Haaretz is reporting today something which has been known for weeks, the IDF has illegally reintroduced high-velocity tear gas canisters to their arsenal of weapons used to crush weekly Palestinian non-violent demonstrations in the West Bank. This is in violation of the IDF’s own directives that such tear gas canisters should not be used in West Bank demonstrations. Manufactured and sold to the Israeli military by Combined Systems Inc., a United States company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, the tear gas projectiles have been responsible for countless injuries, destruction of property and one death. According to the company’s subsidiary website, the projectiles are not meant for use in open-air crowd control situations, but rather as indoor barricade penetrators. On April 17th, 2009, Bil’in resident Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed as a result of being hit in the chest with a high velocity tear-gas projectile. On March 13th, 2009, American citizen Tristan Anderson suffered numerous condensed fractures to the skull above the right eye socket after being struck with a high velocity tear-gas projectile during a demonstration in Ni’ilin. He suffered extensive brain tissue damage and is now paralyzed for life.
The use of high-velocity tear gas projectiles for crowd control purposes proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israel is interested in the violent suppression of Palestinian non-violence. The reintroduction of these tear gas canisters is part of a three-pronged military strategy to crush the Palestinian non-violent movement. This strategy includes increased violence against protesters and a policy of negligent use of arms, legal persecution of protest leaders such as Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu Rahmah and the cover up of criminal misconduct. In the case of Bassam Abu Rahmah, no criminal investigation was opened into his murder. To date, the only examination of the case was an internal inquiry by the shooter’s commanding officers in an operational-debriefing procedure. The findings and evidence collected in an operational-debriefing cannot later be used against those investigated in criminal proceedings. For more information, please consult the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee’s policy paper on military repression of the unarmed struggle in the West Bank.