Bassem Abu Rahmah

Click On the Image to Read about Phil RIP

Bassem Abu Rahmah (Phil) known for his Charisma, beautiful smile and kindness. A pacifist, struggling to keep his land.

Who Was Bassem Abu Rahmah?

Bassem Abu Rahmah was a 30-year-old Palestinian from the town of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank. Nicknamed “Elephant”, he was known to friends and family for his charisma and kindness, and for his creative ideas for protesting Israel’s confiscation of lands belonging to local residents for the construction of its separation wall, which has had a devastating impact on the lives of Bil’in’s residents, cutting them off from their farmlands and grazing pastures, restricting their movement and their access to employment, education and health care. One of Bassem’s ideas was to fly a kite during a protest, symbolizing the freedom that Palestinians are striving for.

What happened to Bassem?

On April 17, 2009, while taking part in a weekly peaceful protest against the building of the wall, Bassem was struck in the chest and killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers in an incident that was caught on videotape.

The day that he was killed was like most Fridays in Bil’in, however on this occasion several Israeli peace activists who had joined the weekly protest became trapped in a no-man’s land dividing Israeli soldiers and village residents. Amidst the confusion, Bassem went to help them, calling on the soldiers to stop firing tear gas and allow the Israeli protesters to escape to safety. Instead, the soldiers fired an extended-range tear gas canister directly at him, hitting him in the chest and knocking him unconscious.

There were no ambulances in Bil’in that day. After a car arrived to take Bassem to hospital, Israeli soldiers shot tear gas at it, forcing villagers to carry his body a distance to the waiting car. During the 30 minutes it took for him to reach the hospital, Bassem died.

What was the Official Israeli Response?

The Israeli army claimed that Bassem’s death was an accident and that the tear gas canister that killed him had hit a wire and changed direction in air. A similar claim was made by Israeli authorities after American citizen Emily Henochowicz lost an eye after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a demonstration in May 2010. In July 2010, the Israeli Army’s Judge Advocate General announced that it would open an investigation into Bassem’s death after his family threatened to petition the Israeli High Court of Justice. The results have yet to be released.

U.S. Involvement

Along with other more advanced and lethal weaponry, the U.S. is a primary supplier of tear gas canisters and dispensers for Israeli forces and other repressive regimes across the region. A number of non-violent Palestinian and international activists, including American citizens, have been seriously wounded or killed by Israeli soldiers using American-made tear gas canisters and launchers. A month before Bassem’s death, American Tristan Anderson was seriously injured after being hit in the head with a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops at a demonstration in the West Bank town of Ni’lin.

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