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2009-03-16

US Consul General Says Awaiting Israeli Report on IDF Shooting of American Citizen

Guests

Gabrielle Silverman, Activist with the International Solidarity Movement. She was with her partner Tristan Anderson when he was critically injured by the IDF at a demonstration in the West Bank on Friday.

Andrew Parker, US Consul General in Tel Aviv.

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An American activist from Oakland, California was critically injured Friday when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head at the close of a weekly nonviolent protest against the wall in the West Bank village of N’alin. Thirty-seven-year-old Tristan Anderson underwent brain surgery on Saturday, and parts of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed. He remains in critical condition. We go to the hospital in Tel Aviv to speak with Anderson’s partner, Gabrielle Silverman, and to Andrew Parker, the US Consul General in Tel Aviv. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: An American activist from Oakland, California was critically injured Friday when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head at [the close] of a weekly nonviolent protest against the wall in the West Bank village of N’alin. Thirty-seven-year-old Tristan Anderson was in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement. During their weekly demonstrations since last April, four unarmed N’alin residents have been killed, over 400 injured, by the Israeli military.

Tristan sustained a hole in the right part of his head, severe damage to his right eye, was unconscious and bleeding heavily when taken to an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv. He is the fourth member of the International Solidarity Movement to be critically injured or killed by the Israeli Defense Forces since 2003. He was struck by a new model of an extended range gas canister at a distance of less than 200 feet. This type of canister is reportedly fired at a much higher speed than those previously deployed.

Tristan Anderson underwent brain surgery in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv on Saturday. Parts of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed. He remains in a critical condition.

The IDF spokesperson’s office is reportedly looking into the incident and said the demonstrators were, quote, “violating a closed military area order.” Meanwhile, solidarity actions are planned in front of the Israeli consulates in San Francisco today and in New York on Friday.

I’m joined now on the telephone from the hospital by Tristan’s partner, Gabrielle Silverman. She was with Tristan when he was shot. We’re also joined by Andrew Parker, the US consul general in Tel Aviv.

Gabrielle, first tell us about the condition of Tristan.

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: OK. Hi, I’m here. Can you hear me?

AMY GOODMAN: We can hear you fine.

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: Great. Tristan is in stable but critical condition right now. I’m in the hospital with him. The coming days are going to be, and coming weeks even are going to be, very important. He has been slowly improving, and we feel very hopeful. But also, anything can happen, and we’re preparing ourselves for anything to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what happened to him this weekend? Explain exactly where you were, where he was.

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: OK. So, you gave a pretty good introduction to it. We were at a demonstration against the wall, against the Israeli apartheid wall in the West Bank village of N’alin, which is about twenty-six kilometers west of Ramallah. I was very close to him when he was shot. I was only a few feet away. The demonstration had been going for several hours. It was wrapping up; it was almost over. Most people had already gone home.

We were standing on some grass nearby a village mosque, and Tristan was taking pictures. He likes to take pictures and post them on Indymedia, sometimes under assumed names. And he was taking pictures, and he was shot in the head with the extended range tear gas canister. He fell to — nothing was happening immediately around us, by the way, I should mention. No one was throwing rocks around us. Nothing was happening. We were standing there.

He fell to the ground, and immediately medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent responded, came running over. And more people came running over. It was very clear that he was — that there was a seriously injured person on the ground. The medics are impossible to mistake. They wear neon uniforms. They have bright yellow stretchers. The medics were working on him, were getting him onto the stretcher, and as we’re doing so, the army continues to tear gas all around us. As we’re carrying him off on the stretcher, there’s tear gas falling, tear gas canister after tear gas canister falling at our feet.

Finally, we get him to the ambulance. The ambulance is very good. The Palestinian medics were excellent. And we get into the ambulance. We drive in the ambulance to the checkpoint at the beginning of town, and we are stopped there at the checkpoint for about fifteen minutes. For about fifteen minutes, the army, the Israeli army, refuses to let us through, even though we have a critically injured person in the ambulance. And the reason why is because under no circumstances are Palestinian ambulances ever allowed to enter Israel from the West Bank. And so, with Tristan being critically injured and getting worse and worse and worse and worse and falling deeper into this abyss, the soldiers are holding us up and waiting — we had to wait there for an Israeli ambulance to come from who knows where and then transfer him into that ambulance. All of this is taking precious time.

Finally, we drive to the hospital in Tel Aviv. I should add also, once the Israeli ambulance did finally show up, there was a soldier who stood in the doorway smirking and wouldn’t move and wouldn’t let the ambulance through until finally another international activist grabbed this soldier and we slammed the door shut, and then the ambulance was first able to start moving towards the hospital. When he got to the hospital, they started doing surgeries on him.

AMY GOODMAN: Gabrielle, were you able to speak Hebrew to the Israeli soldiers?

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: Yeah. I don’t speak much Hebrew, but I know enough to say, “Axshav, bevakasha! Axshav, bevakasha!” — like they taught me to say in Hebrew school as a child. And I’m shouting, “Now, please! Now, please!” I’m shouting that — I’m not proud to say this, but I’m shouting that I’m an American, and I’m shouting that I’m a Jew, and I’m shouting that he’s bleeding everywhere, he has a head wound, that he’s seriously injured, that we need to go to the hospital. And they’re just holding us there with their guns.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined also by Andrew Parker, US consul general in Tel Aviv. What is the US government doing about the Israeli military attack on this American, on Tristan?

ANDREW PARKER: Well, first of all, it’s good to be with you on this program. And we, of course, sympathize with Gabrielle and with Tristan’s friends and family and hope for his recovery. Like Gabrielle, I’m glad to hear that he’s slowly improving, and we’re hopeful about that, as well.

