The Deadly Experiment – Israel’s Murderous Testing Ground for ‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons

By Tom Anderson

“The Israeli government and its army have been for years now using the West Bank and Gaza as their testing ground. The Palestinians are their guinea pigs. The Israeli army uses tear gas that would probably be banned in any other countries in the world. They shoot tear gas, directly at protesters, once again, an illegal act. But a very rewarding one. Israel’s security industry is booming. It’s never been this good. Countries all over the world are buying Israel’s expertise in security, crowd control and weaponry every day. Israeli soldiers are training other countries commandos all over the planet”[1]

– From the blog, Bil’in: A Village of Palestine, 02/01/11

Jawaher Abu Rahma – Killed by teargas inhalation on 31/12/10 – Photo by Oren Ziv, Active Stills
Bassem Abu Rahma – Killed by an impact wound from a Teargas canister fired at him while demonstrating in Bil’in in April 2009 – Photo from Active Stills

On New Year’s Eve 2010, whilst much of the world was celebrating, over a thousand people demonstrated in the Palestinian village of Bil’in against Israel’s encroachment on the village’s land. Israeli tear gas and rubber bullets rained down on the protesters and Jawaher Abu Rahma, who had joined the march to the apartheid wall and retreated to the sidelines after the first Israeli volleys of gas, choked to death as gas enveloped the village.

A report from Bil’in residents said that “Israeli soldiers fired tear gas from the moment protesters entered their sight. It is obvious that for the army, the mere presence of unarmed demonstrators is reason enough to use chemical weapons against them.”[2].

In September 2010 18 month old Mohammed Abu-Sarah from Issawiya died after tear gas, fired by the Israeli police in a residential area during a demonstration, seeped into his family’s living room.[2]

The Israeli military routinely uses CS gas against Palestinians.[3] Two suppliers of this gas are Combined Systems International (CSI) and Defense Technology in the US. Defense Technology is owned by the British arms giant, BAE systems.

The village of Bil’in has, since 2005, been resisting Israel’s apartheid wall and settlements which encroach on the village’s land. In February 2010, the community’s steadfast resistance had a victory when the military announced that the wall’s route around the village would be altered [4]. However, this is not the only achievement of Bil’in’s struggle. The village has become a symbol of a new popular resistance to the Israeli occupation and has attracted international solidarity from all over the world. Bil’in’s fight has become a foundation of the joint struggle of Israeli and Palestinian activists against the occupation and has spurred the birth of the ‘popular committees’ movement against the wall and settlements. Statements from Bil’in have often provided a compass for the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid.

Bil’in’s successes have come at a price. That price is illustrated in the story of the Abu Rahma family. In 2008 Ashraf Abu Rahma was shot at close range while detained by an Israeli soldier and badly injured (see video –[5]. In April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahma – his brother – was shot at very close range by a tear gas canister and died from his wounds (see video here –[6]. Abdallah and Adeeb Abu Rahma have both served hundreds of days in prison for their involvement in the popular struggle[7]. Despite all this Jawaher, their sister, kept returning to the demonstrations, week after week for four years, until, on December 31st 2010, she collapsed from tear gas inhalation and died in a Ramallah hospital as doctors fought for her life.

Bil’in, and villages across Palestine, have become a testing ground for the Israeli security industry, and for international companies who need an arena to try out their wares. While unmanned bulldozers, aircraft and boats patrol and bombard the besieged Gaza strip and the latest in CCTV, fingerprint and bodyscanner equipment proliferate at the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints across the West Bank, Bil’in, and other villages engaged in the popular struggle, are subjected to countless experiments in so called ‘non lethal’ (sometimes called ‘less lethal’) weapons technology.

Bil’in’s non violent demonstrations have been attacked with bullets, plastic coated steel bullets, rubber bullets, baton rounds, chemical weapsons, noise weapons, and water cannons firing corrosive chemicals, coloured dye and foul smelling water that will make you vomit. Many of these weapons will soon be found on the international market, after being tried and tested on the people of Palestine, whose deaths, suffering and grief is valued less than that of the people of London or Washington.

Anecdotal evidence, and this writer’s own expeprience, suggest that the strength of gas used at demonstrations varies and that, especially at protests during 2010, gas with a higher propensity to incapacitate has been used.

Although this force is branded ‘non-lethal’, 21 people have been killed by Israeli forces during the popular struggle since 2005.[8]

In a blog published a day after Jawaher’s death, Bil’in residents reasserted that action for change is necessary and that “the BDS strategy… is a means for activists to unite under one manifesto. Corporations are divesting from Israel, trade unions are passing motions to boycott settlement goods, Universities are refusing to collaborate with their Israeli counterparts.”[9]

Israeli activists have responded to this call by blocking a main street in Tel Aviv[10] and holding a procession to the US ambassador’s house to ‘return’ CSI tear gas canisters which were fired at demonstrators in Bil’in.[11] Twelve Israeli activists have been arrested for charges including ‘conspiring to possess weapons’ for carrying the spent canisters.

The manufacturers of these so called ‘non-lethal’ weapons should be an urgent target for the global BDS movement.

