Emily Henochowicz
Emily Henochowicz after losing an eye at a protest at the Qalandiyah checkpoint − she was struck by a teargas grenade. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The Israeli government is refusing to pay the cost of medical care for an American-Jewish activist who lost an eye when Border Police officers fired a tear gas canister at her during a demonstration.

Emily Henochowicz, who studying at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem and also holds Israeli citizenship, took part in a protest on May 31, shortly after Israel killed nine pro-Palestinian activists in a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Dozens of activists took part in the protest against the Israeli blockade of Gaza next to the Qalandia checkpoint, south of Ramallah.

According to the IDF, demonstrators began to throw stones at the Border Police, after which the army responded by firing tear gas canisters.

According to Henochowicz, one policeman shot a canister directly at her face, shattering her jaw and causing her to lose her left eye. A Haaretz reporter witnessed the incident.

Following her her treatment at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Henochowicz's father, who had traveled from the U.S., was handed a bill for NIS 14,000. Under advice from his lawyer, Michael Sfard, he asked the Defense Ministry cover the expense, but officials refused.

In justifying the refusal, the Defense Ministry claimed the tear gas was not fired directly at Henochowicz.

"The canister ricocheted at her after it rebound off a concrete barrier and changed direction - it was not shot directly at her," the ministry said in a statement drafted by lawyer Sharon Zimmerman. The statement also accused Henochowicz of putting herself at risk by voluntarily participating in a breach of the peace.

In response, Sfard said that as police were still investigating the incident, it was impossible for the Defense Ministry to judge exactly what occurred.

"Either way, even if wounding of my client was the result of negligence and not criminal intent -even then the State of Israel has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to pay for her treatment," Sfard wrote.

The Defense Ministry responded: "From our reports, we know that the Border Police acted in accordance with the law at the violent demonstration at Qalandia, and that the shooting of tear gas canisters at demonstrators was justified. Of course, we regret that Emily Henochowicz was wounded in her eye. But under such circumstances, the Defense Ministry does not cover the expenses of medical treatment."