Report from Who Profits. Click headline above for summary or to download full pdf file. [The full text is below but without the footnotes and photos.]
Israel has rapidly come to rely on the continuing captivity of Palestinians in what are effectively the world’s largest open-air prisons. The reason is that there are massive profits to be made from testing Israeli military innovations on the more than four million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
In 2007 and 2008, the US State Department provided $1.85 million worth of ‘tear gasses and riot control agents’ to Israel as part of the US’s $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel.
More than 8,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 1,500 children, have been wounded with rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas since January 2011.
An 85-year old Palestinian died on Thursday [2 January 2014] after inhaling tear gas fired by the Israeli army to disperse protesters in the occupied West Bank […] Villagers told Reuters the soldiers fired dozens of tear gas canisters at them, one of which entered Saeed Jaser Ali’s home. He was taken to a hospital, where he died early on Thursday.
The following report highlights three local and international companies that manufacture “non-lethal” crowd control weapons. These weapons are currently used by Israeli authorities and security forces, mainly to suppress non-violent demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, in violation of the right to freedom of expression and association. Despite the fact that they are often labeled as “non- lethal” weapons, they have already been proven as potentially lethal in different incidents around the world, when the use of these weapons led to the death of demonstrators.
The report focuses on three types of weapons as case studies: tear gas canisters, which are produces and marketed by Combined Systems, Inc. (CSI) and M.R. Hunter; “the Scream”, manufactured by Electro-Optics Research & Development (EORD) and LRAD; and “the Skunk”, which is manufactured by Odortec, with the supporting companies: Man and Beit- Alfa Technologies. The report will highlight the harmful consequences of these weapons, including their potentially lethal effects. The occupied Palestinian territories are being used as a lab for testing new civil oppression weapons on humans, in order to label them as “proven effective” for marketing abroad.
In each case study, the report provides information about the companies involved and about the practical consequences of using their weapons. These consequences have ranged from property damage and minor injury to leading to the deaths of unarmed protestors, such as Jawaher Abu Rahmah from Bil’in and Mustafa Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, who were allegedly killed as a result of various uses of CSI tear gas canisters by the Israeli army. The report describes the problematic ways in which theseproducts are being used, as in the case of the Skunk, which has been sprayed into private houses and businesses, apparently as a means of “collective punishment.”
Aside from the violation of human rights, crowd control weapons constitute a direct and violent tool for suppressing non-violent protest and a means of controlling future civil uprisings both in Israel and around the world. For example: CSI canisters caused the death of protesters in the Egyptian revolution of 2011,5 and the use of “the Scream” has been criticized by activists in the United States.
The research for this report was conducted using both desk and field research. The desk research entailed the collection and analysis of information from various public sources, including the Israeli Registrar of Companies and Israeli and international newspapers. Further data was collected from the companies themselves, including through information published on their websites. The field research is based on visits to Palestinian villages in the West Bank, among them Nabi Saleh and Kufr Qaddum, in order to collect information and conduct interviews with Palestinians who suffer from the use of these crowd control weapons.
Prior to its publication, the report was sent to all of the companies mentioned herein in order to obtain their response. None of the companies featured responded to this request.
Combined Systems Incorporated (CSI) – Tear Gas Canisters
On 1 January 2011, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a 36-year-old Palestinian woman from the West Bank village of Bil’in, died in a Ramallah hospital after having inhaled large quantities of tear gas the day before – during a protest against the construction of the Separation Wall and settlements on Bil’in’s land.
Approximately 1,000 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals were demonstrating in Bil’in that day against Israel’s construction of a wall cutting through the village lands, separating residents from their livelihoods in violation of international law.7According to Abu Rahmah’s mother Subhiyeh, who was with her at the time: “We weren’t even very close to them and the soldiers fired tear gas at us […] (Jawaher) told me that her chest hurt and that she couldn’t breathe. Then she fell down and started vomiting.”
