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Friday, February 03, 2006

Amona : What Really Transpired - Call for Commission of Investigation

This does not yet appear on the web site whose address is given in the body of the text. I got it from Harvey in Efrat:

Amona : What Really Transpired - Call for Commission of Investigation
By David Bedein, Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News Agency wwwIsraelBehindtheNews.com

Six Israeli Knesset Parliament members of the National Union Party convened a press conference on Thursday evening at the Beit Agron International Press Center in Jerusalem, the day after the Israeli army and Israeli police demolished nine buildings in Amona, adjacent to the Jewish community of Ofra, just north of Jerusalem.

The MK's convening the press conference were Dr. Aryeh Eldad, General Efraim Eitam, Rabbi Benny Alon, Tzvi Hendel, Uri Ariel, and Rabbi Yitzhak Levy.

Three of the Knesset Members were present at Amona during the demolition - Eldad, Eitam and Alon. Eldad and Eitam spent the night in Hadassah hospital after being trampled by police horses - Eldad with an arm fracture and Eitam with head injuries.

At their press conference, the National Union MKs announced that they had circulated a petition to all factions of the Knesset in which they called for the Knesset to authorize the creation of an extra-parliamentary commission whose task it would be to establish a non-partisan investigation into the events of Amona, to verify the facts of how and why so much violence occurred, which resulted in more than 200 teenage boys and girls in the hospital, most of whom suffered head wounds after being clubbed in the head while offering no resistance whatsoever.

From the other end of the political spectrum, endorsing the National Union's call for an official investigation was Peace Now leader and Labor MK Dr. Yuli Tamir, who told the NFC.CO.IL news service that she wanted an inquiry as to why there were hardly any casualties during the two month demolition process of the Katif settlements, and asked why there were so many casualties in one day of demolition in Amona.

An unexpected call for investigation came from MK Ahmed Tibi, the former advisor to Yassir Arafat who demanded an inquiry into why and how police horses trampled members of the Knesset .

MK Uri Ariel opened the press conference with a demand to know precisely what instructions were given to the elite Israeli commando units who were deployed at Amoneh and also demanded to know what instructions were given to the soldiers and the police by the Head of the IDF Central Command.

MK Ariel provided documentation of negotiations that the National Union MKs conducted with the government, once they understood that they had lost their legal fight to retain the nine buildings on the Amona hill.

MK Ariel provided written evidence that that the National Union MKs, with the cooperation of the Council of Judea and Samaria, had made an offer on Sunday to bring heavy equipment to Amona to move the nine buildings to the nearby community of Ofra, thereby avoiding any violent confrontation.

MK Ariel reported that the idea of moving the buildings received the encouragement of President Katzav, Defence Minister Mofaz, and Attorney General Mazuz, all of whom communicated on Monday morning to Acting Prime Minister Olmert that the idea would be legal, and it would stave off any confrontation.

Later that day on Monday, Olmert met with the leaders of the Council of Judea and Samaria, yet stood firm that the buildings would have to be destroyed, saying that he was doubtful that any kind of engineering firm could move the nine buildings.

The Council then dispatched former MK Hanan Porat to meet again with Attorney General Mazuz with the request that it be given one week to move the buildings, and that if they could not move them, then the council itself would demolish them.

On Tuesday, Israel Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein issued a restraining order against any destruction of the houses, recommending that the court grant the Council the one week requested to move the buildings.

However, Olmert appealed the restraining order to the Israel Supreme Court, which met in special session under a three justice panel on Wednesday morning, when it considered the Council's request to grant a them a week's time to move the building.

However, the two justices who sat alongside Rubenstein, both of whom had always been critical of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, ruled, two to one, with Rubenstein dissenting, at 9:30 AM on Wednesday , to reject the petition for any delay in the demolition of the nine buildings.

MK Eldad reported that, with the decision in hand to demolish the buildings, he determined he would "go to Amona together with MK Alon and MK Eitam, and requested that army and police delay the demolition by a few hours", so that they could "negotiate to get hundreds of people out of the way".

In the words of MK Eitam, "We wanted to do what we did in Gush Katif- to act as responsible mediators between the armed forces and the civilians who were present, so as to avert any unnecessary violence".

However, MK Alon reported, the IDF and the police were not willing to listen, and, instead, immediately dispatched troops and police, many of whom were on horseback, to move in on the hundreds of people in Amona who were inside, outside and on top of each of the nine buildings.

By the time that MK's Eitam, Alon and Eldad arrived on the scene, no commanders were there - only soldiers and police who were beginning to beat teenagers who were in their way.

MK Eitam observed that :"in Gush Katif, we had commanders to speak with, and we were in constant touch with the Prime Minister and his cabinet members, to avoid a catastrophe".

This time, Eitam said. "we had no one to speak with. The IDF Commander in Chief and the Commander of the IDF Central Command were not there, and no one was available to speak with at the office of the Prime Minister.However, as members of Knesset, as democratically elected leaders of this community, we were singled out for attack, with police horses that charged us, and which caused the hundreds of people there to be without any leader and without anyone to calm things down"

In MK Eldad's words, by "the attack on the Knesset leaders early in the day, tdeprived the people of any factor that could act as a restraining force".

Meanwhile, as the IDF and the police sent more reinforcements to Amona, they indiscriminately attacked Jews walking on the road and pulled tens of young people out of cars and beat them with their batons.

When the police horses arrived, the teenagers sat peaceably, the horses charged them, and police continued to beat everyone in sight, aiming for the heads of demonstrators with their batons. When the police entered the buildings, the people inside all sat down, offering no resistance, and were still beaten.

All this was filmed, and Israeli TV Channels One and Ten showed the Israeli police beating young teenagers on the head who offered no resistance. .

The MK's did acknowledge that young people responded with chants and did stone the police horses. In the words of MK Ariel, "we condemn anyone in our community who used any kind of violence, and we wonder if and when the Israeli Minister of Internal Security will have anything to say about the wanton brutality of the police officers under his command."

Meanwhile, Nachi Eyal, the secretary of the National Union Party, described how his son was beaten unconscious by a policeman who wore no identification tag, and how he watched tens of young people being clubbed on the head while they were in a kneeling position.

Nachi mentioned how his son, Yechiam, stopped breathing in the ambulance that brought him to Hadassah hospital, how Yechiam was near death, and how Yechiam suddenly regained consciousness the next morning,

Why did all this transpire?

MK Tzvi Hendel revealed what he had learned as to why Acting PM Olmert had adopted an uncompromising stand in Amona, which could have been resolved with no violence whatsoever. MK Hendel reported that he had received documentation that that Eyal Arad, the PR advisor to the Prime Minister's office, had devised a campaign strategy for Olmert which would promote the notion that residents of Judea and Samaria were "more hated than Hamas", which led Olmert to describe the Jews in Amona as the Jewish Hamas, following Wednesday's confrontation.

MK Hendel told the media that Arad had advised Olmert to foster an image as a "leader who stands firm in the face of the settlers", and that this would buttress support for him in the polls, instead of forcing Olmert to address the issue of the Hamas electoral victory and the continuing shower of unanswered missile attacks from Gaza.

It is unprecedented in Israel for the government to destroy a building rather than to reach such a compromise as the one proposed by the residents of Amona.

Perhaps for that reason, the MK's from the National Union Party concluded their press conference by announcing that as of this coming week, they would lead a tour of thousands of unauthorized and illegal homes that Israeli Arabs and Israeli Bedouins have constructed in the Negev and the Galilee regions of Israel.


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