Picture Of An Occupation: Palestinian Minister Killed During Peaceful Protest
Another travesty and tragedy of the Occupation: Ziad Abu Ein, a 55-year-old Palestinian minister and father of four, died after being choked by an Israeli soldier as he and other activists attempted to plant olive trees at an illegal settlement near Ramallah. The new head of the Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements, Abu Ein had moments before denounced the IDF's shooting of tear gas, beating and arresting of activists, and other violence in response to what was a peaceful protest.
The first member of the Palestinian government to be killed in a protest, Abu Ein was a minister without portfolio, a senior member of Fatah and a former Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs who had spent 13 years in Israeli and U.S. prisons. As the newly appointed head of the Commission, he was in charge of organizing popular resistance activities of Palestinians against the security barrier and settlements, and was a frequent presence at protests.
On Wednesday, he and dozens of activists had set out to plant olive trees near the settlement of Adei Ad, formerly the village of Turmus Aiya, to "protect land stolen by settlers." Israeli soldiers attacked them, firing tear gas and punching and arresting many. As Abu Ein stepped in to object, one soldier seized him by the neck and roughly shoved him. A few moments later, Abu Ein collapsed; he died in Ramallah Hospital. Eyewitness accounts and the results of a subsequent autopsy have been fiercely disputed: Palestinian and Jordanian doctors say he died either from choking, inhaling large amounts of tear gas, being hit in the chest by an Israeli helmet or tear gas cannister, or some combination of those factors; Israeli doctors say he died of natural causes stemming from a heart condition.
Thousands attended Abu Ein's funeral today in Ramallah, where shops closed and protests escalated. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called his death "a clear crime" and "barbaric act," and said the Palestinian government is considering its options in response. Shortly before his death, Abu Ein spoke to reporters, sounding short of breath from the tussle. "We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launch into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone," he said. "This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is a terrorist army, practising its terrorism on the Palestinian people." Video bears him out. Warning: distressing. Also reminder: This is what, over and over, the Occupation has wrought. It goes on daily.
His daughter at the funeral
At the Martyrs' Cemetery