Jawaher Abu Rahmah was taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital, where she died the next morning from cardiac arrest.
Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of tear gas in warfare, the chemical is allowed for use on people in domestic policing and related uses by state forces and is labeled as “non-lethal.” The physical effects of tear gas have not been thoroughly researched, and most of the existing research has been conducted or funded by the manufacturers of these weapons.
While CSI’s material safety data sheet states that the immediate effects of CS tear gas are tearing of eyes, irritation of respiratory tract and mucous membranes and aggravation of Asthma – activist groups reported many other health effects. For example, protestors reported that tear gas (most common being CS gas) may cause strong irritation, coughing, shortness of breath and other lung-related problems (exacerbated in the case of persons with pre-existing lung conditions). Aside from those, tear gas inhalation can also cause inflammation and damage to the heart and liver, emphysema, hemorrhages and atelectasis. These effects lead to compromised oxygen transfer from the lung to the blood capillaries and could eventually, after some time, cause death from suffocation.
February 27, 2014, a Palestinian youth in Birzeit, who had been throwing stones at soldiers, hides as they fire back – not from the tear gas which fills the air but from the metal canisters. Clashes broke out after Israeli forces opened fire and killed a Palestinian they were seeking to arrest on Thursday. Photo by Mohamad Torokman / Reuters.
In addition, tear gas may cause delayed menstruation, and there have been reports of miscarriages and stillbirths associated with it. On 18 May 2011, Chile’s Interior Minister announced that the country’s police forces will be temporarily prohibitedfrom using tear gas against protesters, after a study by the University of Chile showed that CS gas (chlorobenzylidene malonontrite) may cause miscarriages and harm young children.Three days later, the Chilean government compiled a report, citing the American company Combined Systems International (the supplier of tear gas to the Chilean police), arguing that tear gas was safe. The report, and the lifting of the ban on tear gas, came just in time for the state to use tear gas during the next round of protests.
According to media reports, the use of extended-range tear gas canisters was banned in the Israeli army following Abu Rahmah’s death. However, in December 2010, security forces resumed the use of these canisters in the village of Nabi Saleh. Following these reports, the army spokesperson confirmed that banned extended-range tear gas canisters were indeed used and that the orders prohibiting their use will be clarified. However, to this day, no soldier has ever been criminally indicted for the fatal shooting of extended-range canisters, or for the decision to use them for potentially lethal purposes that contravene the manufacturer’s instructions.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah is not the first member of her family to have been injured or killed during a peaceful demonstration by what are known as “non-lethal” or “less-lethal” weapons. In July of 2008, Abu Rahmah’s brother, Ashraf Abu Rahmah, was severely injured after being shot at close range by a rubber coated still bullet while he was detained by an Israeli soldier. On 17 April 2009, their brother, Bassem Abu Rahmah, was shot in the chest during a weekly protest in Bil’in by a CSI tear gas canister fired at close range by an Israeli soldier. He died the same day from his wounds.
A report initiated at the request of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and the Michael Sfard Law Office, found that Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed by a 40mm tear gas canister, Model 4431 Powder Barricade Penetrating, CS – manufactured and distributed by Combine Systems, Inc. According to the manufacturer, the model is “designed to penetrate intermediate barriers of moderate density such as windows, interior dry wall and interior doors. The projectile breaks upon impact and delivers an agent payload of powder or liquid throughout the target area.” The primary purpose of these canisters is to penetrate barriers, with a secondary function of releasing a chemical gas.
Journalists during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh in a letter to the Military Advocate General, dated 21 April 2009, B’Tselem noted that the direct shooting of tear gas canisters at protesters was a common practice, which violates both the Israeli military’s regulations and CSI’s product instructions. According to B’Tselem, “the Open-Fire Regulations require that tear-gas grenades fired from a launcher be carried out by indirect fire, with the barrel of the rifle aimed upwards at a sixty-degree angle. The Website of CSI, the American company that manufactures the extended- range grenades, explicitly points out that the grenades are not to be fired at individuals, since doing so is liable to cause injury or death.” CSI has an ethical responsibility to ensure that the Israeli government is using its products according to the product instructions.
