10 April 2009

Tristan Anderson UPDATE

Activists launch fundraiser for injured ISM protester

Pro-Palestinian activists this week launched a fundraising drive to cover hospital costs for an uninsured American protester critically wounded last month by police in the West Bank. Meanwhile his family is preparing to sue the state. Police say the troops followed protocol. Tristan Anderson, 38, was hit in the forehead by a teargas canister fired by a border policeman in the village of Na'alin during a demonstration against Israel's contested security barrier.

Comatose, Anderson has undergone three brain surgeries at Tel Hashomer hospital, including partial removal of his frontal lobe. A brain fluid leak was sealed using a femoral tendon and his right eye suffered extensive damage. It is not clear if he will survive.

The demonstration was organized by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a controversial organization which brings Westerners to "resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian land" by "direct-action methods," as stated in the group's charter.

"Tristan is without medical insurance in the U.S. and will need substantial financial assistance to continue long-term treatment," the movement advertised on a mini-site it built for Anderson. "We ask that supporters around the world donate what they can to help."

The man's parents, Nancy and Michael Anderson, who flew out to Israel from their home in central California, confirmed through their attorney that "there are money issues" but said they weren't behind the fundraising drive. The parents, who refused to be interviewed, have retained Sfard to conduct an independent probe into the incident, in preparation for a legal fight to get Israel to assume responsibility for the injury.

"So far my investigation has produced evidence that look very bad," said Sfard, who collected testimonies in Na'alin last Thursday. "It appears border police took up an elevated position to snipe with canisters at protesters returning from a demonstration."

A Swedish activist who said he saw the shooting told Anglo File that it was unprovoked. "The policeman approached from behind a building when everything was quiet," said the man, an ISM member who identified himself only as John.

A 30-year-old government employee staying on a tourist visa, John added he was 30 meters away from Anderson at the time. The policeman who fired the canister was 60 meters away, he said. "Clearly troops are using canisters as projectiles and not for crowd dispersal," John said. Avi Biton, the spokesperson for the border police's Judea and Samaria district, said the canister discharged accidentally.

"We believe Israel should not only pay for Anderson's medical expenses, but take full responsibility for his shooting," Sasha Solanas from ISM's Media Office said. "Anderson was standing inside the village and the demonstration had dispersed." Solanas also said the shooting "continues a pattern of behavior by the Israeli military of firing teargas canisters directly at protesters in violation of Israeli army orders and international standards."