[News] Palestine - Another muted scream

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 22 10:49:58 EDT 2009

Another muted scream

Sayed Mohamed Dhansay, The Electronic Intifada, 21 April 2009


Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahme in a Ramallah hospital after he was killed on 
17 April 2009. (<http://activestills.org/>activestills.org)

He stands on a small sandy hilltop wearing a bright yellow t-shirt, 
cigarette in hand. He is calling out to the soldiers on the other 
side of the fence "Do not shoot, do not shoot. There are children and 
internationals here, do not shoot." Thin white wisps of tear gas 
linger in the gentle breeze, a moment of calm in the confrontation.

Suddenly a tear gas canister whizzes past the camera making an 
audible "clunk" as it hits something to the right. He tries to let 
out a scream, but all he manages is a stifled yelp. One can almost 
hear his breath being cut short as the projectile punctures his 
chest. Another muted scream of pain. He falls to the ground then 
jumps up quickly, running a few steps before collapsing again.

His body rolls a few times as he hits the ground, his limbs flapping 
loosely underneath him. Two fellow demonstrators run to him, looking 
almost surprised and unsure of what has just happened. They turn him 
over, lifting his shirt and calling his name. But he is unresponsive. 
His eyes are open but his body lies motionless. His bright yellow 
shirt now quickly growing a wet red stain over his heart.

And so the occupied people of Palestine sacrifice yet another one of 
their young men. Another one. Again. Just like that. In an instant. 
Caught live on camera for the world to see. Twenty-nine-year-old 
Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahme was later pronounced dead at Ramallah 
hospital on Friday 17 April 2009 after being shot in the chest with a 
high-velocity tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier. A faceless, 
nameless soldier who will likely never have to explain or account for 
taking the life of another human being.

Basem posed no threat to the security of Israel as he stood atop that 
hill. He was not armed, nor was he throwing stones. Ironically, he 
was calling out to the Israeli forces to hold their fire because 
children and internationals were present, when he was shot. He was 
involved in a nonviolent demonstration when his own life was so 
violently taken. Basem is the 18th Palestinian to be killed in 
nonviolent anti-wall protests in the West Bank since 2004.

For four years now the residents of Bilin have nonviolently protested 
the annexation of their land by Israel's wall. This barrier has 
effectively annexed roughly 60 percent of Bilin's farming land to the 
Israeli side. As this village is almost exclusively sustained by 
agriculture, it's no exaggeration to say that at least 60 percent of 
its economy has disappeared, with dire consequences for the 
community's socio-economic welfare.

In 2005 the International Court of Justice ruled that the barrier in 
its entirety is illegal under international law, recommending that 
Israel halt its construction and demolish the parts that had already 
been completed.

In addition, the Israeli high court has ruled on three separate 
occasions that the route of the barrier in Bilin is illegal under 
Israeli law. The Israeli army has been ordered more than once to 
reroute the barrier in order that it not usurp such large tracts of 
Bilin's land. To date, not a single meter has been removed in Bilin, 
or anywhere else in the West Bank for that matter.

The Israeli army's claim that the wall is a security measure is 
simply preposterous. One doesn't have to look far across the barrier 
in Bilin to see what the land is being stolen for -- the extension of 
yet another illegal settlement. In this case, the beneficiary of 
Bilin's land is the Matityahu East neighborhood of the Modi'in Ilit settlement.

Bilin has become somewhat of an inspiration and example in the West 
Bank for its now famous weekly protests. The small village has also 
gained international recognition for its steadfastness and commitment 
to nonviolent protest, as documented in the award-winning film, Bil'in My Love.

The villagers, along with international and even Israeli 
demonstrators, have faithfully upheld their weekly protests every 
single Friday, without exception, for the last four years. While 
these demonstrations are strictly nonviolent and consist mainly of 
chanting, waving the Palestinian flag and attempting to access the 
confiscated land, the response from Israeli forces is always harsh.

Every week demonstrators are showered with copious amounts of rubber 
coated steel bullets and tear gas. Last year, Israeli soldiers killed 
four youths in separate incidents in the West Bank village of Nilin, 
who were also participating in nonviolent protests against the 
barrier in their village.

Lately, however, Israeli troops have employed a new and deadly tactic 
in an effort to quell protest. This involves the use of a new, 
high-velocity tear gas canister that is being shot directly at 
protestors. These canisters are relatively quiet when fired, emitting 
only a faint smoke trail, which makes them difficult to detect. In 
addition, their 400-meter range makes them lethal when fired directly 
at people.

This is the same type of tear gas canister that nearly killed 
37-year-old American activist Tristan Anderson in Nilin on 13 March 
when he was shot directly in the face from 60 meters away. He remains 
in a coma in a Tel Aviv hospital.

Designed to be fired upwards in an arc-like projection, Israeli 
soldiers have realized the deadly potential of these canisters and 
are using them as bullets. It is likely yet another attempt by the 
Israeli army to attempt disguise their intentions by not shooting 
ordinary ammunition.

While Tristan Anderson remains in a serious coma, he was lucky to 
escape with his life. Basem, however, was not as fortunate. And 
because he is Palestinian, the mainstream international media will 
not be interested in his case. He is simply not important enough.

His story will be relegated to the bottom corner of a back page of a 
newspaper somewhere, probably in biased language that blames him for 
his own death -- if even that. As the haunting sound of his last 
painful screams play over in my head, I wonder just how much more the 
collective Palestinian spirit can take before another mass uprising.

For now, the resilience of Bilin lives on. The next day, hundreds 
turned out for Basem's funeral. His body, draped in the Palestinian 
flag, Basem was held aloft by mourners as they chanted, "The martyr 
is beloved by God," eventually bringing him to the final resting 
place where so many have been taken before.

And while Palestine waits patiently for the international community 
to stand by its side, the fearless people of Bilin will be out again 
this Friday. Ready to sacrifice their blood and their souls for 
something very simple -- just to have returned what has, and always 
will rightfully be theirs.

Sayed Mohamed Dhansay is a South African who volunteered with the 
International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank in 2006-07.

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