Archives for March 2006

Amona II

It’s Adar. You can tell. Israelis are in the Purim spirit. The Knesset voted to investigate the Amona evacuation (or as those who witnessed it might more properly term it, “pogrom.”). It is to be investigated by a Knesset committee that is tasked with understanding what actually happened that day when police and army personnel beat peaceful protestors.

As I recounted in an earlier blog entry, the TV camera showed more than one instance of police mounting a roof where unarmed people were sitting and on cue, tens of them took out their batons and began beating people on their heads.

That the defense minister and internal security minister will not allow those involved to be interviewed for the investigation is outrageous. That they say that complaints against individuals may be lodge insults our intelligence. It was not individuals that perpetrated the violence. These people were clearly coordinated and ordered to bash heads unless one is to assume they all got the clever idea simultaneously. What’s more, these people were not wearing any identification which is not only in clear violation of the law, but also makes it impossible in most cases to take any action against one specific person.

Let’s be serious. What happened that day was disgraceful. The most violent protestors in the US have not been beaten en masse by police. When the horrendous abuse films of the Brits abusing Iraqis were screened last week, my first thought was, “that is far less than our police were doing to our own citizens whose “crime” was trying to defend an illegal part of an outpost.” There was no excuse for the violence and the unwillingness of those in charge to allow a full and free investigation only intensifies the severity of the crimes committed.

The article from today’s Jerusalem Post follows:

Feb. 28, 2006 13:16 | Updated Mar. 1, 2006 7:39

Amona committee to begin work today

A day before the Knesset launched its investigation on the Amona evacuation, both Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Interior Security Minister Gideon Ezra told the committee that they would personally appear in place of the officers that the committee had intended to question.

“The committee is political and if they have any problems they should deal with politicians and not put the burden on the back of the policemen,” said Ezra.

Mofaz and Ezra, whose Kadima party strongly opposed the investigation, accused the committee of trying to draw the IDF into unnecessary political discourse.

“This is an attempt to obstruct the Knesset from carrying out its work,” said Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who chose the panel to conduct the investigation. “Minister Ezra is in need of a democracy lesson.”

Ezra said that the police did not need to defend themselves.

“If somebody has a complaint against an individual policeman, they can go to the Police Investigative Department,” he said, adding that it was forbidden for politicians to attack the police or the soldiers in any way.

Suggesting that the move by Mofaz and Ezra was more political than ethical, Steinitz said any attempt to block the committee would infringe on the Knesset’s authority.

Meanwhile, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) who was chosen as part of a three-member panel to assist Steinitz, said that “in order to reach the truth and not provide excuses for Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, I am ready to not take part in the meetings of the Amona committee in which members of the security forces will testify.”

Ariel, whose religious party lashed out at security officials following the evacuation, said that he would abdicate from those meetings so long as every officer or soldier summoned by the committee appeared.

The committee has already been circumvented from interviewing two high-ranking IDF officers, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and commander of IDF forces in the West Bank Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan. The two were scheduled to appear before the committee Wednesday, but will instead be represented by IDF chief of staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, who asked to appear before any of his subordinates so he could explain the Amona evacuation from the IDF’s perspective.

Earlier in the day Mofaz consulted with legal advisors including Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to see if he had the legal right to order IDF officers not to appear before the committee. Once he received permission from Mazuz, Mofaz announced he would testify before the committee in place of the IDF.

In addition to Steinitz and Ariel, the special committee will also be chaired by MKs Matan Vilnai (Labor) and Ilan Shalgi (Arrow). Other MKS on the committee can take part in the open hearings.

While carrying out the evacuation and demolition of nine houses in the West Bank outpost of Amona, the police clashed with thousands of protectors. More than 250 people were injured, including over 80 policemen