[Marxism] The Jewish-American student who lost her eye to an IDF tear gas canister
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 28 07:41:35 MDT 2010
NY Times July 27, 2010
Student Injury at Protest Leads to Battle in Israel
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — A macabre legal wrangle is under way over who should
pay the hospital bill for an American art student who lost an eye
after being struck by a tear-gas canister fired by an Israeli
border police officer at a Palestinian-led protest in the West Bank.
The student, Emily Henochowicz, 21, was injured on May 31 after
she joined Palestinian and foreign activists protesting that
morning’s deadly raid by Israeli naval commandos on a Turkish boat
trying to breach the blockade of Gaza. Israeli security forces
fired tear gas to disperse the demonstration after a few
Palestinian youths threw rocks.
Witnesses at the protest, by the Qalandiya checkpoint near
Ramallah, said that a border police officer had fired the tear-gas
directly at the demonstrators, rather than into the air in line
with regulations. The Israeli police have begun a criminal
But the lawyer representing Ms. Henochowicz, Michael Sfard,
recently received a letter from the Israeli Ministry of Defense
rejecting any demand for compensation or payment of hospital
costs. The reason, the ministry stated, was that the protest was
violent and that the tear-gas canister was not fired directly but
had ricocheted off a concrete barricade.
Ms. Henochowicz, who is Jewish and is a student at the Cooper
Union in New York, arrived in Israel in February for what was
supposed to be a six-month student exchange. Her father was born
in Israel to Holocaust survivors whom he described as “ardent
Speaking by telephone from her home in Potomac, Md., this week,
Ms. Henochowicz said it was “upsetting, when someone gets an
injury, not only to have to deal with the physical consequences of
something you did not do to yourself, but the economic
consequences as well.”
Ms. Henochowicz, who was treated at Hadassah University Medical
Center in Ein Kerem, had her left eye removed and suffered
fractures that required the insertion of titanium plates. She
returned to the United States in early June, where she is
continuing to visit doctors and specialists.
But more than the cost of the treatment in Israel, which amounted
to about $10,000, there are clearly legal principles and interests
The student’s father, Dr. Stuart Henochowicz, said by telephone
that he had not yet explored the question of whether his
daughter’s insurance would cover the bill, because he was under
the impression that it would be paid by the Ministry of Defense.
On Tuesday, the ministry stated that according to preliminary
checks, the border police dealt lawfully with the “violent protest
at Qalandiya,” and that the firing of tear gas was justified.
While expressing sorrow over Ms. Henochowicz’s injury, the
ministry added that it did not cover hospitalization expenses in
circumstances such as these.
The ministry said it had acted similarly in the case of Tristan
Anderson, an American severely wounded by a tear-gas projectile in
2009. The ministry said that Mr. Anderson had filed a suit in the
Tel Aviv District Court, where the issue of hospital expenses
would be settled.
Mr. Sfard, the lawyer, said that from the start he told Dr.
Henochowicz, who flew to Israel from the United States to be at
his daughter’s bedside, “not to touch his wallet or to sign any
In a letter to the ministry, Mr. Sfard wrote, “It is insolent and
preposterous to expect someone who was shot by the security
forces, whether unintentionally, negligently or with criminal
intention, to fund her own medical treatment.”
Yuval Weiss, the director of the medical center in Ein Kerem, said
the hospital was “not a party to the argument.”
“It makes no difference to us who pays, as long as somebody does,”
he said. “We cannot work for free.”
After her arrival in Israel, Ms. Henochowicz, who came to
Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, got involved with
the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement after
meeting activists at a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, an East
Jerusalem neighborhood where settlers have won court cases and
evicted several Palestinian families from their homes.
From Sheikh Jarrah, Ms. Henochowicz frequented the regular
Palestinian protest spots in the West Bank like Bilin, Nilin and
Nabi Saleh. The late May protest was her first at Qalandiya. “I
did not know what it would be like,” she said.
The demonstration came hours after Israel’s raid on an aid
flotilla. Violent clashes broke out on the Turkish boat and nine
activists — eight Turks and an American-Turkish youth — were killed.
Ms. Henochowicz said she was not standing near the stone throwers.
She was holding a Turkish and an Austrian flag when she was struck.
Avi Issacharoff, an Israeli journalist from the newspaper Haaretz,
was watching the demonstration. “The police fired a tear-gas
grenade, and then another and another,” he wrote in June “I
remember that what surprised me was the volley of grenade fire
directly aimed directly at the demonstrators, not at the sky.
After the fourth grenade, if I am not mistaken, a shout was heard
about 100 meters away.”
Unusual for a foreign activist in a conflict where battle lines
are often starkly drawn, Ms. Henochowicz says she feels a certain
affinity with both sides. She said she had wanted to help the
Palestinians, but because of her background, she said she also
felt “very attached” to Israel “in lots of ways.”
She added, “If I did not really care about what was happening in
the country, I would have hung out on the beach all day.”
Dr. Henochowicz said he found the whole episode “hurtful,” and was
upset that no Israeli officials made any contact with him or his
daughter during the five days they were at the hospital.
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael B. Oren, has since
visited the family’s home in Maryland, Dr. Henochowicz said.
If it was an accident, “Why didn’t they come to the hospital and
talk to me?” he asked.
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