Rae Abileah, a peaceful demonstrator who was physically attacked and injured on May 24, 2011, while protesting the occupation and oppression of Palestinians during the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, filed a civil action in District of Columbia Superior Court today against the unknown individuals who attacked her in the House Gallery, and caused her serious physical injury.
Ms. Abileah is a 28 year old American Jew of Israeli descent, who works as the Middle East Campaigns Coordinator for CODEPINK, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice organization that seeks to end U.S. wars and the U.S. funded occupation of Palestine. After a security check by the Capitol Police, she was given a seat in the House Gallery, as were other individuals who were given passes by members of Congress for the May 24, 2011 session. About 10 minutes after Mr. Netanyahu began speaking, Ms. Abileah stood up from her seat in the Gallery and opened a banner that read “Occupying Land is Indefensible,” and shouted, “No more occupation. Stop Israeli war crimes! Equal rights for Palestinians! Occupying land is indefensible!”
Four to five other persons sitting in the House Gallery began to attack her, including one man who used his hand to attempt to gag and suffocate Ms. Abileah, and then violently yanked her head back, injuring her neck. As a result of the attack, Ms. Abileah suffered severe emotional trauma and sustained a neck strain, swollen neck and muscle strain, and has since suffered from frequent headaches.
The Capitol Police, who witnessed the attack, have begun an investigation into her assault. One of the police officers present during the attack told Ms. Abileah that it was clear that some of the people present had “roughed [her] up.”
“I am hopeful that my filing suit will be a clear signal to those who attempt to silence us from protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, that they will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Ms. Abileah.
“Ms. Abileah’s actions were in a long line of peaceful actions intended to bring public attention to grave injustice. The violence against Ms. Abileah mirrors the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine against peaceful demonstrators,” said Lynne Bernabei, one of Ms. Abileah’s attorneys.