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Israeli Authorities Declare Shooting of Tristan Anderson an “Act of War”
The Israeli Ministry of Defense informed American activist Tristan Anderson’s family and legal counsel that it considers his shooting during a nonviolent protest in the West Bank village of Nil’in, which left him critically injured, an “act of war,” absolving the soldiers responsible from any liability under Israeli law. Anderson was shot directly in the forehead with a high-velocity tear gas canister by Israeli forces on March 13th, 2009, suffering several condensed fractures and necessitating several life-saving surgeries. To date, he remains unconscious at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv; his prospects for recovery are as of now unclear.
The designation, under a recently amended tort law, automatically relieves Israel of its obligation to pay Anderson’s family any kind of compensation; according to Leah Tsemel, the attorney leading the Andersons’ civil suit against the Israeli government, this categorization is used in cases against Palestinian victims “all the time.” Overwhelming eyewitness and video evidence indicates that Tristan was not a combatant and presented no threat to the authorities; he was shot from a distance of 60 meters while taking pictures of the Wall with a group of Palestinians and internationals hours after the protest had been dispersed from the Wall’s construction site by the Israeli military.
The Andersons, who have filed both a criminal complaint and a civil suit against the Israeli government, plan to fight the decision in Israeli and, if necessary, international courts. In the words of Michael Sfard, the family’s criminal attorney, “[…] if a process by which unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an ‘act of war,’ then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians. International law identifies the incident as a clear case of human rights abuse.”