Skunking houses in Nabi Saleh, photo copyright Haim Schwarczenberg
Last week we publicized the fact that Israel was spraying skunk gas over the Tamimi home in the occupied village of Nabi Saleh because the villagers have had the temerity to resist an illegal Jewish settlement’s confiscation of its lands. I was hoping that the story would get some attention in the American press. Not yet anyway, but the Irish Times has followed up the disturbing account with a fine, calm piece of reporting by Mark Weiss from Jerusalem. The piece disputes the Israeli account that there were rockthrowers on the house roof, and demonstrates the casualness of the attack:
But Mahmoud Tamimi (48), a father of five, claims an examination by the Palestinian West Bank university of Bir Zeit has revealed dangerous chemicals in the skunk. He said the results would be released in the next few days.
“The Israeli forces have targeted my home in Nabi Saleh dozens of times. On one occasion the powerful jet spray broke a window and also the television which was next to my seven-year-old son. The chemicals in the skunk destroy the furniture and no amount of cleaning can get rid of the stench.”
The comments by the border police spokesman were challenged by Haim Schwarczenberg, the Israeli photographer who witnessed the incident.
“There were no stone-throwing youths on the roof of the house that I saw,” he told The Irish Times last night. “This is not the first time this skunk liquid has been sprayed on people’s homes and not the first time I have witnessed how the Israeli authorities collectively punish the people of this village.”
The residents of Nabi Saleh, a small village of less than 600 residents, north west of Ramallah, have hosted weekly protests for almost four years against land confiscation by the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.
And consider this important determination, the double standard that caused Yonatan Shapira to say he would never fly another mission attacking the occupied territories, because the Israeli forces would never treat Jews this way:
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem noted that the skunk had never been used against Jewish demonstrators inside Israel. B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli says her organisation has documented homes and gardens in Nabi Saleh doused with skunk, and claims the liquid is also regularly sprayed at protesters who are not throwing stones or involved in clashes.
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the spraying of homes whose residents are uninvolved in the clashes is collective punishment of the entire village, for the actions of a few,” she said.
“It is important that the Israeli security forces have at their disposal non-lethal crowd control measures, but their use must comply with the law and respect human dignity.”