Ask Congress to investigate.
I could barely believe the photo. On December 9, an Israeli peace activist with a camera caught the exact moment an Israeli soldier pointed his weapon out of the back of a truck and shot a young Palestinian man in the face. The man’s name was Mustafa Tamimi and he was hit at close range by a tear gas canister. He died later of severe brain injuries.
Chances are that tear gas canister was made in the United States, which is why I want you to contact Congress now and ask for an investigation into the deadly misuse of tear gas by the Israeli army.
Tamimi was inside his own village, Nabi Saleh, at the time of the shooting, protesting the theft of its land by settlers.
Tear gas canisters like the one that killed Tamimi have already permanently injured or killed many more unarmed protesters trying to protect Palestinian land.
Most of these canisters are made in the United States by Wyoming-based Defense Technology and Pennsylvania-based Combined Systems Inc. (CSI).
We've seen these same tear gas canisters being used against unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Arab Spring protests from Cairo to Bahrain. Shamefully, they are also being used in the United States, where Occupy-Oakland activist Scott Olsen suffered a critical brain injury after being shot just blocks from where I’m sitting now.
The U.S. Arms Export Control Act (Public Law 90-829) limits the use of U.S. weapons given or sold to a foreign country to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense” and prevents their use against civilians. And yet civilians are being targeted and killed. Congress must ask why.
Only yesterday Congress released a new condition, as part of the the foreign operations portion of the spending bill, asking the State Department to submit a report "detailing any crowd control items, including tear gas, made available with appropriated funds or through export licenses to foreign security forces that the Secretary of State has credible information have repeatedly used excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful, and organized dissent (1)."
This is a good and important first step. Yet while the concern in Washington is about the terrible misuse of U.S.-made tear gas in countries such as Egypt and Bahrain, we need to remind Congress that similar abuses in Palestine cannot be ignored.
On January 1, 2011, Jawaher Abu Rahmah died after she was choked by tear gas at a protest in Bil’in (2). Her brother Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed when he was shot by an Israeli soldier directly in the chest with a tear gas canister in April 2009 (3). In March 2009, an Israel soldier shot Tristan Anderson, an American citizen, in the head with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Ni'ilin, leaving him partially paralyzed with permanent cognitive impairment (4). Also severely injured was Bil'in resident Khamis Abu Rahmah, who suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage (5). Another U.S. citizen, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz, lost her left eye when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at her, striking her in the face during a West Bank protest in May 2010 (6).
Not even children are safe. In September, 2010 an 18-month-old child died at a hospital after being choked by tear gas in East Jerusalem (7).
These tear gas canisters are lethal. Congress must order the State Department to investigate right away, before another person gets killed.
No more gas. No more tears.
Sydney Levy, Director of Advocacy
Jewish Voice for Peace
(1) Huffington Post, December 15, 2011: "Congress Pushes State Department Over Misused American Tear Gas In Spending Bill"
(2) Popular Struggle, January, 1st, 2011: "Israeli forces kill female protester in Bil'in"
(3) Popular Struggle, April 17, 2009: "Demonstrator Shot Dead During Bil'in Demonstration"
(4) Democracy Now! [Video], November 16, 2010: "First Interview Since Critical Injury at West Bank Protest"
(5) Electronic Intifada, November 27, 2009: Interview: "Bilin activist continues to struggle despite injury"
(6) Democracy Now! [Video], August 5, 2010: "Emily Henochowicz Speaks Out"
(7) +972 Magazine, September 24, 2010: "Baby dies of tear gas inhalation on third day of unrest in E. J’lem"