vrijdag 21 januari 2011

Death in Bil'in, lying IDF-spokesmen, and how CS gas can damn well kill

(Sorry, I write this in English, because most of the things I quote are in English anyway)






The story is continuing. On January 1st Jawareh Abu Rahmah (36, picture) form the West Bank village of Bil'in died in a  hospital in Ramallah after having been exposed to an overdosis of tear gas during a demonstration against the Wall the day before.
Almost immediately after the news of her death had bcome  known, the Israeli army started a campaign to deny that it was to blame for her death. A high officer gave a briefing where newspapers were invited, as well as - quite special - a selected number of rightist writers and bloggers, knowing that these people wouldn't ask nasty questions and report faithfully everythinhg they were told. The officer, who was later identified as no one else than major general Avi Mizrahi, commander of Israels  'central section', said that Jawareh had not been at the demonstration, so that it could not have been gas that killed her. The cause of death could have been leukemia (because she had been seeing doctors and was taking antibiotics), or else asthma. He also said  that the report from  the lab that checked her blood, was marked an hour earlier than she had been admitted to the hospital. Moroever  he pointed to the suspicious fact that there had been no autopsy,  and that she had been buried the very sanme day. And on top of that, everybody was of course aware of the fact that CS gas (the tear gas used) was widely in use in Western countries and was not lethal. So, the conclusion could be no other than that this was another proof of the vicious intentions of the Palestinians who 'stage' this kind of deaths in order to be able to put the blame on Israel.
General Mizrahi's version of the events was refuted for 100% by blogger Lisa Goldman, who produced witnesses who had seen that Jawareh was present at the demonstration, that she became unwell after having inhaled large amounts of tear gas, people who saw that she was evacutated in an ambulance, medical reports from the hospital and last but not least report form doctors she recently visited, who explained that she was healthy except for an infection in her inner ear, for which she had been treated... yes, with antibiotics. After that two versions of the story started to go round. The original one (the Lisa Goldman version) as it were, and the army's twisted versions, which as the army must have known was bought by the rightist blogosphere for 100%, and was followed by the Israeli newspapers as well, although somewhat hesitantly, it seems.

But, that was not going to be the end of the story. On Thursday both Ynet and Haaretz  came with yet a new version, again from an army spokesman. Now the story was that  Jawareh Abu Rahmah died as a result of poor medical care in Ramallah. Due to a wrong diagnosis, she got an overdose of atropine. And that was what killed.her. It was a treatment meant for someone who had been exposed to some poison gas, not CS gas, that - as we all know - is harmless and cannot kill.
The strange twist in this story  was, of course, that the army sayd that after having been exposed to CS gas, she was treated as if it had been something other substance. What, of course,  implied that the army admitted that Rawajeh had been exposed to the CS gas after all. And by doing so, also that she had been at the demonstration, that the cause of death had not been leukemia, or asthma, or even - what also had been suggested - a honor killing because of a forbidden pregnancy.
So she was there, took part  in the demonstration,  did inhale CS gas, but the Palestinian doctors  (what do they know about medicine anyway?) killed her by giving her an overdose of the wrong medicine. And it was not the gas that killed her, because CS gas cannot kill, as we all know.

Do we? No, we don't.  and I'll explain that here. But before I come to that I have point at one ore twist: Yossi Gurvitz of the blog + 972 called the army spokesman after this new revelation and asked his comment. And what did he get for an answer?  That neither the first, nor this last version about atropine and bad care in Ramallah were official army versions, because the army investigation of this 'incident' was still going on.
Well, rightist blogosphere, I'm really curious what you are going to make of this.

