Shooting Tristan Anderson

I had the honor to get to know Tristan Anderson last year as his lawyer in a nonviolent protest case.

Last Friday, at a rally against the ongoing construction of Israel’s “separation wall,” Tristan was shot in the head by a high-velocity tear-gas cannister. He was taking photographs at a weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, which stands to lose 25% of its remaining land to the wall. (The wall was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Undertaken in the name of state security, it effects a further massive land theft by the Israeli government on behalf of Jewish settlers in the West Bank.)

Tristan’s skull and face were shattered. Surgeons removed part of the frontal lobe of his brain, and he may lose an eye.

Because the Israeli army does not allow Palestinian ambulances into Israel, Tristan’s ambulance was detained for 15 minutes at a military checkpoint, while he lay bleeding from his brain. He was ultimately transferred to an Israeli ambulance.

Israeli government spokespersons said the soldiers followed proper policy, as the protest took place in a closed military zone. This stance is hardly surprising. Since July 2008, Israeli soldiers have killed four unarmed residents of Ni’lin, ages ranging from 10 to 22, at demonstrations against the wall. Three of these four Palestinian youths were shot in the head, and one in the back; three by live ammo, and one by “rubber-coated steel bullets” that lodged in his brain. (Details about each of those shootings is at

The question is whether the Israeli soldiers were indiscriminately rocketing high-velocity cannisters straight at the crowd, or whether from 50 meters a soldier mistook Tristan for Palestinian, and aimed a tear gas cannon directly at his head. Tristan was standing still when he got hit.

There will be a demonstration at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco this afternoon at 4pm.

SCOTT HANDLEMAN is a defense lawyer in the Bay Area. He can be reached at:

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