Enter 'The Skunk'.
What's that you ask? Well, it's a wonderful newly developed (and now deployed) less lethal crowd dispersal weapon! Great you say? Well... I'm not so sure about that.
We have heard often by various pro-Israeli-Firsters that 'if only the Palestinians would hold non-violent protests and demonstrations they might be taken seriously'. Well, they do - often - not that it's reported on of course! What to do, what to do - the poor IDF and police forces must stop all non-violent resistance as well, lest the world catch note of it. Shooting the demonstrators with rubber bullets, water cannons, pepper sprays and tear gas just doesn't go over well in the PR department - they needed something else!
"The Border Police introduced the Skunk - a new tool in the service of the police, which will cause every demonstrator to flee for his life because of the terrible stench," the Israel Police Web site proudly declared on August 17, about a week after it was first tried out.
How nice. How comical - if it weren't really just a tool of oppression of a human's right to resist - peacefully - that which interferes with one's right to live in dignity.
Now the Skunk has become the new hope of the Border Policemen stationed along the route of the fence. "We consider it a new and effective deterrent force," says Azulai. "Until now, for demonstrations on the seam line the police used mainly pepper gas, water cannons and mounted police, but we were looking for less lethal means. The Skunk was born out of a need for a means that would avoid harming the demonstrators insofar as possible, which would limit the damage and the contact between demonstrators and policemen. We have no intention of harming anyone, the police respect the right to demonstrate, but we are in charge of maintaining public order. We intervene in demonstrations that get out of control, as in the case of Na'alin and Bil'in, where demonstrators are systematically attempting to damage the fence or mechanical equipment on the site."
The police respect the 'right' to demonstrate? Well - at least the (sort of) recognise it is a right! But for them any demonstration is always, yes always, out of control. It's important, I think, at this juncture to remind everyone that in the towns of Bil'in and Na'alin the route of the Apartheid Wall cuts deeply into Palestinian lands. As most do know, this Wall has been deemed illegal by the internationl courts - if Israel had built this wall on only Israeli territory I doubt that any of these demonstrations would be happening - but the Wall is not on Israeli lands - it is on stolen Palestinians lands - many of which hold important fertile farmlands and water resources. This is why the brave folks of Na'alin and Bil'in are demonstrating - peacefully - to begin with!!
"It may be legal, but it stinks," adds Sarit Michaeli, the head of public relations at the B'Tselem human rights organization. "The fact that they spray people with such a liquid on a Friday raises questions: Would they do the same thing to settlers on a Friday? I find that hard to believe. I don't think it should be done to anyone, but the limited use of the Skunk against Palestinians and left-wing activists is something that should be recorded. In my opinion, there is a strong and disturbing symbolic dimension to this. Mainly because until today the Skunk has been used primarily against nonviolent groups of people, who did not clash with anyone and were very far away from the fence. So why was it necessary to spray them - in order to dirty them? To punish them? I think that the use of the Skunk contains a very humiliating element - they are marking you. The spray creates a new dimension of humiliation that did not exist before at demonstrations."
A laboratory of experimentation - that is how Snitz describes the villages of Bil'in and Na'alin.
"On the one hand the Skunk really did surprise us to a great degree, but on the other hand I was not surprised when a new weapon was directed against us at demonstrations," he says. "Bil'in and Na'alin have turned into a place for experimentation for the Israeli security forces. The demonstrators have become guinea pigs for various weapons. During the past six months they tried sponge bullets that are fired from short range, salt bullets that are very painful when they come into contact with blood, pepper gas, and even a new device called Tza'aka (Scream). This is actually a large loudspeaker that sits on a truck and emits a dissonant and deafening sound. It penetrates your brain."
But the police were not satisfied with the Scream and it did not return to the hilltops of the West Bank. "And that's part of the issue," adds Snitz. "All these attempts remain attempts, but there is no substitute for the 'daily bread' of the Border Police: gas and rubber bullets."
Well it sure does seem that this IS the testing ground for 'crowd' control. These poor folks are treated this way, and the world does nothing - nothing because it is Israel doing this - nothing because so many leaders are terrified of being labelled by the Lobby (and every country has one!).
Just keep in mind: Israel exports her expertise in these matters to other lands. Canadian and American police forces go there on junkits for training.
So, the question arises: When will this method show up at a demonstration near you? If the recent events in Minneapolis and the extent of police interference and brutality is any indication - the answer is: SOON.