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(en) Israel-Palestine, On a recent casualty in the joint struggle against the separation fence

Date Fri, 08 Sep 2006 09:35:50 +0300


[The struggle against the separation fence intended to promote annexation of
occupied Palestinian lands have not started in Bil'in. However, as it continue
without a break for 19 months already it became a symbol. The struggle in Bil'in
was initiated by the local popular comity in cooperation with the Israeli Anarchists
Against The Wall initiative - of anarchists and other direct action nonauthoritarian
activists against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and suppression of
their people. Gradually, other people and organizations joined the struggle, on both
sides of the separation fence - Palestinians and Israelis and international activists.
Lot of people were injured by the Israeli forces during the activities against the
separation fence - mostly Palestinians as the Israeli state forces have different
rules of suppression for Jews and for Palestinians. The first time the Israeli state
forces shoot on purpose an Israeli at his leg - about 3 years ago, the army supreme
commander came to visit him at hospital to apologize. Gradually, the public opinion in
Israel got used to it a bit and the latest case of Limor Goldstein drew only limited
amount of responses. I.S.]


One blow to the brain By Dalia Karpel

On Friday, August 11th, when the end of the Lebanon War was on
the horizon, after several weeks in which no more than token
protests had taken place in Bil'in, the weekly demonstration against
the separation fence began. Border Police troops, who were waiting,
threw stun grenades and fired rubber-coated metal bullets at the
demonstrators, even before they left the village to head toward the
fence. Limor Goldstein, 28, was wounded in the head by gunfire
from a Border Police officer. As documented on the video that was
being shot at the time there, two hours elapsed from the time he was
injured until he was brought by ambulance to the emergency room
at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

The village of Bil'in, located near Ramallah, has become a symbol of
the struggle against the separation fence and has been the focal point
for more than a year and a half of joint Palestinian-Israeli
demonstrations, held on Fridays. While the protests are intended to
be nonviolent, there have been violent clashes with security forces.

Limor Goldstein, a lawyer who was born in Germany and who holds
permanent residency in Israel, was wounded by a rubber-coated
metal bullet that penetrated his brain. Goldstein, who speaks eight
languages, says he is not a member of any of the protesting
organizations.

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"I have no problem cooperating with them and I admire their
persistent action, but I don't belong to any political organization. I
prefer to remain autonomous," he says now.

In his room at the Re'ut Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Goldstein talks
about that day in Bil'in. He looks gaunt and pale. His head is shaven
and the marks from the stitches are clearly visible above his right
ear, where the bullet penetrated. In a soft voice, nearly a whisper, he
says that he still suffers from intense headaches and from pain in his
ears and at the place where the bullet struck.

"I have problems with balance. The bullet shattered my skull and
entered my brain. The doctors removed it as well as the bone
fragments that damaged the brain tissue. They also removed the
parts of the brain tissue that were damaged. The part of my brain
that was hurt is responsible for visual processing. I have damage to
the optic nerve in the left eye and my right eye was also hurt. The
long-term damage will be measured over time. In about two months,
I'm supposed to have an operation where they'll implant plastic in
the area where they removed the bone.

"I have memory damage. I don't remember the faces of the doctors
who treated me, and I've lost details of the event itself. I have a
problem with orientation and with my sense of time. It's hard for me
to distinguish between dream and reality. I wake up in the morning
and start crying. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I'm supposed to
accomplish some task, because that's what I've dreamed, and then I
can't do it and I panic. Sometimes I wake up terrified that I have
missed a few antibiotic infusions and that my life is in danger. I
usually wake up before dawn and it's not easy.

"I was in Tel Hashomer for about a week and then I was transferred
here, but then the wound became infected and they were worried
about meningitis. I was brought back to the operating room at Tel
Hashomer and they did a revised procedure on the wound. They
removed the patch that was supposed to protect the brain but had
become infected, and now the area is open. One bullet penetrated
the brain and there was another bullet that didn't penetrate, but
grazed my neck.

"I'm not depressed, but I feel an ongoing helplessness and
disorientation. I have nightmares in which I relive what happened
and see the Border Police troops coming closer and firing at me, and
the road I'm walking on is covered with thousands of bullet casings.

"I can't read. Everything gets mixed up and it's exhausting and gives
me headaches. I can't watch television. I listen to music and friends
read to me. Now they're reading to me 'Sons of Our Neighborhood'
by Naguib Mahfouz. My friends and I are organizing a big
demonstration in Tel Aviv against police violence and against
political oppression. The meetings take place here on the balcony."

