"Skunk" is a malodorant, non-lethal weapon used for crowd control by the Israel Defense Forces. It was developed and is manufactured by Odortec, with two supporting companies, Man and Beit-Alfa Technologies. The liquid's strong odor is intended to be an improvement over the rubber bullets and tear gas used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against Palestinian protestors. The IDF has received criticism for its tactics during deployment, including accusations of use against businesses and people not involved in protests.
The material used is an organic and non-toxic blend of baking powder, yeast, and other ingredients. Deriving its name from the animal of the same name, "Skunk" is dispersed as a form of yellow mist, fired from a water cannon, which leaves a powerful odor similar to rot or sewage on whatever it touches. The inventors plan to market Skunk to law enforcement agencies worldwide, specifically American local police departments.
A BBC reporter describes its effects as follows:
“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. . .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.”
A reporter for Reuters described its effect in the following words:
Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face. Your gag reflex goes off the charts and you can't escape, because the nauseating stench persists for days.
There is reported to be a special soap, available to authorities but not the general public, that neutralises the smell of skunk water if officers are accidentally sprayed. It has been suggested that rubbing a surface contaminated with skunk with ketchup, and then washing it off, will diminish the smell.
First attempts at developing an odour-based form of crowd control began in Israel in 2004 by Rafael. The IDF reconsidered at the time a change in its open fire procedures, and adopting other crowd dispersal methods after an Israeli demonstrator, Gil Na'amati (21), was shot during a protest over the separation barrier, near the West Bank village of Mas-ha in late 2003. It reportedly does not wash off easily and may linger on clothes for up to five years. The development of Skunk followed numerous accusations against Israeli forces that they often employ disproportionate force in clashes with Palestinian protestors (e.g. using rubber bullets or tear gas), which has led them to seek new, non-lethal but effective methods of crowd control.
Skunk was first used for crowd control in August 2008 in the Palestinian village of Ni'lin where daily protests had been taking place in response to the construction of a security barrier. Spraying the liquid has developed into one of the preferred measures adopted by the IDF to meet the challenge of civil disobedience and demonstrations by Palestinians. The tactic was devised to tamp down organized civilian protests in the West Bank. It has been used regularly against the villagers of Bil'in, Ni'lin, Kafr Qaddum and Nabi Saleh, where weekly protests against the occupation are practiced.
In Hebron it was used on the 26 February 2012 to disperse a crowd of an estimated 1,000 people which clashed with Israeli soldiers during a protest described as commemorating the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre or as pressing for the reopening of the zone of Shuhada Street A funereal procession waiting for the riots to be dispersed were also doused with the liquid. It has been used during clashes with "Palestinian protesters calling for the release of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammad Allan near Barzilai Medical Center" in the Israeli city of Ashkelon".
Among Palestinians, the liquid is known simply as "shit". Amnesty International, B'Tselem, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have been critical of the IDF's use of the product. Concerns have included accusations of indiscriminate use against people, homes, and businesses not involved in demonstrations. The IDF has also been accused of deployment in a manner described as punitive. Critics have said that the IDF sprays Palestinian houses after protests as a form of collective punishment. In response to a negative B'tselem report, the Israel Defense Forces has stated that "Skunk" is used only when demonstrators become violent or engage in vandalism and has specific rules of engagement for its use.
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- Noah Browning, 'Israeli "skunk" fouls West Bank protests,' Reuters 3 September 2012.
- A whiff from hell. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
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- BBC News:Who, What, Why: What is skunk water?, 12 September 2015
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- Michael T. McRay,Letters from "Apartheid Street": A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine, Wipf and Stock Publishers 2013 pp.56-59.
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- Elior Levy,'Stink cannon against protesters also targeted homes. Watch,' Ynet 5/3 2013,
- 'Concerns of Excessive Use of Skunk Spray in East Jerusalem,' ACRI August 10, 2014
- Sarit Michaeli, 'Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank,' B'tselem 2013 p.
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- Hambling, David (4 June 2012). "US military malodorant missiles kick up a stink". New Scientist. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
- 'IDF Response to B'Tselem on Crowd Control Weapons'
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