Jawaher Abu Rahma – the manipulation of a tragedy

Whenever and however someone dies, it is always a tragedy which comes too soon for loved ones left behind. Unfortunately, there are those who appear to be intent upon making political capital from the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma last weekend.

The ‘Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee’, and its media co-ordinator Joseph Dana, put out a statement on their website denying Monday’s reports in the Israeli media regarding preliminary investigations into Jawaher’s death, including witness statements and medical documentation.

We will, likely, never know what really caused Jawaher Abu Rahma to die because a post-mortem was not carried out. The many conflicting reports both from witnesses and members of the family, as well as medical staff, only add to the confusion.  Some say that she attended the demonstration whilst others insist that she was half a kilometre away. Some suggested that she had underlying medical conditions whilst others claimed not.

The apparent refusal of the family to carry out a post-mortem examination means that the truth regarding both her general health and the actual cause of death will never come to light and it is therefore possible for politically motivated elements to continue to try to make capital from this incident.

What we do know, however, is that contrary to claims made in many media outlets and by political figures from the very top of the Palestinian Authority downwards, Jawaher Abu Rahma was not ‘murdered’ or ‘killed’. At worst, if connected to the demonstration at all, her death was accidental.

Reports issued by the protesters themselves claim that there were 1,000 people at the demonstration that day and yet they do not appear to have a plausible explanation for the fact that others were unharmed by the tear gas. If indeed Ms. Abu Rahma was located half a kilometre away from the clashes, and especially if on a hill, as claimed by some witnesses, issues such as the density of the gas –which is heavier than air – and its subsequent ability to travel such a distance without dissipating (particularly as it was raining that day and water is one of the recommended means of neutralising the effects of tear gas) come into question.

Even if Ms. Abu Rahma was in close proximity to the demonstration and did inhale some of the CS gas used to disperse it, we cannot be sure that this was the cause of death because we have no medical evidence to prove that. The document presented as the medical report from the hospital where she was treated is sketchy to say the least and offers no evidence of blood tests taken, diagnostic imaging carried out or medication administered and gives only one set of partially complete vital signs. It cites ‘metabolic acidosis’ as the reason for the deterioration in her condition, but does not specify which one of the several kinds of metabolic acidosis (which can arise from a variety of medical conditions) or provide any blood work which could cast light upon the question of how that diagnosis was reached. Neither does it state how the condition was treated.

In short – the witness statements are conflicting and confusing, the medical reports incomplete and insufficient for the drawing of evidence-based conclusions, the death certificate highly unprofessional and the post-mortem examination non-existent.

Whilst there is no doubt that the Abu Rahma family has now suffered two tragic deaths, we unfortunately are required at this point to turn our attention to those people intent upon taking those sad events and manipulating them for the purpose of public relations. They include Saeb Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas who have yet again tried to make political capital from this incident by defining it in totally unrealistic terms in an attempt to incite international opinion against Israel.

They also include Joseph Dana, who for quite some time now has been exploiting his position as a ‘journalist’ to spread scare stories about the use of tear gas by the IDF. Up to now, his stories haven’t really taken off except in the weird and wonderful virtual world of fringe blogs, so he must have been quite impressed with himself at managing to feed this latest one to some more mainstream media outlets.

It is easy to understand that the use of tear gas must be a considerable inconvenience to those so-called  ‘non-violent’ activists who week in and week out inflict thousands of shekels-worth of damage to the security fence which protects the Israeli civilian population from suicide bombers and other terrorist attacks, as well as frequently injuring Israeli soldiers in the process.  Joseph Dana and associates would no doubt like very much to be able to hamper the IDF in dispersing their weekly vandalism, either by means of international condemnation or by pressurising the companies who provide the tear gas – as they are already trying to do.  And they obviously don’t mind if they have to manipulate the truth in the process, because otherwise they would have had nothing to hide and there would have been full co-operation into a proper investigation into Jawaher Abu Rahma’s death instead of the half-baked hearsay and dubious reports they have come up with so far.

Protesters remove part of the wall in Bil'in


What Dana obviously failed to learn as a child is that one can cry wolf once too often. The truth always comes out in the end, and after a decade of the Al Dura hoax and the Jenin non-massacre, among others, the world may well yet prove to have smartened up to such tricks.

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