But let's look at the supposedly non-lethal  qualities of the CS-gas. Below I will quote some evidence that it is not as harmless as the Israeli army want us to believe. It is not for no reason that in countries like the UK and the Netherlands it is only administered by people who have undergone a special training, and that there are numerous restrictions concerning its use. But before I go there, a personal memory. In 1988 and 1989 I have been covering the First Intifada in the occupied territories, as the the Cairo correspondent for Dutch radio and the newspaper de Volkskrant. During visists to Gaza I was told that the Human Rights Organisation Al Haq (active in Gaza at the time) documented a number of cases of people who died as a result of the use of tear gas, both in Gaza and on the West Bank,  partly because  the Israeli's shot the gas into class rooms and homes on many ocasions, but not only because of that. Al Haq also collected tens of stories (if I remember it well some 60) about pregnant women who got a spontaneous abortion after having been exposed to the gas. Unfortrunately I cannot quote from my files, as de Volkskrant did not want the story and I consequently did not work out my notes. (The Volkskrant foreign desk at the time was led by someone called Jan Luyten, who thought the story not to be newsworthy - 'don't the Palestinians say things like that all the time' he asked rethorically. It was by far not the only gross misjudgement he made during his time as chief of the foreign desk).
.
 First intifada: el shabab el hajjar, or the youth of th stones as the PLO would lateron call them.


There is some evidence elsewhere, however.,.to corroborate what I just wrote. The Palestinian organisation  Al Badil published an article in 2009 about the possiblities (or impossibilities) for Palestinian civilians to sue authorities or companies in the US seeking damages for the loss of relatives or properties during actions in the occupied territories with the use of US manufactured items. It mentioned that: 

In a much earlier case brought during the first Intifada in the 1980’s, Abu-Zeineh v. Federal Laboratories, Inc. and Transtechnology Corporation,23 Palestinians sued US manufacturers of CS gas, a chemical agent, seeking damages for the deaths of their relatives exposed to the gas by IDF attacks in the occupied Palestinian territory and around Jerusalem. Six of the nine Palestinians plaintiffs were citizens of Jordan. 

A US federal court has jurisdiction over a civil case if, among other things, the case is between citizens of a US State and “citizens or subjects of a foreign state.” The foreign state must be recognized – de jure or de facto - by the Executive Branch of the US government at the time the complaint is filed. In this case, the claims by Palestinian plaintiffs were dismissed because there is no de jure recognition of Palestine as a state, and according to the State Department, no de facto recognition either.
Claims brought by six West Bank residents who argued they were both Palestinian and Jordanian citizens also were dismissed on the basis of defendant’s expert witness testimony (because the State Department did not offer an opinion on this question) that statements by Jordanian government officials immediately after Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank proved that the West Bank plaintiffs were not Jordanian citizens. The court did not find persuasive the Jordanian Ambassador’s statement that West Bank residents are given two-year Jordanian passports, or his request that the court give them the same access to US courts as citizens of any foreign state. (Italics added by me).

So these Palestinian citizens had a case concerning the death of several individuals caused by CS gas, but due  to technicalities (Palestine not being a state that the US had recognized) they were not able to push through.  

In about the same time, 4 August 1989, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study into the use of  tear gas in general, which was much later quoted by Physicians for Human Rights. I in turn quote some parts (again with italics added by me):
Tear gas has gained widespread acceptance as a means of controlling civilian crowds and subduing barricaded criminals. The most widely used forms of tear gas have been 0-chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile and w-chloroacetophenone. Proponents of their use claim, that if used correctly, the noxious effects of exposure are transient and of no long-term consequences. The use of tear gas in recent situations of civil unrest, however, demonstrates that exposure to the weapon is difficult to control and indiscriminate, and the weapon is often not used correctly. Severe traumatic injury from exploding tear gas bombs as well as lethal toxic injury have been documented. (...)