Combined Systems Incorporated
Combined Systems, Inc. (CSI) – often manufacturing under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) – is an American company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, with some 200 employees. CSI develops, manufactures and supplies tactical munitions and crowd- control devices; the company works with United States Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security agencies, as well as with police and military units. According to its website, the company provides support to military forces and law enforcement agencies worldwide.21 CSI is one of the largest suppliers of the tear gas used to suppress uprisings throughout the globe.
CSI manufactures a wide range of “less-lethal” munitions, including projectiles, sting-ball and tear gas grenades and flash bangs. The company also manufactures and supplies launching systems (such as its trademarked Penn Arms and Venom), tactical munitions, fuzes and weapon components. In addition, CSI provides training products and services – programs that provide technical information and tactical application – to law enforcement units and armed forces.
The letters CSI or CTS (a CSI brand name) are marked on many of the tear gas canisters that litter Palestinian villages after protests.
CSI is owned by Point Lookout Capital Partners and the Carlyle Group. Point Lookout Capital, which is the controlling shareholder, is based in New York. The president of CSI is Jacob Kravel and the company’s revenues are $25 million. CSI is represented in Israel by the company M.R. Hunter (see box).
Contact information: 388 Kinsman Road Jamestown, PA 16134 USA
Tel.: +1-724-932 2177 Website: www.combinedsystems.com | www.less-lethal.com
A private Israeli company which serves as the exclusive Israeli representative of Combined Systems Inc. (CSI), Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) and Penn Arms. According to the company’s own statement, M.R Hunter is the largest provider of tear gas munitions to the Israeli army, prison service and police. The weapons provided to the army are used to disperse popular demonstrations in the West Bank.
The company is owned by Moshe Horowitz.
14 Raoul Wallenberg St. Tel Aviv Israel Tel: +972-3-647 1172 Website: www.mrhunter.co.il
Global Use during Civil Demonstrations
The occupied Palestinian territories are not the only place in the world in which peaceful demonstrators have been killed by “non-lethal” or “less-lethal” CSI products. Combined Systems tear gas was exported into Egypt through Israel during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Amnesty International documented three shipments of tear gas from CSI (in the U.S.) to Egypt, which were approved by the U.S. State Department, despite the Egyptian security forces’ record of using tear gas to kill and injure protesters. During the November protests in Egypt, around the time of the elections, tear gas, which has been shipped to Egypt via Israel, was fired repeatedly – often into closed spaces, including field hospitals, and canisters were fired directly at protesters. While four people allegedly died as a result of asphyxiation after inhaling tear gas between November 19 and November 23, Egyptian human rights groups reported that at least 40 protesters were killed and more than 2,000 were injured from the direct firing of gas canisters.
In Bahrain, 54 demonstrators were killed in 2011 mostly by CS tear gas; in some cases, tear gas canisters were fired at high velocity as projectile weapons, and in other cases the cause of death was determined to be exposure to the gas itself.
In addition, CSI supplies tear gas to Tunisia, Yemen, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, India, East Timor, Hong Kong, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala,
No hands, no blood. The acoustic LRAD is the round black device on top of the New York City police Hummer using it as protection for the Republican National Convention, New York City, 2004, and since, against the Occupy movement. Photo http://www.peterbergin.com/coppermine/
The “Scream” device was first used in the West Bank in June 2005, during a demonstration in Bil’in against the Separation Wall. On that occasion, the Israeli army used an “anti-riot system” called “SHOPHAR – The Scream,” manufactured by the Israeli company Electro-Optics Research & Development (EORD). On its website, the company describes the system as “a compact, jeep mounted, acoustic system that radiates a narrow, high power steerable acoustic beam designed to be used as a non-lethal weapon for riot suppression. The operational concept is based on a coordinated transmittance of electronically driven sound sources. […] The system creates sound levels that are unbearable to humans at distances up to 100 meters.”