'You're in Lebanon'

"On Friday, August 11, we left our apartment in Neveh Tzedek, my
two roommates and I, and drove in the car of Ilan Shalif, a
psychologist, to the weekly demonstration in Bil'in. The
demonstration usually starts out from the village after the prayer
service, at around one in the afternoon.

"That day, over 50 demonstrators had come, including Israelis,
leftist activists from the anarchists and human rights activists and
others, alongside international activists from the International
Solidarity Movement. They were joined by residents of Bil'in. It was
another weekly protest against the construction of the separation
fence, during which we march toward the route of the fence.
Sometimes new people join us and that Friday there were some
who'd taken part in the Queeruption Festival, a gay and lesbian
political festival in Tel Aviv." (At the last Queeruption, which took
place last year in Barcelona, it was decided that the next, ninth
celebration of the event would be held in Tel Aviv in August 2006,
as part of the global struggle for freedom, justice and self-definition).

"Before the demonstration started, we explained to the guests from
Queeruption that there aren't always confrontations with the army
and that lately, because of the war, the demonstrations had been
very brief, and we'd just approached the separation fence route and
stopped. We told them about a recent demonstration in which we
stood by the fence route for a minute of silence in memory of the
victims in Lebanon, and then returned.

"On that day we set out from one of the houses in Bil'in and very
soon saw that the army was trying to prevent the demonstration from
leaving the village. For anyone who doesn't know, the main road in
the village leads to the home of a woman named Zohra, and after
that, there's a turn that leads to the fence route. We saw the army
waiting in front of Zohra's house and the soldiers standing next to
their jeeps, blocking the way and shooting. It's hard for me to say
just how many protesters were with us. There was a column of
marchers with spaces between them - spread out in a line - and the
army couldn't have seen exactly how many people had come.

"When my friend Francesca [last name witheld on her request] and I
were marching, the soldiers already started firing rubber bullets in all
directions and tossing stun grenades. The army, like I said, was still
inside the village, before the descent to where the fence route is. One
of the first things I saw was a guy who was wounded. He sat on the
ground and looked confused and terrified, which didn't stop the
soldiers from continuing to toss more stun grenades in our direction.
Francesca and I wanted to help the guy get up, to move him out of
there. When we turned around with our back to the soldiers, we saw
soldiers on the right, in the olive and fig orchards. On the left was a
wall of stones and several demonstrators rushed to find cover there.
We went over there while Border Police troops were approaching us
with their weapons drawn and firing.

"Francesca and I got pretty close to the guy who was sitting on the
ground, covering his ears with his hands, his leg bleeding from a
rubber bullet. A stun grenade went off next to him, which made him
disoriented. We pulled him to the side and Francesca escorted him
to a house behind us, so he could rest there.

"The shooting continued, and the soldiers' commander, who can be
seen on the video without a helmet and holding a megaphone, kept
yelling while his soldiers, who were walking on either side of him,
kept on shooting nonstop. He yelled: 'Get out of here! There won't
be any demonstration today. Now you're in Lebanon.' The rubber
bullets were flying all around and a lot of people got hit in the legs.
Today I know that I wasn't the only one who was hit: 12
demonstrators were hit by rubber bullets and about 10 were beaten
by Border Police officers. One of the demonstrators, a young woman
from Denmark, suffered a skull fracture as a result of a Border Police
officer hitting her on the head with a rifle butt.

"Several demonstrators called out to the soldiers to stop shooting,
telling them there were Israeli civilians in this demonstration, but
they ignored them and kept on. I was standing by the stone wall as
the soldiers kept getting closer and the commander was shouting
into the megaphone, 'Get out of here!' Meanwhile, Francesca
returned. Cameraman Jonathan Massey, was facing the soldiers and
walking backward. They beat him with batons and yelled at him to
stop filming. He tried to jump back. Francesca and I turned around
to head back and I saw that they were coming toward us. We ducked
and then I saw that they were aiming at us. I felt a strong blow to the
head and then to the neck and I collapsed. I immediately realized
that I'd fallen in a bad way because I hit the stones and since there
was a slope, my head somehow got caught in barbed wire that was
there and my hair, which was long then, got tangled up in it."

'It was shocking'

Francesca: "Limor's head was lying on a rock beneath the barbed
wire that hurt his face, and there was hardly any space between his
face and the wires. I tried to lift the barbed wires, but I couldn't,
because they were taut. Together with another woman, we managed
to lift the wires and free Limor's head. I can say for certain that the
shooting was aimed at Limor. They picked him. We were both
already on the way back to the village and with our backs to the
soldiers and they aimed at him, and they could have aimed at me,
too."

