American Emily Henochowicz shot in eye by Israelis

06/01/10 Seán Kinane
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Yesterday’s attack on the Free Gaza flotilla is not the only case of the Israeli military shooting international activists. Also yesterday, a 21-year-old American artist, Emily Henochowicz, was shot in the eye by a tear gas canister while she was peacefully protesting the attack on the flotilla. She is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank. She is expected to survive the attack, but has lost her left eye.

Today, we spoke with another ISM activist in the West Bank, Ellen Stark:

As you know, we were woken up yesterday morning with the news that the Gaza flotilla had been attacked, and numerous people had been killed. Almost immediately thereafter, we were told there would be a demonstration starting in Ramallah, which is where we were staying in the ISM apartment. Emily went to the demonstration with two other ISM activists, and from Ramallah it moved south to the Kalandia checkpoint terminal, which is the entrance to the West Bank. … Technically, it's not the separation between the West Bank and Israel; it's the separation between occupied East Jerusalem and occupied West Bank, both of which are Palestinian territory.

And so there was a demonstration at (the) Kalandia checkpoint terminal against the flotilla massacres … I wasn't at the demonstration myself, but as far as I understand, there were a large number of people holding flags from various nations and protesting against the extreme violence that had just occurred. According to the ISM activist that was standing next to Emily, Israeli border police began firing tear gas canisters directly at them, at their faces, and they began to move out of the way. This was in direct violation of international law, incidentally, which strictly states that tear gas canisters should be fired in a high arc, giving demonstrators a chance to see where they're being aimed, because they shouldn't be shot as projectiles; they should be used strictly as a means of releasing gas, to disperse crowds.

So the canisters were being fired directly at people's faces. And they shot a large number of canisters directly at Soren and Emily as they were trying to run away. Soren said that a canister landed on either side of Emily, before the third one hit her directly next to her left eye, and ultimately it needed to be removed. Three metal plates were put into her head, and the bones running to her eye socket, her cheek bone and her jaw bone, were all fractured.

Q. How is her health otherwise? Is she expected to make a recovery besides losing her eye?

I believe so; I believe that everything else should heal fairly successfully.

Q. There is a history of the IDF using tear gas canisters as weapons against peaceful demonstrators, is that right? Tell us a little bit about that.

Yeah; there's actually a history of the “IOF” using all sorts of what they call, quote, “riot dispersal methods,” just — as means of injuring people unnecessarily. I have a cast on my arm right now, covered in Emily's artwork, from when I was shot two and a half months ago from four meters away, with a rubber-coated steel bullet which entered my arm, and fractured the bone. Tear gas canisters fired directly at people have killed — they killed Bassem Abu-Rahma in Bilin last year, and a high-velocity tear gas canister hit the back of Tristan Anderson's head, and caused very severe, permanent brain damage a year ago. Tristan Anderson was an ISM activist from Berkeley, California.

Q. Remind our listeners then a little bit more about Tristan Anderson's case. We spoke with people who were there that day; what's his progress?

He's expected to return home sometime soon to the Bay Area; he's been in at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv for over a year now since he was struck in Ni’ilin. From what I understand, he's able to walk and talk, and his brain function is impaired. But he's expected to make a recovery and start trying to piece together a life. I should mention that all these people — Emily, Tristan, Bassem who was killed, and myself, were all standing peacefully when we were hit with these projectiles that were fired directly at us.

Q. Finally, are there plans for continued demonstrations, or is this kind of putting a damper on the demonstrations against the flotilla attack?

Well, the sad truth is that Palestinians are injured in varying degrees. But with this severity, I would say maybe once every other week. There are ten weekly nonviolent demonstrations across the West Bank against land confiscation and brutal riot dispersal methods, like these are used at all of them. Palestinians are injured in this way all the time. I really, I think that a moment like this is definitely time to pause and reflect on the tragedy that puts us in this position of, you know, the violence on the Gaza boats, the violence that is carried out daily in the West Bank and in Gaza, and the violence that our demonstrations are treated with. If we allow our voices to be silenced by this extreme use of violence, then we allow these human-rights violations to go uncontested.

Photos of Emily Henochowicz after she was shot in the eye

Photos of Emily Henochowicz after she was shot in the eye

WMNF coverage of Tristan Anderson’s shooting

WMNF coverage of reaction to Tristan Anderson’s shooting

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