When Israeli border control officers attacked a non-violent protest near Qalandia checkpoint on June 1st, eyewitnesses reported that the troops fired three high-velocity tear gas canisters directly toward 21-year old American protester Emily Henochowicz, hitting her in the face and blinding her in one eye. Now, after thousands of calls demanding an investigation into the incident, the US Consul in Jerusalem has asked the Israeli government for an explanation. American peace activists who have been petitioning their government about the incident say that the response is weak and fairly meaningless, but is better than no response at all.
Henochowicz, 21, has been in Jerusalem for six weeks as an exchange student in the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and is a visual artist who says the injury will be devastating to her career as an artist. Henochowicz’s father is from Israel, and she has dual Israeli-US citizenship.
Her lawyer issued a statement saying, “[a]ccording to testimony I have begun to receive, the firing was at close range and was directly aimed, and if this is correct, it is clearly a criminal act for which those involved must answer. My client and her family have authorized me to say that they demand that her unnecessary injury be fully investigated, and that we spare no effort to ensure that law enforcement authorities carry out their duty in this matter.”
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, they have not received an official request for an investigation from the US Consulate, but have been in informal talks with the US Consul on the issue.
The Israeli government says it has already carried out an investigation of the incident, and that its officers acted impeccably and according to procedure. This is not the first time that protesters have been seriously injured or killed by the high-velocity, bullet-shaped tear gas canisters at protests in the West Bank. Bassem Abu Rahme was killed last year when Israeli forces shot him in the chest with a tear gas canister at close range – Israeli authorities also said that there was no misconduct by the soldiers who fired the canister in that case.
Another American citizen, Tristan Anderson, was critically injured by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces at his head last year, during an anti-Wall protest in the village of Bil’in. He remains paralyzed on one side of his body, and may have permanent brain damage.