Our role as consular officers is to provide assistance to American citizens overseas. That’s really the number one responsibility of any US embassy or consulate overseas. Where this incident took place is on the West Bank, which is in the area that the consulate general in Jerusalem is responsible for. But once Tristan was brought into Israel, he became in our consular district and our responsibility. So we visited with his friends while he was in surgery on Friday evening, and we’ve stayed in close touch with Gabrielle and with the friends. And, of course, we’ve been in contact with the family, who are in California, who are very concerned about him, and with his parents, who are arriving today. And we’ve offered to assist them in any way we can, whether it’s dealing with the hospital administrators or assisting with any kind of medevac down the road when he’s able to travel. Those are the kinds of services that, as a consular officer, we provide routinely.

As far as the incident itself, we have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for any kind of investigative report that has been prepared or will be prepared by the Israeli Defense Force or by any other government body. Of course, we’re concerned for the safety of Americans abroad. And to that end, we routinely issue country-specific information sheets and travel warnings, including for Israel. And —-

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: Oh, don’t even start with the travel warning, please. Please don’t start with the travel warning. OK?

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, Gabrielle?

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: I mean that at this demonstration, I should add, that there was also a Palestinian man who was shot with live ammunition in the leg, which is actually barely a newsworthy thing to report at all, because this is standard operating procedure in the West Bank, to use live ammunition on Palestinian people.

The fact that Tristan was shot in the head on Friday has to do with one of two possibilities: either they shot Tristan in the head because they thought he was a Palestinian or because the army was randomly opening fire into the crowd. One or the other happened. And either way, this is a very serious problem, a very, very serious problem with the conduct of the Israeli army in Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Parker?

ANDREW PARKER: Well, I brought of the information that we put out routinely on behalf of the State Department just to indicate that we are concerned about the welfare of Americans abroad, and we want to make sure they’re aware of the risks that they are encountering when they travel abroad.

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: Additionally, I would like to say that Americans should be very concerned about what’s happening in Israel. It is our government who is financing the Israeli military, who is giving them the money for these weapons, OK? And we need to be paying attention to this, not just because Tristan, an American, was shot on Friday, but because lots of people are getting shot all the time, all the time.

And the reality of the everyday occupation in the West Bank -— I came to Israel and to Palestine because I wanted to see for myself, I wanted to know for myself, as an American, as a Jew, what is going on out here. And what I discovered is that the level of occupation and apartheid-like conditions are much more extreme than I ever could have imagined. And we need a much stronger movement in the United States, a much stronger movement for accountability and for — from our government towards Israel. And we need to stop giving them so much money for their military and for their occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Parker, your response? And also, has the US government registered a protest with the Israeli government for the shooting of Tristan Anderson?

ANDREW PARKER: Well, I think that Gabrielle is very well spoken in presenting her point of view, and I certainly don’t want to take issue with that. I’m not trying to have an argument with her, but simply to explain how, as consular officers, we assist Americans overseas. At this point, as I said, we’ve asked the Israeli government for any report that they are preparing or have prepared. And since it is just a couple of days since this terrible incident took place, we do not have that report yet. But we will continue talking with them and asking for that report or any reports that are prepared. And we can decide, when we see that, what other type of response or discussion might take place.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the Israeli government giving a report to you.

ANDREW PARKER: Right. Of course, the information that the friends and participants who we’ve talked to have given to us, we’ve provided that information to the State Department and kept them apprised of all the information that we’re aware of.

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know how diplomatic negotiations go on, but given that you have this young man from Oakland who was in Palestine, there was no contention that he was violent, wouldn’t the US government raise a protest right off about the fact that he was shot by the Israeli military?

GABRIELLE SILVERMAN: While standing around. Again, I would say, he was standing around taking pictures. Nothing was happening in the area when he was shot.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Parker?

ANDREW PARKER: As I said, we’re waiting to get the information that the government provides us, as well as the information that is provided by the participants, and we’ll evaluate that information at that time and take any action that is warranted, in terms of any discussion that we have with the Israeli government or any modification we make to our travel warning. And any other decisions that are made by the State Department will be based on the information that we are able to gather.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Andrew Parker, has the Israeli government, has the Israeli military, explained to you, as the US consul general, the US government, why they shot Tristan Anderson?

ANDREW PARKER: I have not been privy to any discussion with the Israel Defense Forces since this incident, simply that we have registered our, you know, concern with the situation that Tristan finds himself in with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, of course, have received a very sympathetic response from the individuals who we spoke to. We look forward to finding out the facts surrounding the situation, of course. And we’ll be looking to the Israeli government to provide that to us.

AMY GOODMAN: And are you doing your own fact-finding investigation? Are you interviewing Gabrielle and the other people who were there at that moment when the Israeli military shot Tristan?

ANDREW PARKER: Well, we’ve developed a relationship out of the circumstances with Gabrielle and with other friends of Tristan who have been with him, who I and other consular officers have had the chance to meet with in the course of the last two days, and we will continue to see them. It’s not exactly our role here in the consular section in Tel Aviv to undertake an investigation, per se, in the West Bank, as, as I noted, that’s outside of our consular district. But I can assure you that we will want to get to the bottom of what exactly happened, in order to better understand the situation and take any appropriate steps after that.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Parker, thank you very much for being with this, US consul general in Tel Aviv. And Gabrielle Silverman, in the hospital in Tel Aviv, she’s with Tristan Anderson, who was critically injured by the IDF at a demonstration in the West Bank town of N’alin. He was taking photographs at the time. Tristan’s parents are flying into Tel Aviv as we speak right now.

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