Electro-Optics Research & Development (EORD)
Electro-Optics Research & Development (EORD)engages in the research, development and production of remote sensing technologies. Until 2008, the company was owned by the Israeli companies RAD Bynet Group and the Technion Research & Development Foundation (TRDF), which is a subsidiary of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. According to the company’s website, “EORD’s affiliation with the Technion Research and Development Foundation Ltd. and its location on the Technion campus, provides the company with ready access to the Technion’s scientific community, its scientific know-how and facilities.”
In 2008, EORD was acquired by Elbit.
Six years later, protesters in West Bank villages experienced a different “Scream”, this time manufactured by a different company – the LRAD Corporation. On 24 February 2012, during a demonstration commemorating 18 years since the Hebron Massacre and demanding the opening of Shuhada Street in Hebron, that has been closed since February 1994, the company’s name was highlighted as the “Scream” device started operating, a message emanating from its amplifiers declared: “This is a test of the long-range acoustic device – LRAD.”
According to a press release by the LRAD Corporation from 29 June 2011, the company received an “open order” from Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The initial $293,000 order for the LRAD 100X and 500X systems was set to be shipped during the business quarter of that announcement. Moreover, LRAD’s press release stated that: “The Company’s proprietary LRAD 100X and 500X systems clearly broadcast hails, warnings, commands and instructions with 100% intelligibility in multiple languages up to distances of 1 km. Through the use of highly intelligible voice commands and powerful deterrent tones, LRAD creates increased standoff and safety zones, determines intent, supports peaceful conflict resolution, and potentially saves lives on both sides of the device.”
LRAD is the manufacturer of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which is an acoustic hailing device and sonic weapon. LRAD is public company traded in NASDAQ: 33% of its shares are institutionally owned.
16990 Goldentop Road, STE A San Diego, CA 92127 USA. Website: http://www.lradx.com/site/
The Scream’s Effects
In January 2012, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR) filed a request, in accordance with the Israeli Freedom of Information Law, to receive information from the Israeli military regarding the Scream.42 This request was filed following complaints from protesters who had been exposed to the Scream. Some of the reported side effects were dizziness, nausea, headaches, ataxia and a general sense of weakness.
PHR based its request on two expert opinions, which stated that critical damage might be caused to people who are exposed to some of these devices, but since there are different types of devices it is necessary to verify the type of device used by the military uses and its characteristics. In addition, PHR wanted to verify whether a comprehensive analysis had been conducted regarding the physical effects that may be experienced by protesters exposed to the Scream – and particularly comparing between singular exposures to repeated exposures – and if so, what the results of such an analysis were.
After a three-month extension, on 22 April 2012 the Army Spokesperson’s Unit responded to PHR’s inquiry. The response did not include answers regarding the kind of device or its sound level, but rather only an assurance that the device had passed the required safety tests and that “it is not expected” to cause dizziness or pain in the eardrum or in other areas of the human body, nor is it expected to cause any effects beyond “discomfort or a nuisance.”
In May 2012 PHR sent another request,44 noting that the army’s previous response had been unsatisfactory and had not provided answers to the following questions:
A. What kind of sonic weapons are employed by the Israeli army?
B. What is the intensity of the sound, in decibels, and what are its frequencies?
C. What is the maximum length of time during which a person is exposed to the device during a demonstration (minutes, seconds)?
D. What is the minimum distance required between the device and the protesters?
E. What are the operating and safety instruction for using the device?
In July 2012, the Israeli Army Spokesperson stated that according to information security bodies, providing answers to PHR’s request may harm the Scream’s operation.
The purchase of LRAD’s “Scream” was mentioned in one article as part of the Israeli army’s NIS 100 million investment in “non-lethal” weapons, trainings and gear, aimed at achieving a better public image:
Under Mizrahi’s leadership, the IDF has invested close to NIS 100 million in new riot gear, training regimens and a special crowd-dispersion systems that should effectively contain expected demonstrations with minimum casualties and as little diplomatic fallout as possible.
