Reporter's Notebook: Suffering 'The Scream'

“The Scream” is part of the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police’s arsenal of non-lethal crowd dispersal methods.

March 30, 2012 19:01
2 minute read.
Border Police clash with Palestinians at Kalandiya

Border Police clash with Palestinians at Kalandiya 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

“This isn’t that bad,” I thought to myself, as “The Scream,” one of the non-lethal crowd-dispersal methods, started blaring its incessant beeping on Friday afternoon. I was at the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem during Land Day protests, and the Yassam riot police were trying to disperse about 500 protesters, including 50 youths using slingshots and throwing stones at security forces.

With a name like “The Scream,” I expected it to sound more like the slaughter of baby pigs or teenage girls at a ‘N Sync concert rather than a beeping that sounded eerily reminiscent of my police beeper.

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But then the beeping got louder. And louder. And louder. And it didn’t stop. After a few minutes, it was all I could do to stand in one place, fingers scrunched into my ears, and pray for it to stop.

I couldn’t think, I couldn’t see. It was so loud that I actually felt nauseous. It was just incessant blaring louder than anything I’ve ever heard, and the first time I can remember pain coming from my sense of hearing. I found, for some strange reason, that it made me feel a little better if I danced and boogied in place. Our photographer, quite smartly, had thought to bring earplugs and continued shooting as if nothing was wrong.

The Scream is part of the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police’s arsenal of non-lethal crowd-dispersal methods. It’s joined by “The Skunk,” a revoltingly smelly substance sprayed out of a water cannon that police love because it lingers for weeks and makes identifying people who took part in the protest simple. I’ve also heard that dogs love the smell.

The Scream went through a testing period over the past few years, and was rolled out for operational use in September, ahead of riots that the security forces expected following the Palestinian Authority statehood bid at the UN.

It was used for the first time at Kalandiya on September 21.

“In every part of the scenarios that we’re prepared to deal with in large-scale riots, it is critical to use non-lethal weapons, otherwise there will be casualties on both sides,” said Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “It prevents our officers, and also the protesters, from getting injured.”

Rosenfeld added that the only situation when police or the IDF use live ammunition or lethal weapons is in immediately life-threatening situations.

While The Scream wasn’t life-threatening, I could feel it echoing in my head for the rest of the day. I had a throbbing headache and serious difficulty hearing my fellow reporters on the phone.

When I returned to Jerusalem and heard the Shabbat siren go off, my stomach dropped six floors.

“Oh no,” I thought. “Not again!”

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