New army version on Bil’in death contradicts previous claims

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , | 10 Comments »

Yesterday evening, just in time to make the eight o’clock news, the IDF has presented another “official” version for the death of Bi’lin’s Jawahar Abu-Rahmah during a protest against the security barrier near her village on December 31st.

This is from Haaretz:

Abu Rahmah, 36, was taken to the hospital after she inhaled tear gas fired by IDF forces during a demonstration in Bil’in against the West Bank security barrier at the end of December.

According to the IDF investigation, Rahmah’s condition deteriorated at the hospital after she received an incorrect diagnosis and inappropriate treatment.

The IDF findings, which were presented to GOC Central Command Avi Mizrachi, were based on hospital documents, some which showed that doctors believed Abu Rahma was sickened by phosphorous fertilizer and nerve gas. She was therefore treated with atropine and fluids, without Palestinian doctors realizing that she had in fact inhaled tear gas.

The investigation also found that Abu Rahmah was not present at the demonstration itself, but instead was near her house.

As Yossi Gurvitz notes, the army’s story was released (again) through unofficial channels, and not by IDF spokesperson. Harretz’s piece, as well as other reports in the Hebrew media, indicates that the source of the story was at Central Command. The fact that same story appeared on all media outlets suggests that Central Command’s CO Avi Mizrachi was personally involved in releasing it.

After the protest, Palestinian sources claimed that Jawahar Abu Rahmah stood on a hill near her home, not far from the protest, inhaled massive amounts of tear gas and as a result, collapsed. She was rushed to Ramallah’s hospital, where she died the next day.

In the following days, the army presented several versions for the event. It claimed that Abu-Rahmah died at her home, that she died of cancer, and that she wasn’t present at the protest or hurt from tear gas. An army source even spread a vicious rumor that Jawahar was murdered by a Palestinian for violating her family’s honor

The current IDF version contradicts all previous ones.

The army currently admits that Jawaher was hurt from the tear gas which was shot in Bil’in on December 31st. The IDF is only claiming that Jawahar wasn’t hurt that badly from the tear gas, and that it was the treatment at the Ramallah hospital that caused her death. This might be true – I have no way of telling. Yet there are two important points to make here:

(a)    The IDF failed to present any evidence that would back its recent story. Given Central Command’s total lack of credibility on this affair, even those who want to believe the army should take the current version with a little salt.

(b)    The common view is that a failed medical treatment does not exempt the injuring party from responsibility, both morally and legally. Speaking of the Abu-Rahmah case, Attorney Roi Rotman wrote on his blog that according to the Israeli interpretation of the Eggshell Skull Rule, at least some of the “late” damage to the injured party should be blamed on the injuring party – and on this case, the IDF.

I would like to illustrate the last point with something that happened to me last Friday in Bil’in. I was walking down the road with the other protesters, when the soldiers started shooting tear gas at us (by the way, at least one of them was shooting directly at us – I saw the canister flying right into our group). Most protesters immediately turned back and started running towards the village. I was running too when someone bumped into me from behind and made me fall flat on the road. I hurt my hands, my elbow and my knees; one of my nails broke, I had a couple of deep cuts and a few of my fingers were bleeding. It was unpleasant, but things could have been worse. The important point here is that according to the IDF’s logic, I should blame the guy who ran into me for the (very minor) injury I suffered. It’s an absurd idea, that wouldn’t stand a chance in court. The only relevant question is whether the army had the right to shoot at us, and whether it used “proportional force”. The same goes for Jawahar Abu-Rahmah: The fact that she was taken to the hospital because of the tear gas is the one that matters.

One last note, regarding the media: a few days after Jawahar’s death, Central Command held a special briefing for rigthwing bloggers who later posted the army’s version, including the most absurd rumors, word by word. I wonder how they feel now, when the army backed away from most of what they wrote.

This affair wasn’t a great success for the Israeli media as well. As it turned, some of the reporters that repeated the IDF’s version have never spoken to a Palestinian source or been to Bil’in. This is why they thought that Jawahar’s presence near her house means she couldn’t have suffered from tear gas inhalation – not knowing that the tear gas canisters are shot to the hill on the village’s edge, and the wind sometimes even carries the gas cloud all the way to Bil’in’s center. I can only hope that next time, these reporters would use more caution before repeating IDF’s stories. I am not saying that people should take the Palestinian version for granted – simply use the same amount of skepticism on both sides, and remember that the army is not an “objective” party, certainly not at events when it’s being accused of crimes.

related post:

IDF on Bil’in: spins, half-truths and lies

10 Comments on “New army version on Bil’in death contradicts previous claims”

  1. 1 maayan said at 1:00 pm on January 20th, 2011:

    You know that the IDF didn’t publish anything officially after Jawaher died. The refutations of the accusations were made indirectly or off the record.

    The IDF was right to use exactly the same tool to spread its information as the Palestinians: supporters, media people, activists, bloggers.

