Israeli police carrying sponge grenades while watching a Bedouin demonstration in Hura, Israel, in November 2013 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Images emerging from a rally at the Gaza-Israeli border today suggest that the Israeli military fired sponge round projectiles produced by the Safariland Group, a company owned and managed by Vice-Chairman of Whitney Museum’s board of trustees Warren B.Kanders. The Gaza Health Ministry reports that 77 civilians were injured in the protest, one of them critically wounded.

The Defense Technology, which is part of the Safariland group, weapon spotted in Gaza today (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

The 40mm eXact iMpact sponge round is a “less lethal” riot control weapon manufactured by Defense Technology, a subsidiary of Safariland. According to the company’s website, the blue-tipped projectile is designed to incapacitate subjects without causing lethal injuries.

Robert Trafford, a researcher with the London-based Forensic Architecture, told Hyperallergic that the Israeli army has been using Safariland’s munition against Palestinian protesters for more than a decade. Sponge Rounds are considered a softer crowd control weapon than rubber bullets, but they can be as lethal if pointed at the upper body from a close range. “Less lethal ammunitions remain lethal,” says Trafford. Safariland, according to Trafford, is the only company that produces blue-tipped projectiles.

Forensic Architecture is listed among the artists who will participate in this year’s Whitney Biennial. The group announced that it will respond to the Whitney crises through its contribution. Eyal Weizman, who is the director of Forensic Architecture, told Hyperallergic:

“Munitions manufactured by the Safariland Group, owned by Kanders, are used regularly against Palestinian civilians as they engage in legitimate protest against Israel’s colonization. we have seen it fired against village residents resisting eviction in the Naqab, we see them employed against civilians and journalists in the West Bank and only today we were sent images of munitions manufactured by Safariland employed against civilians in Gaza.

Recently, looking through my own images from protests in the West Bank, I realized that I have had my own close brush with this company. In April 2014, while participating in a protest in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at me, as they do at many protesters. I now realize he did so with a grenade launcher manufactured by Safariland. A young women standing next to me was struck and injured in the head. I remember the sickening burning sensation of tear gas while unsuccessfully attending her wounds.”

In addition to the sponge bullets, Safariland also supplies the Israeli army with tear gas canisters that were seen used against Palestinians in previous protests at the Gaza border.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

14 replies on “Whitney Biennial Participants Discuss the Use of Safariland Weapons in Gaza”

  1. What is the issue here? The article states that israel is using non lethal crowd controls methods with this sponge grenade. Israel has a right to defend herself against violent riots storming her border especially when thousands of fire projectiles are launched from Gaza causing tens of thousands of acres of israeli forests and farmland to burn. These are no peaceful sit ins.

    1. isreal is committing GENOCIDE on gaza. they have STOLEN palestinian lands and palestinians are under constant oppression and harassment. what isreal is doing to palestine is an ATROCITY and should be prosecuted in an international court of law. “gorilla”. if you are defending atrocity at least have enough guts to use your own name!

      1. Saying words in all capitals doesn’t make them true. I see your views are horribly biased and extreme with zero basis in fact. No use arguing with you. 🙏

          1. Last i checked the mortality rate in the Palestinian Territories was one of the lowest in the Arab world. The definition of genocide is not an increase of population. Try again

          2. Casually throwing around words like genocide accusing israel (formed by the multiple genocide surviving jewish people) is an outrage. Quite amazing that you literally ignore the stated aim of the people of Gaza to destroy israel by any and all violent means. It’s not as if they hide their words and weapons. Only someone who willfully wishes to look the other way can respond as you do.

          3. there is nothing casual about how isreal is oppressing, stealing from and murdering palestinians. palestinians have only their hurt and outrage. isreal has all the wealth, weaponry and land, most of which was stolen from palestine, which was a peaceful indigenous country before isreal invaded them.

          4. isreal makes a mockery and travesty of the saying “never again” and there are many jewish people that agree.

          5. Sadly you are ignorant of the history of the region, international law/treaties and the conflict in general. The propaganda you have stated is factually false.

  2. in one year hundreds have died, including journalists, medic aides and children. thousands have been maimrd for life. by snipers, with deliberation. what is the issue here indeed. disgusting.

    1. Suppose for one second israel did not station troops on the border. How long would it take for these “peacefull” protesters to invade israeli towns and villages and massacre and kidnap the inhabitants? This is the stated aim of many of the protesters including their Hamas leaders. Please stop pretending it’s a quiet sit in in a daisy field. It’s a violent chaotic riot on the border.

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