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 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.