Arafat and Mohammed Khawaja’s deaths, killed during Cast Lead, as well as Jawaher, in their weekly march.

Soldiers confronted them violently. Village leader Ahad Khawaja said assaults have been especially vicious lately, an apparent Israeli decision to more ruthlessly crush opposition to its lawless occupation, Separation Wall, and daily crimes against humanity, an Israeli specialty unreported by America’s major media.

– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to Contact him at: and visit his blog at:

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