Calls have been made to target Combined Systems Incorporated (CSI) and Defense Solutions in response to the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma.

The Companies

Combined Tactical Systems  ( /

CSI is based in Jamestown, USA. Shells bearing CSI markings were photographed being used by police in East Jerusalem during March 2010 to enforce a curfew on the Old City. A Combined Systems Model 4431 CS Powder Barricade Penetrating Projectile high velocity shell killed Bassem Abu Rahma in April 2009. The primary purpose of these canisters is to penetrate barriers, with a secondary function of releasing a chemical gas. They clearly should not be used for crowd dispersal.[12, 13, 14]

CSI’s customers include the Joint Non Lethal Weapons Directorate, the US State Department, General Dynamics, Israeli Military Industries, Rafael Aramament Development Authority (Israel) and L3 Communications.[15]

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has written an open letter to CSI.

Shells bearing markings of Combined Tactical Systems (CSI) photographed being used by police in East Jerusalem during March 2010 to enforce a curfew on the Old City – Photo courtesy of Israeli activists

American River Logistics – /

Boxes marked American River Logistics (ARL) were photographed being carried by police in Jerusalem in March 2010 alongside containers of tear gas. ARL is a a ‘global logistics company’ offering “hands on” air, ocean and rail line services. ARL also deal with imports and exports and customs brokerage.[16]


ALS technologies, based in Arkansas, US, specialise in the same ‘less-lethal’ technology marketed by CSI.[17]

Penn Arms

Penn Arms are a sister company to CSI. CSI’s ‘Penn Arms division’ manufactures handheld launchers.[18]

Defense Technologies (owned by BAE)

Defense Technologies are based in Casper, USA but owned by BAE systems. Defense Technologies ‘Tear Gas Candles’ were photographed being used by police in East Jerusalem in March 2010. Defense technologies list BAE as their sales representative.[19]

Armor Holdings

Owns Defense Technologies. Armor Holdings was acquired by BAE in 2007.[20] Armor Holding’s registered office is in Carlton Gardens, London.[21]

BAE Systems

BAE Systems is the UK’s biggest arms company and the world’s third-largest defence company,
with annual sales exceeding £15.7 billion. BAE has also supplied Israel with ‘Heads Up’ Display Units for F16s and electronic warfare systems[22].For UK locations see[23]

The Weapons

Protesters in Bil’in return spent tear gas canisters to the Israeli military during a weekly demonstration – Photo courtesy of Bil’in Popular Committee
Protesters in Bil’in return spent tear gas canisters to the Israeli military during a weekly demonstration – Photo courtesy of Bil’in Popular Committee

The above photos were taken by an independent photographer from Bil’in during the course of 2009-10. The photos show discarded shells which litter the village of Bil’in and the surrounding fields.

The tear gas canisters shown in the photo are of the ‘tear ball’ type, marketed by Combined Tactical Systems in the US.

A ‘tear ball’ canister being used in Bil In – Photo Courtesy of Bil In Popular Committee

In the past two years vehicle mounted tear gas launchers have been used at anti-wall demonstrations in Palestine. During March 2010 the village of Nabi Saleh was invaded by Israeli military vehicles firing multiple tear gas rounds from a vehicle. The gas reached every corner of the village, filling people’s houses. Similar scenes have been common in Bil’in, where the army have repeatedly entered the village and deliberately shot tear gas into the residential area.

Tear gas shot from a vehicle mounted launcher in Bil In – Courtesy of Bil In Popular Committee

The vehicle mounted launchers used by the Israeli army are suspiciously similar to the CSI Venom Non-Lethal Tube Launched Munitions System[25]:

The Venom is currently in use by the US marines in Iraq.[26]

Israeli troops have also been seen to use rapid fire hand launchers at demonstrations in Nabi Saleh and elsewhere.

This video shows these hand launchers close to a built up area –! (from 2:19) [27]

The hand launchers used by the Israeli military, again, are remarkably similar to CSI’s multi launchers (see, for example, pp3)[28]. Penn Arms launchers are capable of launching six rounds in quick succession[29] and are in use by the US police.[29]

CSI munitions container discarded after demonstration against land annexation in Nabi Saleh – Photo from Corporate Watch


Demonstrator injured by tear gas canister in Nabi Saleh December 2010 – Photo from

There is clearly a symbiotic relationship between the Israeli and international security industries. The people of Palestine provide a constant source of test subjects for weapons which are rolled out by states against people worldwide.

The corporations complicit in Israel’s continued repression have a global reach. The resistance can be global too.

