On Friday Reclaiming activist Tristan Anderson was critically injured at a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier (called the “Apartheid Wall” by activists, and deemed a breech of international law by the ICJ) in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. Anderson was shot in the head by a high-velocity tear gas canister. According to the Israeli military the canisters were fired in response to thrown rocks, witnesses on the scene say that Anderson was not near, and took no part in any violent action. A video of the shooting has been posted to YouTube (warning: the images are bloody and disturbing).
“Tristan Anderson from California USA, 37 years old, has been taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Anderson was unconscious and bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in the right part of his forehead where he was struck by a tear gas canister. The heavy impact from the tear gas canister being shot directly at him, from about 60 meters, also caused severe damage to his right eye, which he may lose. Tristan underwent brain surgery in which part of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed. As of 16 March, Tristan is in stable condition, has been taken to the neurological department and is in intensive care.”
Currently, Anderson’s condition has improved somewhat, though the long-term effects of his brain injury at this point are unknown. Supporters of Anderson in the Bay Area are holding a demonstration in solidarity with his efforts today, and Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk has released a statement concerning the incident.
“Tristan is always there, at every demonstration, every mobilization, every fight for justice. He has always seemed fearless to me, with that young man’s confidence in his physical body that I now envy. He’s not so young—thirty-eight, still, I have twenty years on him and he seems young to me, strong, hardy, willing to sit in a tree for months to protect a grove of oaks at UC Berkeley, willing to camp out and show up early to clean out the convergence space, to eat bad pasta and dumpster-dived vegetables for weeks on end. Tall, slim, with dark eyes and olive skin, and a sharp, aquiline nose that starts off in one direction, then changes its mind and heads in another, he comes regularly to our rituals as well as actions, and helps build the North altar every year at the Spiral Dance. Softspoken, unassuming, more than anyone else I know he embodies a certain ideal of rigorous equality, never pulling rank nor trumpeting his considerable street cred, never asking for attention, simply showing up again and again and pitching in to get the work done.”
Tristan Anderson’s parents are hoping to return him to America as soon as he’s well enough to be moved. For more background on why Anderson was in Ni’lin, this blog links to a fact-sheet put out by an anti-barrier organization. I understand that the issues of land and sovereignty in Israel and the Palestinian territories are one of those “third rail” topics that can lead to heated and incendiary rhetoric from both sides (indeed, some commenters on the web are already calling Anderson a terrorist sympathizer who got what he deserved), but when (by all accounts) peaceful activists are getting shot I think we need to acknowledge that something fundamental in the process of dialogue and finding a mutual resolution has broken down. The answer to this tragedy can’t be “protestors shouldn’t protest” or sweeping generalizations about either side in this conflict. We can only hope that leaders on both sides eventually find a way through the endless cycles of violence to some sort of lasting peace accord.
Note: I know this is going to be a controversial topic, so I want everyone to keep it reasoned and polite in the comments. Any sign that someone on either side is about to enter Godwin’s Law territory, engage in racist bromides (subtle or not) concerning Israelis or Palestinians, or anything resembling “he got what he deserved” regarding a man with a traumatic brain injury will find themselves off this thread and their comments deleted.