Israeli Attacks on US Human Rights Defenders

  • On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli soldier operating a Caterpillar D9 bu lldozer as she stood in front of the home of the Nasrallah family, where she had previously stay ed, to protect it from demolition while the Nasrallahs were inside. Despite Rachel’s florescent jacket, eyewitness testimony that she was visible to the driver, and the fact that f ellow activists jumped and waived at the soldiers, yelling for them to stop, the soldier operating the bulldozer drove over her. Despite the promise by the Israeli Prime Minister to the US government to conduct a th orough, credible and transparent investigation, the inves tigation failed to meet internationally recognized norms.
  • On March 20, 2003, Israeli soldiers in Nablus shot US citize n Eric Hawanith with three rubber-coated steel bullets during a demonstration, wounding him in the chest and leg. He was r ushed to the hospital by Palestinian paramedics, who were being shot at by Israeli forces as they attempted to provide Hawanith with first aid.
  • On April 7, 2003, 24-year-old peace activist and US cit izen Brian Avery was shot in the face by Israeli soldiers. His face was shattered, forcing him to undergo a series of surgerie s. The night of the shooting Avery and another activis t heard gunfire and went outside to see if any of the local medical teams needed as sistance. Avery wore a florescent vest with “Doctor” w ritten in English and Hebrew on the front and back. Avery was shot when a n Israeli armored personnel carrier approached them.
  • March 13 2009, 37-year-old Tristan Anderson , an activist from Oakland, California, was critically injured when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head during a weekly nonviolent protest in the West Bank village of N’alin. The impa ct of the teargas canister that was shot directly at his head fro m a close range caused several condensed fractures to his skull and caused his eye socket to collapse. The injury resulted in the re moval of a large portion of his frontal lobe.
  • On May 31, 2010, 18-year -old Furkan Doğan was killed when he was shot five times by Israeli soldiers. A ll of the entry wounds were to the back of his body, except the shot to his face, which was delivered at point-blank range. Furkan wa s among sixteen US citizens who were part of a flotilla carrying more than 70 0 unarmed civilians seeking to bring humanitarian aid and rebu ilding supplies to break the blockade of Gaza. While still in in international waters the flotilla was overtaken by Israeli commandos who killed nine passengers including Furkan.
  • On May 31, 2010, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz lost her left eye and several bones in her face were crushed after Israeli forces shot her in the face by a tear gas canister while taking part in a peaceful protest in the West Bank against th e Israeli assault on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Israeli border police fired tear gas c anisters directly at the protesters.
  • On May 1, 2011, 60-year-old Sandra Quintano , a US citizen from Michigan, suffered two broken wrists a nd a large gash on her head when assaulted by an Israeli soldier while attending a protest against home demolitions in the West Bank.
  • On May 13, 2011 a 25 year-old US student, Christopher Whitman , was shot in the head during a peaceful demonstration w ith a high velocity tear gas canister, which removed a sizable ar ea of his hair and skin.
  • On May 15, 2011, 23-year old US citizen Munib Al-Masri was shot by an Israeli military sniper with live ammunition while on Lebanese soil at a protest on the border. He was critic ally injured when the bullet damaged his spleen, kidney and spine.

The presence of human rights defenders is critical in areas experiencing widespread human rights violations, such as t he Occupied Palestinian Territory. Attacks on human rights defenders a re a serious violation of international law. Under the inte rnational human rights system, governments are responsible for the protection o f human rights defenders, and the United Nations’ Spec ial Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has concluded that, “[f]ighting imp unity for violations committed against defenders is crucial in order to enable defenders to work in a safe and conducive environment.” Despite the US government’s responsibility to take serio us and meaningful measures to demand accountability for the killing or injury of its human rights defenders by Israel and ensure prot ection of its citizens, the US has showed an alarming amount of deference to Israe l and has repeatedly failed to take serious action.


Last modified 

January 25, 2016