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Are you listening, President Barack Obama?

Stanley Heller | New Haven Register

26 March 2009

How much violence against Americans overseas will U.S. accept?

Here’s a riddle. When is an American not an American? Answer: When he or she opposes crimes committed by Israel.

Tristan Anderson of Oakland, Calif., stood in a Palestinian village, Ni’lin, taking photographs on March 13. He was shot in the head by a special high-velocity tear gas grenade and is grievously injured. He wasn’t hurt by an Arab “terrorist.” He was shot by someone in the Israeli army, which the United Nations says is illegally occupying the West Bank of Palestine. Anderson was in the village taking part in a demonstration against theft of land. The Israelis intend to take a quarter of the village land and give it to Jewish-only settlements.

Now, you might think our government’s leaders would be screaming bloody murder about what was done to an innocent American. Think back to 1994, when an American who committed vandalism in Singapore was to be caned on his buttocks. Practically every politician in the country was outraged, and said so. Even President Bill Clinton made a statement.

When Israel is involved, it’s all different.

On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie of Washington state was run over and killed by a bulldozer in the Gaza Strip while trying to prevent Israelis from knocking down a Palestinian’s house. American and British eyewitnesses saw the bulldozer operator watch Corrie as he plowed over her, yet the Israeli investigation ruled it was an accident. No Israeli was punished in any way for the killing. The U.S. government did nothing for her family.

Now, it’s Tristan Anderson’s turn to face abandonment by his government.

He suffered a large hole in his forehead. Part of his brain had to be removed. An eye is severely damaged. The tear gas grenade that hit him from less than 60 meters is a new-generation weapon. It can be shot over 500 meters because the grenade is self-propelling.

What are American politicians saying about this outrage? U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd says nothing. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro says nothing. U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman? You might as well expect it to snow in Stamford in July.

What about the State Department, which is charged with protecting American citizens overseas? On a TV show, Andrew Parker, U.S. consul general in Tel Aviv, said the State Department was “concerned,” that it was awaiting an Israeli government report and that the United States had issued travel warnings about Israel.

That’s it. After all, the United States is a powerless country. It only gives Israel billions of dollars every year and every advanced weapon in the book. What’s the United States to do to protect its citizens against Israel?

I videotaped a similar West Bank demonstration in 2007. It was in Bil’in, which is fairly near Ni’lin. Palestinians, international supporters and more than a few Jewish Israelis walked with banners toward the separation wall, or as some Palestinians call it, “the Annexation Wall.” Before they got anywhere near it, Israeli armed forces started shooting hundreds of tear gas grenades and rubber coated bullets. A Palestinian was shot in the head with a rubber bullet.

The violence being used against demonstrators is getting worse. In Ni’lin, demonstrators are met with live bullets. One was shot in the leg the same day Anderson was injured. Four Palestinians have been killed in the last year, the youngest 11 years old. Demonstrators face being shot at with “skunk,” which is described in the Jerusalem Post as a “foul-smelling liquid” and is believed to be sewage water. “A terrible stench — the smell of a rotting, dead animal,” said Dr. David Nir, an Israeli peace campaigner. “Like jumping headfirst into a sewer.”

Ni’lin actually made it to the news in the United States last July. An Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian protester who was under arrest, handcuffed, blindfolded and standing next to him. This would have been ignored except for a youth with a camcorder, who caught it all and put it on YouTube.

The guilty soldier got a slap on the hand, eventually.

Anderson is 37 years old. He faces the possibility of many operations, loss of the eye and permanent disfigurement.

Will some American in government speak up for him? Are you listening, President Barack Obama?