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Related Categories: Palestine | International
Brian Avery interview on eve of hearing
by ISM
Sunday Feb 27th, 2005 11:53 AM
1. Interview with Brian Avery
2. Report from Rafat demonstration
1. Interview with Brian Avery

American ISM activist Brian Avery was shot in the face by Israeli
soldiers in Jenin almost two years ago. Despite causing Brian
massive wounds, the incident was dismissed by an internal military
investigation.

When he was shot, Brian was assisting Palestinians who were suffering
from the effects of an imposed military curfew. He was wearing a
bright reflective vest, and was clearly unarmed.

Brian is now back in Israel to petition the Israeli Supreme Court to
launch a criminal investigation into the matter.

The hearing will be held tomorrow, Monday February 28, 2005.

ISM's Aaron Lakoff spoke with Brian on the eve of his hearing
(originally aired on CKUT community radio, 90.3fm in Montreal
(http://www.ckut.ca)

Aaron: Can you share with us what happened on the night you were
shot in Jenin?

Brian: It was basically a situation where I and another ISM
colleague, Tobias Carlson, a Swedish ISM volunteer, were in the
office which ISM rented in Jenin. We heard quite a bit of gunfire in
the area, and based on the sound of it, we knew it was the Israelis.
After that had quieted down for a bit, we had a couple of ISM
volunteers go out in the middle of the city. We decided to go
outside and meet up with them to assess what was happening with the
army and whether or not there were any civilian casualties around
who were in need of any medical assistance. We were also assisting
the medical crews who were often prevented from doing their job by
the Israelis.

So we went out, and I was wearing a vest with a reflective stripe on
it – it is common for ISM volunteers to wear reflective clothing at
night in the West Bank cities to make ourselves very visible.

We walked about two blocks from the apartment when we were
approached by two Israeli vehicles. They were driving about 20km/h,
just creeping along the streets. They drove up to us, and we stepped
to the side of the road to let them pass. We also stuck our hands
out to show that we didn't have any weapons. Once they were about 30
meters from our position, they simply opened fire on us. They were
shooting constantly for a long period of time.

I was struck in the face with a bullet and went down on the ground
right away. Tobias escaped without injury. The other members of our
grouped reached the scene and saw the Israeli APC's shooting at
myself and Tobias. As soon as they finished shooting, the soldiers
just drove out of the area. They didn't stop to see if anyone needed
any medical attention, they just left.

I was taken to the Jenin hospital where they did some first aid and
stabilized my condition. From there I was airlifted to a hospital in
Haifa, and that's where I spent the next few months. Since then I've
returned to North Carolina, where I've undergone a series of
reconstructive surgeries.

A: That spring of 2003 was a very difficult time for the ISM. Just a
few weeks before you were shot, Rachel Corrie was killed by an
Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, and then just after you were shot, Tom
Hurndell was also shot in the head in the Gaza Strip and died later.
Why do you think that the Israeli army decided to open fire on you?
Why was this such a violent time to be in Palestine?

B: The Israeli army was very familiar with the ISM. They knew we were
international activists coming in to document what they were doing
and the effects on the local population. So they had a very
antagonistic attitude towards us. As far as they were concerned, we
were aiding and abetting the enemy.

I think after a while it got to a point where their general
philosophy was that if the ISM wants to help the Palestinians,
you'll be treated like the Palestinians. We became the victims of
completely unwarranted violence.

The occupying forces would like to be able to do whatever they want,
whenever they want in the occupied territories. They don't like the
fact that people are there documenting what they're doing,
witnessing what they're doing – they want to be able to treat the
Palestinians as they see fit and to get away with it. They want to
kill and harass with impunity.

A: You mentioned that when you were in Jenin, you were assisting
people in the city who were under curfew. Can you describe what the
effects of curfew are in Palestine and what you were doing to help
people?

B: The time I was shot was under curfew, and some people raise their
eyebrows and ask, "There was a curfew. What were you doing outside?"

It was very critical for us to be out during curfew. A curfew is
basically a 24 hour shutdown of the area. No one is allowed in or
out of their house or the city, and the military has complete
control of the area. It's a complete stranglehold on life.

These curfews can extend to days and weeks at a time. In most West
Bank cities, even at night there's a curfew and you're likely to be
shot on site by a soldier if you're out.