Military studies among volunteers have noted that, in most cases, removal from exposure to CS results in fairly rapid recovery with cessation of all symptoms within minutes (9). Proponents of the use of CS believe that, when used properly, high or prolonged exposure to the substance would be precluded by an individual's natural aversion to remaining in an area where the substance is present (United Kingdom patent specification 967 66; 1960). Its popularity among military and police authorities stems partly from comparisons with the other tear gas agents, which suggests that CS is a more potent lacrimator and seems to cause less long-term injury, particularly with respect to the eye.
Inhalation toxicology studies (10-12) at high levels of CS exposure,however, have demonstrated its ability to cause chemical pneumonitis and fatal pulmonary edema. In situations in which high levels of exposures have occurred, the same effects, as well as heart failure, hepatocellular damage, and death, have been reported in adults (5(p23), 8, 13). An infant exposed to CS in a house into which police fired CS canisters to subdue a mentally disturbed adult developed severe pneumonitis requiring therapy with steroids, oxygen, antibiotics, and 29 days of hospitalization. (14).
The respiratory concentration of CS that would be lethal for 50% of healthy adults has been estimated to be 25,000 to 150,000 mg/m 3 per minute, based on animal studies (15). When detonated outside, a CS grenade generates a cloud 6 to 9 m in diameter, at the center of which a concentration of 2,000 to 5,000 mg/m 3 can be produced, with concentrations rapidly tapering off at the periphery. (16) If detonated in an enclosed space or in clusters, however, much higher levels of exposure could be expected. Moreover, chemical weapons have generally been noted to be notoriously uneven in their dispersal. (17).
Oral toxicology studies (18,19) have noted the ability of CS to cause severe gastroenteritis with perforation. Metabolic studies (20, 21) indicate that absorbed CS is metabolized to cyanide in peripheral tissues. The potential for CS exposure at levels seen in the field to result in significant generation of cyanide at the tissue level is controversial.(21, 22). Authors who downplay this possibility reason that one would have to inhale massive quantities that could only occur if the gas were used improperly, and that severe pulmonary injury would overshadow the effects of cyanide generation.(2).However, this argument ignores the ingestion of tear gas chemical that can occur with pharyngeal deposition of incompletely dispersed CS compound and swallowing of respiratory secretions.
Contact burns and the development of skin sensitization with contact dermatitis have been described in a number of experimental and observational studies on animals and humans (16,23-25).This is in keeping with the many skin burns encountered during our inquiry. (....)

 















Durings clashes in Silwan and Issawiya (Jerusalem) the 18 month old child Mohammed Sneneh died from tear gas inhalation. 


That already seems to be quite enough to contradict the claim of the Israeli army about CS gas not being lethal. But thers is more. They also should know better on the basis of their own resarch. Haaretz recently quoted a study the medical corps of the Israeli army itself did in 2004. Under the headline High concentations of tear gas could be lethal it said:

Seven years ago, the IDF Medical Corps published a study on CS gas in both the Israeli medical journal “Refuah” and the overseas journal “Archives of Toxicology.” That study, based on animal experiments, concluded that to kill a person, you would need a dose 800 to 5,600 times larger than the quantities used to disperse demonstrations. Nevertheless, it added, a high concentration of the gas in a given location could cause serious or even lethal harm, and therefore, the gas cannot be considered innocuous. Over the last year the IDF has begun using a tear gas grenade launcher in Bil’in, the Ringo, that allows them to shoot six canisters at once into the same place, creating a thick cloud of gas. The Palestinians say Abu Rahmah was caught in such a cloud. (Italics again added by me).

And Jawareh is not the only case. I mentioned already the death of an 18 months infant in Issawiya in September last year (see the picture). More recently it was rporetd from Algeria that a 65-year old taxidriver died because of tear gas during riots in tht country.  And to conclude I could quote as well the following excerpt from an article on the site of the New York City department of Health and Mental Hygiene:

Long-lasting exposure (over an hour) or exposure to a large dose of tear gas, especially in an enclosed setting, may cause severe effects such as:
• Blindness
• Glaucoma (a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness)
• Death due to serious chemical burns to the throat and lungs
• Respiratory (breathing) failure possibly resulting in death
The deadly effects of tear gas would only occur following exposure to a dosage several hundred times greater than the amount of tear gas typically used by law enforcement officials for crowd control.

In other words, it is time that the Israeli army starts to do its homework, stops lying about the effects of CS gas, and reviews the regulations concerning its use. And in doing so it might as well review the regulations about how to fire the CS grenades, as also several people got seriously injured, and some even killed (as was the case with Jawareh's brother Bassam in april  2009) by direct hits of grenades that had been fired horizontally into crowds.

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