There is the ‘Skunk’ which sprays a foul-smelling liquid, the ‘Scream’ which emits a sound people cannot tolerate and the ‘Venom,’ a 12-barrel long-range tear gas canister launcher.
According to Yiftach Shafir, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies, the rising use of “non-lethal” weapons also stems from public image concerns: “Beyond the humanitarian consideration, there is also weight to the strategic consideration, which says that wars today are mainly about the image portrayed in the media.”
The camera controlling the Skunk weapon installed on the Wall in Bethlehem. April 19th, 2014. The remote-control system allows Israeli soldiers to keep their hands clean. Photo by Active Stills
The Israeli military’s need to improve its public image and to minimize “diplomatic fallout,” leading to a trend of using “non-lethal” weapons – is also beneficial to the manufacturing companies. Aside from the obvious financial gain from selling these weapons, after Israeli security forces use them they can be marketed as “proven effective” or “recommended”. In the meantime, while the weapon manufacturing companies benefit from recommendations provided by Israeli security forces, which on their end gain a “better” image of their suppression of civilian protest – Palestinians are injured from the use of “non-lethal” weapons to suppress nonviolent protests.
This is how BBC News reporter Wyre Davies describes the Skunk: “Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer.” And he continues: “Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean.”
The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) defines the Skunk as a “repulsive odor liquid.” According to many accounts by protesters who regularly participate in weekly demos, the Skunk mist, which is fired from a water cannon, is usually yellow and leaves a stench of sewage in the mouths, hair and clothes of the sprayed protesters – a stench very difficult to remove. The foul-smelling fluid can be sprayed from truck-mounted cannons or from backpacks carried by soldiers. It is released with high pressure, and the stream is so strong that it can cause a person to faint if sprayed directly.5The repulsive odor of the Skunk also sticks to walls and to the ground. Palestinian protester Ahad Huja said the smell even managed to seep into the food his wife had cooked; people avoided him for a week after he was sprayed with this substance.
The Skunk is classified as a scent-based non-lethal weapon. It was designed to be sprayed from a distance in order to disperse crowds. The Skunk liquid is composed of water, yeasts and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda – NaHCO3). According to the Material Safety Data Sheet: “At the pH level of sodium bicarbonate, the yeasts synthesize some amino acids, causing heavy odor.”
The Skunk’s safety data sheet indicates that the liquid can cause skin irritation, eye pain or redness and abdominal pain. According to the data sheet, inhalation of the liquid may cause breathing difficulties: “If not breathing give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen, call a physician or any available medical help.”
The data sheet further notes that when exposed to open fire, the liquid may emit carbon dioxide and some carbon monoxide. It also states: “Avoid contact with eyes.” Some of the demonstrations in the West Bank include open fires (such as burning tires), but the Israeli armed forces do not take necessary precautions to ensure that the Skunk’s liquid will not come into contact with open fire or with the eyes of the demonstrators, ignoring the explicit safety instructions. According to David Ben Harosh, Head of the Technological Development Department of the Israel Police, which spearheaded the Skunk project, the liquid is even safe for drinking; yet, the safety data sheet clearly states: “Do not swallow.”
The Skunk was used for the first time in the West Bank by the Israel Border Police in 2008.59 The Israeli army started using this device in 2009 in demonstrations in the West Bank, particularly in the villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, Kafr Qaddum and Nabi Saleh.
The Skunk was also used in a demonstration against the closing of Shuhada Street in Hebron, which took place in February 2012. During that same month in 2012, Israeli security forces were documented spraying the Skunk on participants in a funeral in Hebron, which took place after a demonstration. The family members of the deceased asked the soldiers and police officers to allow them to continue walking to the cemetery without interference. Immediately after that, security forces began spraying the Skunk liquid toward the convoy, including the stretcher on which the dead body was laying. Eventually, the family members returned the body to their house and cleansed it again before marching to the cemetery for a second time.
