A high-velocity tear gas canister is seen during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh 12.11.2010. Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org
People in the street confronting police and army soldiers with revolutionary aspirations. Some youth throw stones in symbolic acts of resistance as the elders try to calm down their rage and focus on chants of unity. Armed forces reply with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. This is a regular occurrence in the West Bank in villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni’ilin and Beit Umar. Over the past week, it has been unfolding on the streets of Cairo, Suez and Alexandria as well. From Ni’ilin to Cairo, the tear gas that is being employed against demonstrations is made in the United States. The story of American made tear gas in Egypt has recently entered the chaotic international news cycle
to the dismay of the American government. But journalists have been focusing only on the fact that the tear gas is supplied by the United States. Tweets and media reports from Egypt are full of photos of and references to tear gas canisters “Made in the USA” and produced by Combined Systems Inc. in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
Israeli and American Flags Fly at the Headquarters of Combined Tactical System, the US producer of Tear Gas exported to Israel and Egypt. Photo: Adalah-NY
The Israeli army regularly uses high velocity tear gas canisters against unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank. The Egyptians armed forces and police have so far refused to employ high velocity canisters based on the fact there have been no reports from the ground of their existence in the demonstrations. In Israel, high velocity canisters have resulted in the death of Bassem Abu Rahmah
in 2009 and the critical wounding of American Citizen, Tristan Anderson
. Recently, the canisters have been used in the village of Nabi Saleh, with grave results
Standard aluminum tear canisters, which are being used in Egypt, have injured thousands in the West Bank over the past eight years of demonstrations against the Separation Barrier. Soldiers regularly break army regulations and fire canisters directly at protesters– turning the canister into a large bullet– and almost never face punishment. Three weeks ago, a soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at me from a distance of 15 meters in Beit Ummar. Luckily I was able to get out of the way. Last summer, an American Jew was not as lucky as me and lost her eye in a demonstration when a tear gas canister was fired directly at her head. The soldier who fired the canister was cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to international coverage of the demonstrations in Egypt, there has been little coverage of police or army using tear gas canisters as large bullets. As the demonstrations slow down, more evidence could emerge that tear gas canisters were used offensively as they are used in the West Bank. However, it seems unlikely given the fact that there have been almost no reports about this to come out of Egypt in the past seven days.
The United States provides countries all over the world with military products with little regard of how the products are used. When it comes to tear gas, the issue is not that the United States is providing Israel and Egypt with the tear gas. The issue is how the gas is used and who it is used against. It is legitimate for a state to use tear gas in crowd control situations. It is not legitimate to use tear gas canisters as large bullets with the intention to kill or injure protesters.
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