Goldstein: "The pain was sharp and concentrated on the left side of
my head. There was bleeding, but not like with Matan Cohen, who
was shot in Beit Sira. I remembered the poster that was put up in Tel
Aviv after Cohen was struck in the eye by a bullet. It showed him
lying in a pool of blood. I remember that Francesca and others called
for help and asked for an ambulance or an army medic."

Francesca: "The soldiers kept passing by us as if nothing was wrong.
Limor was on the ground bleeding and the shooting was still going
on. One of the international demonstrators, Jenny, a medic by
profession, held Limor's head. We knew you had to do that with a
head injury. Then [another friend] Michal came to help. We kept on
shouting, 'Ambulance, ambulance, army medic! There's an Israeli
wounded in the head' - and the soldiers who passed by there said,
'You call an ambulance. We'll call an ambulance to the war in
Lebanon.' Finally, someone came who said he was an army medic."

Goldstein: "An army medic came up to me. I asked for a drink and
got water poured on my head. He asked me to move my hands. I told
him that I didn't feel good, that my head and neck hurt. My hands
were stiff."

Francesca: "The medic asked Limor what his name was and then he
asked, 'How do you feel?' And Limor said, 'Bad, I have pain in my
head and neck.' 'Move your legs,' the medic said. Limor moved his
legs a little and the medic turned around and left without saying a
word. It was shocking."

Goldstein: "The pain kept getting worse and it was really hot. I was
very scared, because this whole time that was I lying there, the
soldiers kept on shooting and the explosions from the stun grenades
were especially frightening. Francesca kept on calling for help and
Michal, who had medical equipment, tried to come over to me, but
was prevented from doing so. 'You shot an Israeli in the head,'
Francesca yelled, and the soldiers answered, 'There's no
ambulance.' I lay there writhing in pain and heard everything."

Francesca: "Stun grenades were still being thrown. We kept Limor in
the shade, and he was quiet and pale, and only said that he was hot
and in pain. His hands seemed frozen. The muscles stiffened in
response to the shock. The whole time we held his head and
moistened his lips. The cameraman Jonathan Massey called out to
the soldiers, 'You shot someone,' and one of the soldiers gave him a
bandage and left. We cleaned the wound on Limor's head and
bandaged it. We believed that an ambulance was on the way."

Goldstein: "People came up and asked what happened. I replied that
I'd been shot in the head. I never lost consciousness for a moment.
For about an hour I lay on the ground and it felt like an eternity. I
just wanted to get out of there and I couldn't understand why I
wasn't being taken away and I felt angry at these crazy guys who
shoot at people from short range for no reason."

New political awareness

"When I came out of the operating room, the doctors said that they
weren't sure if I'd be able to see or to move my limbs," Goldstein
continues. "Now it looks like I won't be able to renew my driver's
license in Israel, with such a poor field of vision. The first thing my
mother said, when she arrived in Israel from Germany and came
right to the hospital, is that it's unbelievable that they could shoot at
civilians like that for no reason.

"I was born in Bremen, in northern Germany, in 1978, and I have a
sister who's two years older than me. My father, Sorin Goldstein,
was born in Romania the same year, 1949, that my mother, Rivka,
was born in Ukraine. Each of them came to Israel on his own in
1969. My mother, who came from a religious family, didn't serve in
the army and earned a degree in biology from Bar-Ilan University.
After my father got out of the army, they met in Tel Aviv. My
father's brother lived and worked in Germany, and my father decided
to try his luck there. Now he works in insurance for auto exporting
and my mother runs a microbiology lab in Bremen.

"My parents didn't have a common language aside from Hebrew. I
finished high school in Bremen and decided to return to Israel then. I
earned a law degree from the Hebrew University in 2001. Then I
went back to Europe. For about six months I traveled around
Romania and tried to improve my Romanian. Afterward, I went back
to Germany and lived in Berlin, which is where my political
awareness blossomed and where I started to deal with immigration
issues. My connection to Israel goes way back. Every year, since I
was a little kid, we'd come to Israel for vacations and I have family
here, so I had a close connection to the place and to the Hebrew
language.

"I returned to Israel in 2004 and began my internship with attorney
Smadar Ben-Natan. I thought of working for Kav La'oved [a
nonprofit organization that promotes workers' rights], but it didn't
work out. But I soon realized that immigrant rights in Israel were in
a sorry state. Through my internship, I learned about and became
familiar with the reality of the occupation.

