Thoughts on Tear Gas

Thoughts on Tear Gas

Beit Jallah is a lovely but restive town outside of Jerusalem, on the Bethlehem road. On March 21, 1978, students in Beit Jallah assembled to protest the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, begun six days earlier to repay in kind the murderous Palestinian assault upon an Israeli bus on the coastal highway. Hopes for the conclusion of a peace with Egypt were eclipsed by the anger and distrust unleashed by the PLO attack and the Israeli response.

On the West Bank the situation seemed explosive, and Israeli troops were ordered to Beit Jallah to disperse demonstrating students. There the Israeli soldiers stormed a school, shut pupils in a classroom and hurled tear gas grenades inside. To escape the fumes, the trapped pupils lept through windows, and 12 were injured in the fall. Or so they and their teachers claimed. Israeli authorities immediately denied that violence had taken place, however, and Western correspondents who credited the reports of these witnesses were accused of spreading “horror stories.” The Israelis had their hands full defending their operation in Lebanon and were not about to add fuel to their critics’ fire with tales of abuses on the West Bank.


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