"My friend Mustafa (28) was shot by Israeli soldier from few meters distance with tear gas canister into his face. Mustafa didn’t survive and died the next day. His bravery inspire us to continue marching to our freedom." - Maath
In 2001 Israel announced the beginning of the construction of what it calls a ‘security fence’— better known as the apartheid wall— in the occupied West Bank. This wall supposedly creates a ‘security’ barrier between the state of Israel and the occupied West Bank; however, for Palestinians living in the West Bank, the wall has represented a massive land grab by Israel. The wall effectively swathes the West bank, cutting farmers off from their fields, cutting villages off from their water supply and other vital resources, demolishing Palestinian homes that stand in its way , severely restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement and isolating villages from each other, and in some case dispossessing Palestinians of more than half their land. (For example, in the village of Qalqilya, which is almost entirely encircled by the wall: “Palestinian property within 35 meters of the wall has been or will be destroyed by the Israeli army. This includes homes, farms, agricultural land, greenhouses and water wells… Residents of Qalqilya are imprisoned in the town, cut off from neighboring Palestinian villages and the rest of the West Bank. Given that 45% of the city’s economy relies on agriculture, land and water confiscation has coerced migration of Qalqilya’s residents.”) It is imporant to note that long before the Wall, Israel has been continusously dispossessing Palestinians of their land, their homes, and their lives. Before the 20th century, all of the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea was Palestine. The state of Israel was created out of what is known as the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophy”). The Nakba was an act of ethnic cleansing that resulted in the forced expulsion and dislocation of about 750,000 Palestinians and the eradication of over 400 Palestinian villages. The newer tool of the apartheid wall represents just one of the latest attempts by the state of Israel to displace Palestinians.
Palestinians have actively fought to resist this latest form of colonial dispossession since the beginning. The moment the Israeli state made known its plans to construct the wall, villages and communities in that wall’s path began to mobilize. Ever since they began around 2005, demonstrations in the villages of Ni’ilin, Nabi Saleh and Bil’in, to name a few – protesting a wall—have been met with fierce militarized repression. Popular Committees were formed in different West Bank villages to organize various forms of resistance. “These diverse, non-partisan committees lead community resistance to Israeli occupation in various forms, such as marches, strikes, demonstrations, direct actions and legal campaigns, as well as supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions.” Activists from these different committees banded together to form the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee, which “was formed to facilitate fruitful communication between the different popular committees: from the villages of Bil'in, Ni'ilin and alMaasara - known for their struggle against the wall - through the many villages of the Jordan Valley and South Mount Hebron - facing attempts of creeping ethnic cleansing to Tulkarem, Nablus, Qalqilya and West Ramallah – who all suffer and resist the various aspects of the Occupation. The committee aims to provide a base for strategic thinking on a wider scale, while retaining the independence and uniqueness of each popular committee.”
Teargas is one of many forms of “non-lethal” weapons (along with live ammunition), which Israel uses against West Bank protesters, in order to ensure the continued expropriation of Palestinian land. Much of this teargas is manufactured by American companies. Combined Systems— an American corporation, based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, whose teargas has also been used by the governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Chile, to crush uprisings there— is the primary supplier of teargas to the Israeli government. Another US company known to supply the Israeli government is Casper, Wyoming based Defense Technology, Safariland, and Federal Laboratories, which are all owned by UK-based conglomerate BAE systems. (For more info click here, here, or here.)
Stories such as Maath's, told above, have tragically become more and more common in the West Bank in recent years, as many Palestinians have been killed or seriously injured by the close-range firing of tear gas canisters manufactured by US company Combined Systems. Maath's friend, Mustafa Tamimi, of Nabi Saleh died in 2011 after half of his face was shot off by a Combined Systems tear gas canister. In Bil'in, Bassem Abu Rahmah and his sister Jawaher were both killed by tear gas canisters, in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The number of deaths as well as serious injuries as a result of teargas cannisters has drastically increased since 2008, when Israel began using Combined Systems’ “extended range” 40mm cartridges, sold under the brand name “Indoor Barricade Penetrator,” and which travel at a velocity of 122 meters per second and are designed to penetrate buildings. Although the manufacturers’ labels clearly indicate that the teargas grenades are not to be used at short range and are not to be fired people, this has not stopped the Israeli military from doing so— effectively turning these canisters into large bullets. (For more info, check out the B'Tselem report, page 8. To see the manufacturer’s website for the Indoor Barricade Penetrator, click here.)