The Skunk was developed by the Technological Development Department of the Israel Police, in collaboration with Odortec LTD an Israeli company that specializes in the research and development of scent-based repellents for law enforcement. In an article from 2008, the head of the police department in charge of developing the Skunk noted that the police and Odortec were conducting negotiations so that Odortec would be the supplier, and in return the Israel Police would enjoy a considerable discount. The Israeli police and Odortec are currently considering the development of a personal Skunk for police officers64.
Odortec is a privately owned Israeli company, which specializes in the research and development of “non-lethal” scent-based repellents for law enforcement. The company was founded by the management team of Flybuster – a scent-based pest control company.
According to the company’s website, Odortec and Flybuster sell the Skunk to “law enforcement agencies, agriculturalists and environmental protection organizations in Israel, Europe and South America.”
Odortec is owned by Zion Davidian (51%); Dan Mishorim Management and Consulting (34%), which is owned by Haim Davidian (43%), Igal Zafrir (38%) and Ehud Zafrir (19%); and Tvunot 5766 (15%), which is owned by Arik Yakuel, all of which are Israeli registered companies and Israeli citizens.
Aviezer 121/1 Israel 99860 Tel: +972-2-9922364. Website: www.skunk-skunk.com
Similarly to many other cases, beyond the manufacturers of the Skunk itself, additional companies are involved in its operation. The German company MAN supplies the chassis for the car that carries the device, and the Israeli company Beit Alfa Technologies adapts it for use by the Israeli armed forces.
The MAN Group is one of the largest European commercial vehicle, engine and mechanical engineering companies, generating an annual revenue of approximately EU 15.7 billion, with some 54,300 employees worldwide. MAN is a supplier of trucks, buses, diesel engines, turbomachinery and special gear units.68 74% of the company is owned by Truck & Bus GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG; 10% is owned by foreign institutional shareholders; 9% by private shareholders; 2% by German institutional shareholders; and 5% by others.
The MAN Group has branches or production sites in Germany, the United States (New Jersey and Indiana), Austria, Poland, Turkey, Russia, India, South Africa, Denmark, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, China, Brazil and Mexico.
MAN SE Ungererstrasse 6 80805, Munich Germany. Website: www.man.eu
Beit Alfa Technologies (B.A.T)
B.A.T is a private Israeli company, owned by the Beit Alfa Kibbutz, which designs and manufactures special purpose vehicles. According to the company’s website, the company’s target customers are police and military forces, security services, government and private sector and law enforcement forces. B.A.T developed riot control vehicles that employ the company’s “jet pulse water cannon systems.” The company’s riot control vehicles are employed in over 35 countries across the world, including Spain, France, Greece, Albania, China, Indonesia, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala and Chile.
In late 2011, B.A.T completed the manufacturing process of a new model of crowd control vehicles, which enables the carrying and use of five different crowd dispersal substances: the Skunk liquid, water, paint, tear gas and foam. The new model includes two separate water tanks, one for the Skunk and one for water.
Beit Alfa Technologies Beit Alfa Israel 1080200 Website: http://www.bat.co.il/
The Skunk in the Living Room
According to the human rights organization B’Tselem, “many cases have been documented in which security forces sprayed large quantities of the [Skunk] liquid into homes and yards.” On many occasions documented by B’Tselem in Nabi Saleh, “security forces drove the Skunk truck down the village’s main street and sprayed the foul-smelling liquid at homes far removed – sometimes even clear across the village – from the main location of the demonstrations.”
75 Videos shot by B’Tselem show the Skunk liquid being sprayed in the villages of Nabi Saleh and Beit Anun toward Palestinian homes and businesses that are not involved in the demonstrations in any way. The foul smell then lingers for a long time and is very hard to remove. One video shows that the Skunk’s stream is so strong that it broke the window of a sprayed house.76According to B’Tselem, such actions raise grave concerns that Israeli security forces use the Skunk as “a collective punitive measure” against the Palestinian residents of villages where regular weekly demonstrations are held.
