Initial NGO Claims Called Into Question

JERUSALEM – New facts regarding the January 1 death of Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh at Israel’s security fence cast doubt over initial claims of the event, says NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based think tank that tracks non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the region.

Contradictory statements and very little evidence exists about the cause of death, whether Abu-Rahmeh was even involved in the protest and tear-gas used at Bil’in, whether she suffered from previous medical conditions, and whether the amount of tear gas used led to her death.

“NGO officials and media outlets made serious allegations about Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh’s death, without verifying claims or checking the many inconsistencies in the reports,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.  “We again see that NGOs issue statements and condemnations consistent with their own political agendas, but lack the ability to verify any of the details.”

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat already labeled the recent death a “war crime,” and others claimed that Israeli soldiers were using “tear gas chemicals mixed with phosphorus.” NGO Monitor notes the similarities between this incident and the September 2000 Al Dura case based on unverifiable claims that the IDF “targeted” and “murdered” a Palestinian child.  Other examples include the Gaza beach accusations in 2006.

“NGOs that claim to promote human rights rarely have access to credible information, yet their allegations are accepted at face-value by the media, foreign officials, and others,” Steinberg adds.  “These allegations contribute to de-legitimization campaigns against Israel and support NGO calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Already, the International Solidarity Movement is calling on Combined Systems Inc. to stop providing equipment to the Israeli government.”

NGO allegations of Abu-Rahmeh’s Death:

  • Jessica Montell, B’Tselem, Twitter, January 1, 2011: “Sad start to the year. Jawaher Abu Rahmeh died this morning after inhaling tear gas yesterday in Bil’in demonstration.”
  • Yesh Din: “Human rights group Yesh Din calls on the Israeli authorities to investigate the killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, who died on Saturday, January 1st, 2011, after sustaining injuries in a protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in… When the authorities in Israel do nothing to investigate the killings of protesters – more protesters are doomed to the same fate.” (“A protester died in Bil’in: Yesh Din: lack of investigation assures more deaths,” Yesh Din, Press Release, January 1, 2011)
  • Gush Shalom: “Jawaher [‘Gem’ in Arabic] died in the first hours of 2011, after inhaling on the day before a large quantity of tear gas, whose precise nature remains unclear. It happened during the weekly demonstration against the ‘Separation Fence’ in Bil’in, which was this time larger than usual. It seems that military commanders decided to respond with huge quantities of gas. Jawaher collapsed in a cloud of gas and inhaled it for several minutes, before the Red Crescent medics managed to reach her.” (“A demonstrator killed in Bil’in – the first victim of 2011,” Gush Shalom, date unknown)
  • Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I): “The killing of Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh is yet another harsh injustice of the Israeli occupation web… The use of Gas against civilians must be ceased, clear and simple. The death of Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh must be the last one.” (“PHR-I in response to the killing of Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh, which participated in a non-violent popular demonstration against the fence in Bil’in,” Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, January 2, 2011)
  • Michael Sfard (Israeli activist lawyer linked to Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, Al Haq): “According to people I spoke with, [Abu Rahmah] was at the demonstration on Friday but not at the forefront of the protesters. After she was injured by the tear gas, she was taken to the village and then transferred to an ambulance. An operational investigation cannot produce reliable findings; therefore we demand a criminal investigation by the military police.” (“IDF: No proof Palestinian women died from tear gas at protest,” Haaretz, January 3, 2011)
  • Sfard: “Once again the (Israeli occupation) army is covering up the actions of its men, instead of apologizing and conducting a serious inquiry.” (“Lawyer slams army cover-up of tear gas death,” AFP, January 2, 2011)
  • Yonathan Pollak, Anarchists Against the Wall: “I saw that Jahawer take an active role in the protest…I saw how they put her in the ambulance that took her to the hospital. I know with certainty that she arrived there and stayed there, and later died at the hospital.” (“Did Palestinians lie about protestor’s death?” Hanan Greenberg, YNET, January 4, 2011)
  • International Solidarity Movement calls on companies to stop providing equipment that “Israel misuses to kill and maim unarmed protesters.”

Read NGO Monitor’s full analysis of the event.