Sunday, November 20, 2011

Solidarity With Tristan Anderson in His Challenge to Israeli Military

START DATE: Thursday November 17
TIME: 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Location Details:

Art House 2905 Shattuck near Ashby, Berkeley.
Event Type: Panel Discussion

On Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 pm, an event in solidarity with the opening
of Tristan Anderson's trial holding the Israeli military responsible for
shooting him in the head with a tear gas cannister will be held at the Art
House in Berkeley, 2905 Shattuck near Ashby.

Accompanying the update on legal challenges will be music, featuring David
Rovics, Andrea Pritchett, Ayr and the Funky Nixons acoustic.

A panel discussion will start with a live update from the first day of
trial in Israel from Tristan's friend Gabby who was with him when he was
shot, and a statement from Tristan. Other panelists include Ayr, Paul
Larudee from the International Solidarity Movement, and Barbara Lubin from
the Middle East Childrens’ Alliance, speaking about current situations in
Palestine. We will also give a shout out to Occupy Oakland and Iraq
veteren Scott Olson, who was injured in a similar way via police action at
Occupy Oakland and remains in recovery.

This event is free; donations welcome. Info at 510-547-7486

See Al Jazeera article about Tristan’s civil suit:

Challenging the Israeli army in court

In 2009, the Israeli military shot US citizen Tristan Anderson in the head
with a teargas canister, paralysing him.

Charlotte Silver Last Modified: 09 Nov 2011 Al Jazeera

This month, hearings in Tristan Anderson's civil case against the Israeli
army will begin in Jerusalem. Like the families of Rachel Corrie, Brian
Avery and countless Palestinians, Tristan and his family are seeking to
hold the otherwise indemnified Israeli military responsible in Israeli

Tristan, a 39-year-old American, was shot in the head with an "extended
range tear gas" canister on March 13, 2009 in the West Bank village of
Nilin. The canister directly hit the right side of his forehead, breaking
his skull, penetrating his right eye and devastating his frontal lobe.
Today he remains almost entirely paralysed on his left side and blind in
his right eye. Although he continues to slowly recover far beyond what was
initially believed possible by his physicians - retrieving lost memories
and gaining intellectual strength - he will be forever altered.

"The Tristan that I knew - that was my partner - that we all knew - he
doesn't exist anymore," Gabrielle Silverman says.

Silverman, who is Jewish, had travelled to Israel and Palestine hoping to
gain a clearer picture of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

"I've been told my whole life that what is happening with Israel is
relevant to me personally, so I came to get a better understanding of what
was happening," Silverman explains.

Tristan - a world traveller, photographer and a longtime human, social and
environmental rights activist - followed Silverman, his girlfriend of 10
months, to the region.

The two travelled to both sides of the "Green Line", and after seeing the
situation for themselves, decided to join up with the International
Solidarity Movement.

"I watched him get shot, watched him fall."

- Silverman, Tristan's girlfriend

Tristan was shot at the end of his sixth attendance at the regularly
scheduled Friday protests in Nilin. Since January 2008, the residents of
Nilin have protested the construction of the Separation Wall that steals
around 30 per cent of its land. He and Silverman had wandered away from
what remained of a dwindling demonstration and found a patch of grass to
get a respite from the lingering tear gas.

"And out of nowhere they opened fire on us. The first shot they fired,
they got Tristan."

"I watched him get shot, watched him fall," Silverman remembers.

'Like firing a small missile'

At that time, the type of tear gas that hit Tristan had not been in use
longer than six months and was advertised by its United States-makers,
Combined Systems Inc, as a "barrier penetrator".

This type of tear gas is particularly dangerous because it has an internal
mechanism that propels it forward, significantly increasing its impact.
"It's like firing a small missile," explains Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson
for B'tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation.

The same weapon would kill Bassem Abu Rahma in the nearby village of
Bilin, one month later.

For Silverman, Tristan and his family, taking the army to court represents
a challenge to a system that has seen 260 Palestinians killed in unarmed
demonstrations since 2000. The Israeli security forces responsible for
these deaths have been held to no real accountability.

After two requests were filed by human rights organisation, B'tselem and
Michael Sfard Law office, the "Judea and Samaria District Police"
conducted an investigation into the incident, resulting in no criminal
charges filed by Israel's district attorney's office.

However, B'tselem, Silverman and the Andersons' representing lawyers argue
that the investigation was outrageously flawed.

"It was a sloppy, unprofessional and negligent investigation. It cannot be
described as thorough or complete," said Emily Schaeffer, one of the
lawyers representing Tristan in his criminal suit.

"The investigation clearly did not include a visit to the scene of the
crime," Schaeffer continued.