"The Ben-Natan firm had several appeals against the fence and we
had a few cases in the military courts, which are a shocking sight in
themselves. The whole time I followed what was going on in Bil'in
and other villages where there were demonstrations against the
separation fence. In 2005 I finished my internship and started
working in the office of attorney Dan Assan, who specializes in
human rights, in legal damages for Palestinians from the first
intifada, or prisoners who were tortured under interrogation."

Security forces respond

Francesca: "After a lot of time passed, some soldiers came with a
stretcher and acted like they were doing us a favor. About five or six
of us lifted him, including myself, Michal, Jenny and the soldiers,
and then one of the soldiers, a reservist who was a bit older, said that
he refused to evacuate Limor 'until everyone gets out of here.'

"We pleaded with him and finally he relented. We took Limor on the
stretcher to the place where the military jeeps were. As we were
walking, a reservist came up to me and pushed me aside, using his
rifle to do it. I waited a little on the side and then I went back and
joined the stretcher bearers. Jenny held Limor's head until we
reached the pickup truck and then they would only let Michal stay
with him. They told the rest of us to get lost."

Michal A., who is studying English literature at Tel Aviv University:
"Next to the military pickup truck two soldiers came and helped to
lift the stretcher into the vehicle, which was filled with riot shields.
The two soldiers were supposed to hold the stretcher, because the
vehicle was going up an incline. I held Limor's head. During the trip,
more and more shields fell on Limor, who didn't say a word. I asked
the soldiers to help me move the shields off him. I asked the driver to
slow down. It was a nightmare. We finally reached the gate below
and the soldiers took the stretcher off the vehicle and put it down on
the ground in the sun.

"Two medics came. They looked and said that he didn't look so
good, but they didn't even take the bandage off his head. One medic
said that a civilian ambulance should be called and the other said,
'No, we'll call a military ambulance.' They went back and forth for
another 20 minutes and meanwhile he's lying in the sun. Not saying
anything. I wet his lips. I literally forced them to move him to the
shade, and the whole time I was worried about his neck, which still
wasn't immobilized.

"At last a military ambulance came, and it was packed with all kinds
of stuff. The medic got out and said, 'What do we have here?' He
took off the bandage and looked, and then he ordered the soldiers to
empty the ambulance. 'But take your time,' he said. Finally we left. I
sat with Limor in the back and two people sat up front and the
ambulance bounced down a dirt road and I shouted for them to slow
down because of his neck ... and they didn't seem to care at all.
Finally we reached Kiryat Sefer in Upper Modi'in and a Magen
David Adom ambulance was waiting there. They immobilized
Limor's neck and we drove about another 300 meters where, before
the Shilat junction, an ambulance with emergency equipment was
waiting.

"We got to the hospital two hours after Limor was shot. He was
calm and conscious and at the hospital he gave his name and his ID
number, even though he was in terrible pain. Throughout this
arduous trip, he only moaned and tried to touch his head. When we
entered the emergency room, he vomited."

That day, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said that the Border
Police officers acted in response, after the demonstrators threw rocks
at them. But the video clearly shows that the troops shot without any
warning and without any rock-throwing or other aggressive or
provocative behavior on the part of the protesters. The video shows a
Border Police officer firing at Goldstein from very short range, about
15 meters, while Goldstein stood across the road.

In fact, today, Border Police spokesman Avi Moshe does not wish to
repeat the claim of the IDF spokesman, and prefers to begin his
response with a description of other incidents in Bil'in: "First, let's
point out that for weeks demonstrators have been coming to the
separation fence in the vicinity of the village of Bil'in, causing
provocations and disturbing the peace by throwing rocks and various
objects at the Border Police and IDF forces in that location. In most
of the events, a number of Border Police officers were injured, and
some were even sent to the hospital. Let's also point out that in one
case, when those demonstrators requested to speak with a Border
Police officer there, and the officer agreed and came to talk with
them, as soon as the officer turned around to head back toward the
forces that were standing on the other side, the demonstrators
suddenly started to hurl rocks at him and they wounded him in the
head."

Only after this lengthy introduction does the Border Police
spokesman offer this laconic response to the shooting of Goldstein:
"As for this specific incident, it is under investigation in the Judea
and Samaria District and when conclusions are reached, we will act
accordingly."

Asked about the name of the policeman who shot attorney
Goldstein, Moshe says: "I won't give you his name. As I said, when
the investigation is complete, we will act in accordance with
whatever is deemed necessary."

Goldstein, meanwhile, has this to say: "My personal story isn't the
important element in this story. Not the fact that I was born in
Germany or who my parents are. What matters is the message of
what's happening in Bil'in and in the villages along the fence route.
People are being shot. Lands are being appropriated. As soon as I get
well I'll go back to Bil'in to demonstrate."
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