    The IDF has every reason to be suspicious and to doubt the Palestinian version of events. Remember Jenin? It’s the same PA, only without Arafat.

    The complaint that the IDF version has changed is silly. The IDF suspected certain things and gave them voice unofficially. They took several days to investigate and were actually very patient before publishing their version of what actually happened.

    There was plenty of evidence to sow doubt in the Palestinian version of events. No photos of Jawaher at the event, conflicting testimonies from supposed eyewitnesses INCLUDING HER OWN MOTHER, apparent coaching of these eyewitnesses on medical symptoms, no injuries to other demonstrators and certainly none related to tear gas, the immediacy of the PA response, the blowing up of this death into a large demonstration inside Israel.

    Despite these ample warning signs that this was a piece of propaganda by the Palestinians, several activists and activist reporters took the mission to spread this story without actually investigating to any serious depth. No skepticism of Palestinian claims precisely because they took “the Palestinian version for granted.”

    Over at 972, the very same writers who penned all the original attacks on the IDF for this death are now doing some serious acrobatics to evade any responsibility or even address the facts brought out by the IDF about her death. As a last measure, since there is some understanding that the IDF may be speaking the truth, there is your claim that, well, whatever happened there, if the IDF was somehow involved, her death was their fault.

    Maybe it’s the demonstrators’ fault for going there week after week to damage the fence (while calling it a wall) knowing that the IDF will respond with tear gas?

    As it stands now, all we know is that Jawaher died, probably on the day of the demonstration. She may have died because of the tear gas, although it appears she had been seriously seek prior to this day (see her brother’s testimony which came out BEFORE the Bil’in central organizing committee put out their release with her mother denying she was even sick) and it may not have been the tear gas or the tear gas may have played a minor role in her symptoms. The death certificate also indicates serious problems in assessing the cause of death, but it appears that whatever treatment she received that day at the hospital may have caused her death. In other words, malpractice by some of the people who then lied about the cause of death and laid it at Israel’s feet.

    Maybe this is all wrong and she died from tear gas. But then you had better explain why only she died or was sickened that day, and how it’s possible there are no photos or videos, and why all the eyewitnesses have trouble placing her in the right place.

  2. 2 John Welch said at 5:49 pm on January 20th, 2011:

    Tear gas is nasty stuff, especially if you are caught in a cloud. It is meant to burn your lungs…not to make your eyes tear up.

    The US Army puts recruits into a locked room and them dumps gas. The recruits must put on their MOPP gear before the gas gets to them. Most can’t. I’ve seen videos of my son’s BCT platoon: most stumbled out of the room and vomited.

    Yes, it is a harsh test. That’s why the Army does it, and why drill sergeants and medical staff are nearby.

    It is unusual if someone died from a tear-gassing, but not astonishing, is it?

    What is more astonishing is that the Israeli army has leaked several versions of their “story”.

    Honesty is usually better. I saw that in the Army’s handling of PFC Jessica Lynch story. Truth usually stands out, and makes the liar look worse. Conflicting leaks demonstrates lies a’plenty.

  3. 3 maayan said at 4:43 am on January 23rd, 2011:

    Sorry to put this in here but your Mavi Marmara articles are closed for comments.

  4. 4 noam said at 5:11 am on January 23rd, 2011:

    dog bites man.

  5. 5 maayan said at 6:22 am on January 23rd, 2011:

    What is? The report or the blockade or the incident at sea?

  6. 6 noam said at 12:28 am on January 24th, 2011:

    the fact that Turkel found Israel not guilty.

  7. 7 maayan said at 7:03 am on January 24th, 2011:

    So two prominent and uninterested international observers in addition to a former High Court justice who demanded and received a larger mandate to conduct the investigation don’t convince you that this was a legitimate investigation?

    Are all of them liars?

  8. 8 maayan said at 9:20 am on January 24th, 2011:

    If you don’t subscribe to the Turkel version, do you subscribe to this version?

  9. 9 noam said at 9:30 am on January 24th, 2011:

    the same rule applys here: I simply don’t know. what I wrote in my posts re: flotilla is what I think now, i.e. that Israel should release ALL evidence concerning the attack (according to the Turkel committee, it’s more than 1,000 hrs of tape), and cooperate with an unbiased investigative body.

  10. 10 maayan said at 11:39 am on January 24th, 2011:

    That’s evasive. First of all, these is no such thing as an unbiased investigative body. I don’t trust the UN to be unbiased and you won’t trust the US. I won’t trust Europe or China, and you won’t trust Canada. There’s nobody who comes to this unbiased.

    However, I asked you a simple question. “So two prominent and uninterested international observers in addition to a former High Court justice who demanded and received a larger mandate to conduct the investigation don’t convince you that this was a legitimate investigation?

    Are all of them liars?”

    Are you saying “I don’t know” to that? Why would two prominent international observers sign off on a lie?