[1] Bil’in, A Village of Palestine, Happy New Year from the Occupation Forces: The Story of the Abu Rahme Family,, 02/11/2011.
[2] Bil’in, A Village of Palestine, From Bil’in to Tel Aviv Outrage at Killing of Jawaher Abu Rahma, 4th january 2011 –, viewed 04/01/2011
[3]Tania Kepler, Alternative News, Is Israel Using Lethal Tear Gas to Disperse Demonstrations? –, viewed, 03/01/2011
[4] Lisa Goldman, +972, NGO demands that police investigate toddler’s death from tear gas, 26/9/2010 –, viewed 03/01/2011 and Tania Kepler, Alternative News, Palestinian Infant Dies From Tear Gas Inhalation in East Jerusalem, 26/09/2010 –, viewed 03/01/2011
[5] Corporate Watch, Israeli West Bank Wall to be Re-Routed Following Years of Protest, February 2010 –, viewed 03/01/2011
[6] Soldier fire ‘rubber’ bullet at Palestinian detainee –, viewed 03/01/2011
[7] Bassem – The murder of a Bil’in protester –, viewed 03/01/2011
[8] Corporate Watch, Wave of Repression Shows Israel is Beginning to Take our Movement Seriously – (see viewed 03/01/2011
[9] Joseph Dana, Electronic Intifada From Bilin to Tel Aviv, outrage at killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 3rd January 2011 –, viewed 03/01/2011
[10] Bil’in, A Village of Palestine, Happy New Year from the Occupation Forces: The Story of the Abu Rahme Family, 02/11/2011,, viewed 02/11/2011.
[11] Lisa Goldman, +972, Hundreds Rally in Tel Aviv to Protest Bil’in Protesters Death, January 1st 2011 –, viewed 03/01/2011
[12] Jesse Rosenfeld and Joseph Dana, Al Jazeera, Tears and gas; A Call to Mobilise , 03/01/2011 –, viewed 04/01/2011
[13] Combined Systems, Company Website –—barricade.aspx, viewed 04/01/2011
[14] B’Tselem, Summary of Findings on the April 17, 2009 Death of
Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahma, Bil’in, April 23rd 2010-, viewed 04/01/2011
[15] Tania Kepler, Alternative News, Is Israel Using Lethal Tear Gas to Disperse Demonstrations? –, viewed 03/01/2011
[16] John Gassler Jr, Special Operations Report, Combined Systems: Non-Lethal Specialists in a Lethal World –, viewed, 03/01/2011
[17] American River International, Company Website –, viewed 04/01/2011
[18] Company Website – – viewed 04/01/2011
[19] Don Munson, Tactical Response, Penn Arms GL-1 Compact Launcher, June 2009 –, viewed 03/01/2011
[20] Armor Holdings, Company Website – viewed 03/01/2011
[21] BAE Systems, Company Website, viewed 03/01/2011
[22] BAE Systems,, viewed 03/01/2011
[23] Corporate Watch, Palestine: Profiting from the Occupation, February 2009 –, pp5-6, viewed 03/01/2011
[24] BAE Systems, Company Website – – viewed 03/01/2011
[25] Combined Systems, Company Website – viewed 03/01/2011
[26] An Nabi Saleh 07.05.2010 –! From 2:19 viewed 03/01/2011
[27] Federal Business Oppurtunities, Company Website – viewed 03/01/2011
[28] Combined Systems, Company Website –, pp3, viewed 03/01/2011
[29] Penn Arms, Company Website –, viewed 03/01/2011
[30] Wikipedia –, viewed 03/01/2011

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9 thoughts on “The Deadly Experiment – Israel’s Murderous Testing Ground for ‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons

  1. The terms “non-lethal” or “less lethal” as well as the term “Tear gas” itself, are prime examples of successful spin and propaganda.
    Its ingredients CS, CN, CR and BB are deadly agents!
    “Tear gas” was first intended to use in World War I (however the war ended before it could be deployed). In warfare, “Tear gas” is explicitly banned by the Geneva Convention. “Tear gas” acts like an acid, and is reported to be mutagen and carcinogenic.
    Another firm manufacturing “tear gas” grenade launchers is BAE subsidiary Royal Ordonance (ARWEN 37).
    A review by in 2002 listed reports of more than 1000 casualties literally around the globe (in german):
    Some excerpts:
    According to the Bertrand Russel Tribunal its use by the US-forces in the Vietnam War resulted in more than 689 casualties. (The United States didn’t ratify the Genava Protocol until 1975.)
    in Palestine, according to Amnesty International about 80 people died from “tear gas” 1987-1990. Plus according to other reports at least 5 more 2000-2001.
    In the USA, at least 5 casualties were reported from 1960-1978, mostly in prisons, and an additional 100 people lost one or more eyes.
    In Germany, a policeman died in the early 1970ies, and a demonstrator in 1986. After an army instructor died of Morbus Hodgkins, in 1987 an insurance court ruled the most probable cause was contact with “tear gas”.
    1999, 20 casualties were reported in Turkey after one single deployment of “tear gas”.
    More casualties were reported from Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, Bahrein, Bolivia, Ecuador, Sarawak and Nigeria.
    “Taer gas” destroys human tissue, lungs when inhaled as well as skin and eyes, internal organs liem e.g. kidneys, liver, digestive tracts, central nervous system.
    All modern watercannons are designed to add “tear gas” to the water at a finger tip. The results on human skin can be seen e.g. in the photos here:
    Btw., Palestine, Iraq etc. also serve as a testing ground also for officially “lethal weapons”, e.g. DIME-Munitions, and also for “Depleted Uranium”.

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