ISSN 2330-717X

Israeli Government’s Policies Stink Worse Than Its Skunk Water – OpEd

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I last week watched many videos of Israeli soldiers spraying so-called skunk water to disperse Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. I didn’t read about it in the mainstream media, which is censored by Israel’s government. I saw it on social media.

Skunk water was invented by the Israeli firm Odortec and first used by the Israeli military to target Palestinian protesters in 2008. The Israelis made a big deal about it, claiming that it is made from “food-grade ingredients” and is “eco-friendly.” Not surprisingly, they said nothing about how their skunk water was instrumental in committing human rights violations. I call it “anti-human rights water” because it is used to suppress free speech and nonviolent protests.

I think it has a double purpose. Aside from dispersing crowds, it is also intended to make Israel look “humanitarian” in the eyes of the West, especially America, where billions of taxpayer dollars are used to underwrite the Israeli government’s racist policies. This is called perception manipulation. When combined with media censorship (every journalist in Israel must submit stories to the military censor for approval) and the use of incendiary words that demonize Palestinians, Israel looks like the innocent party in the conflict.

The Israeli authorities need skunk water because the public has found a way around their media manipulation and censorship. Through social media, the public sees how Israel uses more dangerous free speech suppressants, such as rubber-coated bullets, hazardous gases, and live ammunition.

Another benefit of using skunk water is that it destroys camera equipment, Palestinians are reporting. And if you destroy camera equipment, you reduce the number of videos and photographs that show the Israeli government’s conduct.

Skunk water isn’t just used against protesters in the Occupied Territories. It is also used against Palestinian citizens of Israel, such as during a protest in Lod last month, when Israeli soldiers and settlers also fired guns at the protesters, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several others.

To counter the shock of Palestinians being killed, Israel’s media wraps the truth in prejudicial language, like the headline that was used by the Times of Israel after the Lod protest, which read: “Arab Israeli killed amid violent riots by Arab mob in Lod; Jewish suspect held.” Notice the crafty way in which the murder of an unarmed Palestinian by Jewish activists was disguised by phrases like “violent riots” and “Arab mob.” By the time you get to “Jewish suspect,” the victims have been painted as the offenders. That no Israelis were injured might make some wonder about the use of prejudicial phrases like “violent riots.”

In another story, pro-Palestinian protests were compared to the 1938 Kristallnacht, when Nazi forces smashed the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues throughout Germany.

When you fully examine the use of skunk water, you realize that the conflict is as much about the words and methods Israel uses as it is about the human rights violations. Lost in this war of methods and words are the facts. The censored media doesn’t report that Palestinian demonstrators are protesting against Israel’s policy of evicting non-Jews from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and replacing them with Jewish settlers.

Fortunately for the Israelis, the Palestinians are burdened by the image of Hamas, the extremist religious movement that used suicide bombings to block the implementation of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

The media didn’t pay close attention to the conflict in Sheikh Jarrah until Hamas got involved, firing unguided “rockets” at Israeli targets, which were actually more fireworks-like than “life-threatening.” Life-threatening would be a more appropriate description of Israel’s firing of sophisticated missiles at Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip. Only a very small number of Israelis were killed in last month’s conflict, but the media was filled with reports of how Israelis had to run with their children to bomb shelters to avoid the Hamas rockets that, in reality, did very little damage. In comparison, hundreds of Palestinians were killed and high-rise buildings in Gaza crumbled when hit by Israeli missiles.

The whole thing stinks even worse than the skunk water that Israel uses against Palestinian protesters and even Palestinian homes in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other areas where it is trying to increase the Jewish population. The skunk water is a tactic; a disguise. It gets more attention than snipers’ bullets.

I wonder what Americans would do if the police started to use Israeli-made skunk water to respond to protests in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or Detroit? It surely wouldn’t be tolerated.

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Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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