Israelsk højesteret behandler skud mod fredsvagtInterview with Brian Avery

Dansk øjenvidne overværer retsmødet – og interview med Brian Avery, der blev hårdt såret ved nedskydningen (på engelsk)

Af Palæstina Fredsvagter

Brian Avery – hårdt såret – vender tilbage til Israel

Den 36-arige danske fredsvagt Lasse Schmidt var 5. april 2003 øjenvidne til nedskydningen af hans amerikanske kollega, Brian Avery, i Jenin pa den besatte Vestbred. Lasse var placeret få meter fra den 24-arige Brian Avery, da amerikaneren blev ramt i ansigtet af en kugle fra et israelsk maskingevær. Brian og Lasse var sammen med fire andre fredsvagter fra Sverige og England. Alle arbejdede for International Solidarity Movement og alle stod stille med hænderne i vejret, da en israelsk armeret mandskabsvogn uprovokeret åbnede ild mod dem.

Brian Avery blev kritisk såret og var heldig at overleve episoden. Ifølge den israelsk læge, der opererede Brian Avery på hospitalet I Haifa, blev Brian Anery ramt af et direkte skud fra et svært maskingevær. Indgangssåret var i højre side af ansigtet under øjet, hvorfra projektilet trængte gennem ganen og ud gennem kæben i venstre side af ansigtet tæt under øret.

Danske Lasse Schmidt var første person ved Brians side få sekunder efter skudepisoden og måtte gennem den uhyggelige oplevelse at bese Brians ødelagte ansigt. Den danske fredsvagt fra Århus fulgte med i ambulancen til hospitalet i Haifa, hvor han tilbragte to uger ved Brain Averys side.

Mandag den 28. februar er Brian Avery tilbage i Israel for at møde for den israelske højesteret, the Supreme Court i Jerusalem. Retsmødet er en officiel anmodning foranlediget af Tel Aviv-advokat Michael Sfard om at der nu ­ to år efter ­ bør foretages en uvildig politiundersøgelse af episoden.

Lasse Schmidt vil være tilstede under retsmødet og bliver forenet med Brian Avery for første gang siden den traumaiske episode for to år siden. Lasse Schmidt er for øjeblikket tilknyttet the Arab American University of Jenin som engelskunderviser. Universitetet ligger i Zababdeh 10 km syd for Jenin.

Da den israelske hær fortog sin egen, interne undersøgelse af episoden blev de fem øjenvidner fra Danmark, Sverige og England ikke kontaktet. Hæren stillede sig tilfreds med at udspørge de involverede israelske soldater. Undersøgelsen konkluderede at ingen israelsk soldat havde affyret skud i forbindelse med episoden og at der derfor ikke kunne plantes noget ansvar på hverken enkelte israelske soldater eller den israelske hær i almindelighed.

Den konklusion går stik mod hvad de fem øjenvidner fortæller. Alle aflagde erklæring på, at optakten til skudepisoden var aldeles ufarlig og at der ingen palæstinensere var i området. Alle erklærede de samtykkende, at samtlige skud blev affyret fra maskingeværet på den israelske mandskabsvogn.

Her følger interview med Brian Avery, amerikansk fredsvagt, der blev skudt af israelske soldater i april 2003 (engelsk)

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 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 (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 Hurndall 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.

Netavisen 28. februar 2005


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