Israeli evidence backfires in compensation case for injured US activist

A vigil in support of Tristan Anderson during 2009. (Flickr)

The civil trial for American activist Tristan Anderson continued Thursday in an Israeli court in Jerusalem with the questioning of Gabby Silverman.

Silverman, Anderson’s girlfriend at the time, was with the solidarity activist when he was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas canister by Israeli soldiers after a demonstration in the occupied West Bank village of Nilin in March 2009.

Anderson suffered serious injuries and his family is now seeking damages from Israel. He has lost his sight in one eye and experiences ongoing cognitive and physical impairments. He requires round-the-clock care, is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. Hearings in the case opened on Sunday.

Three surviving Palestinian witnesses who were scheduled to testify were unable to appear in court as they were not granted Israeli permits to enter Jerusalem. Israel bars millions of Palestinians in the West Bank from entering the occupied city.  

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack, who is observing the case, told The Electronic Intifada that the state attorney’s line of questioning tried to discredit Silverman and suggest that Anderson’s condition is not as severe as the case alleges.

“But that blew back in his face,” Pollack said.

State’s evidence backfires

In court, the state showed an interview with Tristan Anderson and the American journalist and activist Sarah Shourd that was originally aired on Democracy Now! on 16 November 2010. It was Anderson’s first interview since his injury in March 2009. Shourd had recently been freed from an Iranian prison, where she was held in solitary confinement for 410 days.  

Pollack said the state presented the video as evidence that Anderson was both cognitively and physically fine.

“But if you look at that interview, you can see that Tristan is doing horribly.”

The video is clearly made up of several takes. Silverman explained in court that it took a very long time to make and editors had to make a lot of cuts.

Judge suggests compromise

Pollack was not in court today but was told by Anderson’s attorney, Lea Tsemel, that at the end of Silverman’s cross-examination the presiding judge suggested to the state’s attorney that he should consider “compromising for humanitarian reasons,” since Anderson was “obviously hurt,” Pollack relayed to The Electronic Intifada.

Although Pollack said this is an encouraging sign for the Anderson family — who are struggling to afford Tristan’s long-term care —  he warned against reading too much into the judge’s early comments.

“It’s not official and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything or say anything about how the judge will rule in the end.”

Pollack hopes that Israeli occupation authorities will allow the three other witnesses from Nilin to enter Jerusalem for the next hearing, scheduled for 25 December. A fourth witness to Anderson’s shooting, Yousef Akil Srour, was killed by Israeli occupation forces three months after Anderson was injured, at a demonstration against Israel’s separation wall in Nilin.




What a mess, poor guy, in video segment with democracy now he clearly isn't ok as Israeli attorneys try to prove by the video after what they did to him. He's blind in right eye, if he even has one anymore and by the look of him from video and pictures is wheelchair bound and appears like someone with extensive brain damage to one side of his body as one following a massive stroke. These Israelis clearly have no humanity or compassion for non Israeli life, shameful!


...a verdict in favor of Anderson would actually be problematic (as much as I support every effort to publicize the injury and injustice he's faced). As with the Corrie family's suit against the Israeli military, an activist winning a case in an Israeli court would appear to mitigate the Israeli government's crimes and serve as an assertion that some IDF actions don't represent the state as a whole. It's better for activists' purposes that Israel be shown as unrepentant in its wrongdoing, and the evils of the Zionist state be emphasized to the world watching.

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.