Schaeffer explained that the investigation revealed that there were three
separate groups of border police positioned throughout Nilin for the
duration of that Friday's protest, one of which was positioned on a hill
approximately 60 meters away from Anderson and Silverman, and was the only
group that would have had access to Anderson. That group of border police
was never interviewed.

Instead, an entirely different group of border police was investigated for
another shooting that had occurred on the same day, that of an unarmed
Palestinian protester in the head. While five out of the seven witnesses
to Tristan's injury were interviewed, their testimonies were apparently
disregarded as evidenced by the wrong group of border police being

Not the exception
A symbolic grave built on the spot where Bassem Abu Rahma was killed
while nonviolently protesting the theft of his land [EPA]

Following two appeals filed by Sfard's firm, now the State Attorney's
office will determine whether to reopen the investigation and include what
seems obviously necessary: A visit to the site and an investigation of the
border police who did have access to Tristan from their position.

"Unfortunately the authorities' treatment of Tristan's case is not the
exception - in my office alone we have seen literally hundreds of cases of
Palestinians injured by the security forces whose investigations have also
been negligent and have therefore failed to hold anyone accountable,"
Schaeffer wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence had already determined the legitimacy
of the shooting.

Parallel to the criminal investigation, Israel human rights attorney, Lea
Tsemel pursued a civil case against the Israeli military for damages. Her
suit elicited a letter from the Ministry of Defence on July 12, 2009
claiming the incident was an "act of war", and therefore legitimate, i.e.,
they had no responsibility to Tristan.

Lea Tsemel argues that Tristan - and all Palestinians and internationals -
were engaging in a legal action, not one of war.

Under international humanitarian law and Human Rights Law, Israel (as the
occupying power) may be impelled to conduct both law enforcement and
combat operations in the occupied Palestinian territories. The law
enforcement component is particularly relevant in Area C of the West Bank
- which constitutes 60 per cent of the land. It is under full civil and
security control of Israel.

Nil'in falls into this category. Israel's presence there during nonviolent
Friday protests is a function of their capacity as law enforcement - not

Indeed, suggesting that all military operations in the West Bank are not
intended to result in death or critical injury, the Israeli military does
have a set of open-fire regulations that apply to law enforcement
scenarios, such as demonstrations in the West Bank. While these rules are
classified, the military has publically confirmed that they prohibit their
soldiers from shooting directly at people when trying to disperse crowds
or protests.

Yet these procedures are hardly evident in reports from activists and
human rights organisations such as B'tselem.

"It's not about the rules, it's about the lack of enforcement," says

'Acts of war'

However, of the 57 deaths that have occurred at demonstrations since the
end of the Second Intifada, only four of them were caused by so-called
"less lethal weapons". The other 53 people were killed by live ammunition.

It appears that the army has made no effort to properly train its soldiers
to enforce law rather than conduct combat. In a 2005 report on settler
violence and expansion, former head of Israel's State Prosecution Criminal
Department, Talia Sasson, wrote, "In practice... IDF soldiers do not
enforce the law, are not aware of the law enforcement procedure and are
not at all interested in functioning like police officers."

"In practice... IDF soldiers do not enforce the law."

- Talia Sasson, former head of Israel's State Prosecution Criminal Department

This non-compliance with Israel's alleged open-fire regulations and its
obligations under international humanitarian law and Human Rights Law is
validated at the highest levels: Israel provides its soldiers with devices
like the extended range tear gas canister - that decimated Tristan's brain
and killed Bassem Abu Rahahma from Bilin - and the Military of Defence is
readily prepared to cast these incidents as "acts of war".

This is nothing new. We know what to expect from the Ministry of Defence
in the Jerusalem courtroom - they will dredge through a series of
decontextualised facts to defame and belittle Tristan (and Silverman) as
thrill-seeking activists, or argue that they were fully aware of the risks

It's the same justification they used in Rachel Corrie's case. It was as
irrelevant and baseless then as it is for Tristan and all the hundreds of
Palestinians who have been maimed and killed while participating in
unarmed resistance against a military occupation that has lasted for 44

During a year of social upheaval, the world has forged new bonds of
solidarity as well as new classes of resistance. Whether from Egypt or the
United States, people have seen how easily law enforcement can be
supplanted by lethal combat for the sake of repressing the revolt and
maintaining the status quo.

On October 25, Marine veteran Scott Olson was shot in the head by a tear
gas canister at an occupy Oakland demonstration. He is currently in an
Oakland hospital, and the extent of the damage to his brain is still

Many people have been all too willing to serve as an ally to the state,
supporting its repressive tactics by marginalising and dismissing
political activism. Israel has acted savagely and with impunity, but the
world's climate is changing. Perhaps, we can expect that increasing
numbers will begin to scrutinise the actions of Israel and demand

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank, Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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