But since the curfew was on for so long, the local people stopped
being obedient to it. Some people were running out of food or
medicine, there were women going into labour, and there were many
situations that necessitated a violation of the curfew. People have
to survive, and this is something the Israelis don't respect. People
became numb to the curfew, especially the young kids. There were a
lot of kids out in the streets of Jenin, in full view of the
military, and they didn't seem too bothered by the kids. We would
even talk to the soldiers in full daylight, and there was no
indication that they thought what we were doing was wrong.

During the curfew, there were people outside, and they were shot at
for being out for legitimate reasons. This includes medical staff,
ambulances, and paramedics. There is a lot of documentation of these
people being shot at and killed because the Israeli army doesn't
respect their job. The ISM tries to assist these people in these
situations.

A: You were shot with a bullet that went through your face and you
survived. You've been back in the USA for the last year and a half.
Can you describe the recovery process and what it's been like living
with this?

B: It's been very difficult and frustrating. The bullet shattered
all the bones in the left side of my face, so the doctors have had
to rebuild all those bones using grafts from other parts of my
skull. I lost a lot of teeth which needed to be replaced. My jaw and
my nose had to be reconstructed. I can't breathe through part of my
nose and have very little sense of smell. I have blurry vision, and
my left eye is permanently damaged. I've also had to have lots of
cosmetic surgery on the scars and on my nose. These are quite
visible injuries.

It's a very difficult process. I've been pretty much stopped from
doing anything I want to do in terms of employment. I've been able
to do a bit of public speaking to spread info about Palestine, and
this has helped me a bit.

A: You're back in Israel now, and you're taking your case to the
Israeli Supreme Court. Can you elaborate on this?

B: I'm working on a criminal and a civil suit. Through my lawyer, I
submitted a petition to the military attorney general to launch a
criminal investigation. There were two of these petitions submitted,
and both were ignored, so finally we had to submit a petition to the
Supreme Court to force the military to make a decision on launching
an investigation.

I was really hoping they'd approve the investigation. I'd like
whoever shot me to be indicted and convicted.

A: What are you hoping to come out of this?

B: I'm hoping to really get a sense that justice is being served and
that accountability is taken to the fact that a serious crime was
committed. I'd like to see the perpetrator of this crime face the
repercussions of their acts. The personal aspect is to see someone
get the justice they deserve and that the Israeli army takes
responsibility for these crimes of war.

What happened to me is very typical amongst Palestinians. The only
thing unusual about me is that I am a US citizen. Palestinians were
being shot almost every day in Jenin and no soldier has ever been
convicted of murdering a Palestinian civilian. It's a very unjust
system in Israel. If it's possible that I can bring some justice
forwards, hopefully it will turn the tables to get people thinking
about what these soldiers are doing and what they're getting away
with. I hope this will put some pressure on the military and the
government to impose some policies to change their decision-making
process.


2. Report from Rafat demonstration

A successful demonstration was held in Rafat village (in the Salfit
region) on Friday to protest the building of Israel's apartheid wall
on village land.

Approximately 150 locals, as well as Israeli and international
activists marched from town towards the site where the wall is being
built.

There was one bulldozer already working at the site. About half way
to the site soldiers on the road held up a piece of paper and
declared the site a closed military zone.

They then fired off tear gas and sound bombs at the demonstrators.
The demonstrators maintained order despite the tear gas and began to
speak with the soldiers.

After about 10 minutes of discussions the crowd moved past the
soldiers and continued on towards the work site. The army fired off
a few more canisters of tear gas while the march continued. Closer
to the site the march was once again stopped by approximately 15
soldiers. The soldiers refused to let the march continue on to the
work site.

The crowd chanted and listened to speeches for about 45 minutes.
Then midday prayers were said by about 90 members of the crowd. The
prayers were only marred by a soldier jostling an old woman as she
attempted to pray.

After prayers the demonstrators began to walk back to village
seeding the road behind with large stones so that military vehicles
would have a more difficult time passing.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
YepSefaradMonday Feb 28th, 2005 7:31 AM
official Israelis policy on protestsyepMonday Feb 28th, 2005 7:09 AM
What Israel should do with himSefaradMonday Feb 28th, 2005 5:53 AM
Invalid analogiesCritical ThinkerMonday Feb 28th, 2005 5:48 AM
" Is he ungrateful for their medical treatment? "umMonday Feb 28th, 2005 12:00 AM
Bulldoze Him!TheTrollSunday Feb 27th, 2005 11:53 PM
Some questions???Becky JohnsonSunday Feb 27th, 2005 2:33 PM
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