In January 2013, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) turned to the military commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, demanding that he put an end to the practice of spraying Skunk liquid at private houses. ACRI stated that “the spraying of the Skunk severely harms the health, property and dignity of the residents of the village, and reaches the point of collective punishment […]”. The illegal spraying of the Skunk towards the houses of village residents violates the basic rights of the residents, including the rights to human dignity, health, property, livelihood and the right to freedom of expression and protest.”
Human Lab for Marketing
West Bank demonstrations are often used by the Israeli armed forces for experimenting with crowd control weapons; that was also the case with the Skunk. An article in the Haaretz newspaper noted that the Border Police first used the Skunk in August 2008, during the weekly demonstrations against the Separation Wall in Bil’in and Ni’lin. According to a BBC article from that same year, “the Israeli police force has high hopes of turning [the] Skunk into a commercial venture and selling it to law-enforcement agencies overseas.”
David Ben Harosh, Head of the Technological Development Department of the Israel Police, stated that the Skunk was piloted in West Bank villages: “In Bil’in and Ni’lin, there were two monitored exercises […] I was there. I accompanied the experiment. All the professionals accompanied it. After each spraying an observation of the area was conducted, to check if there were casualties, to see how the demonstrators reacted. […] The Skunk was checked and approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, strict tests were conducted on the substance to check for poisons and it was found to not be harmful to human beings. The use was approved by the Chief Medical Officer of the Israel Police, after testing of all the parameters, the risks and the dangers anticipated during operational use on human beings.”
So the substance is first tested in labs, and then “monitored exercises” are conducted on human beings, Palestinians, Israelis and foreign citizens demonstrating in West Bank villages. After these experiments, the manufacturer can use the results to market the product. As stated on Odortec’s website: “Skunk is an innovative, non-lethal riot control method with proven effectiveness;” and, “Currently in regular use by law enforcement agencies, the Skunk has been field tested and proven to disperse even the most determined of violent protests.”
The research conducted by Who Profits is dedicated to exposing the commercial involvement of Israeli and international companies in the Israeli occupation. This report presents a “unique” way of profiting from the occupation. Unlike other fields, the profit made by corporations that develop and manufacture crowd control weapons is not limited to the purchase of these weapons by Israeli security forces. In fact, both sides benefit more extensively from the deal. As shown above with regards to the Skunk, the companies enjoy the “proven effectiveness” label – and at times even an official recommendation from security personnel – for the purpose of marketing their products abroad, after the weapons were used in the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli army and police. As for Israel, it gains a more positive image of being ethical and using “non-lethal” weapons on demonstrators, generating less “diplomatic fallout.” The validity of the term “non-lethal” has been undermined by many fatal incidents that resulted, directly or indirectly, from the use of these weapons in OPT and other places around the world. In recent years, the crowd control weapon industry has adopted the less specific, if somewhat bizarre, term: “less-lethal.”
Even if these weapons fall within the “less-lethal” category (when compared to live ammunition, for example), various incidents documented during demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories make it clear that the use of these weapons by Israeli forces is far from “ethical.”
Aside from their potentially lethal outcomes, the use of the Skunk on private homes and businesses as a form of collective punishment, the unrevealed information regarding the effects of the Scream and the shooting of tear gas canisters directly at individuals – all violate numerous basic human rights of Palestinians, and in some cases may rise to the level of war crimes as defined by international law.
In recent years, “less-lethal” weapons have been used to suppress demonstrations worldwide. As the companies manufacturing such weapons increase their revenues, the governments benefit from an improved media image, and civilian protesters are forced to deal with the consequences – in OPT and in other countries.
Israel develops ‘Skunk’ weapon, Report by Wyre Davies, BBC, 2012