Is­raeli firm sup­plies SAPS with can­nons

CityPress - - News - CHARL DU PLESSIS news@city­press.co.za

The wa­ter can­nons used by po­lice to con­trol #FeesMustFall and other protests are made by an Is­raeli com­pany that pro­vides ve­hi­cles for use in oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and which also sup­plied riot con­trol ve­hi­cles to the apartheid gov­ern­ment.

The wa­ter can­nons made by Beit Alfa Tech­nolo­gies, which is owned by Kib­butz Beit Alfa, are also used to spray a foul-smelling liq­uid called Skunk, which smells of fae­ces.

The 10 wa­ter can­nons were pro­cured on a quo­ta­tion ba­sis from a pre­ferred sup­plier by the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) in 2007, shortly be­fore Jackie Selebi was sus­pended as na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner.

City Press was first tipped off to the Is­raeli ori­gin of the wa­ter can­nons in Septem­ber by a po­lice source.

In re­sponse to a query sent to sus­pended po­lice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Solomon Mak­gale, Gen­eral Gary Kruser, the di­vi­sional com­mis­sioner of sup­ply chain man­age­ment, in­di­cated the “ve­hi­cles were pro­cured from a com­pany, Al­ter­na­tive Ru­ral En­ergy, based in Dundee [in KwaZulu-Natal] and the ve­hi­cles were im­ported by this com­pany from Is­rael”.

But no record of Al­ter­na­tive Ru­ral En­ergy could be found. It is not listed in the Com­pa­nies and In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Com­mis­sion’s data­base and in­ter­net searches were fruit­less. How­ever, City Press was able to trace the ve­hi­cles to Is­raeli man­u­fac­turer Beit Alfa Tech­nolo­gies, which has also posted pho­to­graphs of the South African po­lice wa­ter can­nons on its web­site.

The des­ig­na­tion of the mod­els with which the po­lice sup­plied City Press match those in Beit Alfa’s cat­a­logue.

In an April 2014 re­port by the Who Profits Re­search Cen­ter, an NGO ded­i­cated to ex­pos­ing the com­mer­cial in­volve­ment of Is­raeli and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies in the con­trol of Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory, Beit Alfa Tech­nol­ogy is cited as the com­pany that pro­duces the trucks used to spray Skunk.

The re­ports note that “even if these weapons fall within the ‘less lethal’ cat­e­gory (when com­pared with live am­mu­ni­tion, for ex­am­ple) var­i­ous in­ci­dents doc­u­mented dur­ing demon­stra­tions in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries make it clear that the use of these weapons by Is­raeli forces is far from eth­i­cal”.

Beit Alfa’s apartheid lin­eage is recorded by Chris McGreal, a jour­nal­ist who wrote an in-depth, two-part ar­ti­cle on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Is­rael and the apartheid state for The Guardian news­pa­per in 2006.

“Along­side the state-owned fac­to­ries turn­ing out ma­te­rial for South Africa was Kib­butz Beit Alfa, which de­vel­oped a prof­itable in­dus­try sell­ing anti-riot ve­hi­cles for use against pro­test­ers in black town­ships,” wrote McGreal.

Joseph Mas­sad, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mod­ern Arab pol­i­tics and in­tel­lec­tual his­tory at Columbia Univer­sity, also wrote about the con­nec­tion in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished by Al Jazeera in 2013.

“Kib­butz Beit Alfa, it should be men­tioned, was es­tab­lished by the Jewish Na­tional Fund partly on lands pur­chased from ab­sen­tee land­lords and partly on con­fis­cated lands be­long­ing to Pales­tinian vil­lages.”

Na’eem Jeenah, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Afro-Mid­dle East Cen­tre, said while there was no le­gal bar to the SAPS buy­ing such equip­ment, the ANC had made clear its sup­port for the Pales­tinian cause, in­clud­ing the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions move­ment.

“We all know that one of the big­gest mar­ket­ing tools for Is­raeli de­fence and se­cu­rity equip­ment is the fact that all of it is tested on Pales­tini­ans,” he said.

“Given the SA gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on this, the fact that we’re im­port­ing this kind of stuff is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able, it’s morally rep­re­hen­si­ble and def­i­nitely re­quires some ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion from the ANC lead­er­ship,” said Jeenah.

Zackie Ach­mat, an ac­tivist and mem­ber of the an­ti­oc­cu­pa­tion move­ment Open Shuhada Street, said he had per­son­ally wit­nessed “how the equip­ment of Beit Alfa Tech­nolo­gies has been used in the bru­tal sup­pres­sion of chil­dren, men and women in the vil­lage of Nabi Salih”.

“Skunk is like hav­ing a s**t shower and it is sprayed into peo­ple’s homes,” he said. Beit Alfa did not re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment. At the time of go­ing to print, the po­lice had not re­sponded to a sub­se­quent re­quest for com­ment.

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