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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Step back from the abyss

Thought provoking editorial from today's JPost. For the record, my wife's niece who was at Amona said that the kids were just sitting on the ground and had orders to get up and leave as soon as anyone in authority told them to leave, and that the police came in on horses and swinging clubs.

Step back from the abyss

The nine empty buildings at Amona are no more, and the "battle" over them is over, but the repercussions of this terrible incident are not. Calls are flying for a commission of inquiry. Much inquiry is indeed in order, and far beyond the formal, legalistic kind.

President Moshe Katsav, condemning the use of violence by protesters against the security forces, has also questioned the decision by police to use horses and batons during the evacuation, measures that were not seen during the dismantling of Gush Katif.

National Union MK Effi Eitam, who was injured at Amona, is demanding an independent inquiry focused on police brutality, a call that will be emphasized at a rally organized by settler leaders in Jerusalem tonight. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, by contrast, said, "A red line was crossed at Amona by youths who were sent by their parents, rabbis and teachers. I give full support to the army and the police to continue enforcing the law." In this context, it is appropriate that the Justice Ministry has ordered its internal police investigations unit to review the behavior of the police with the possibility of initiating legal actions if warranted.

A more fundamental issue, however, is what is happening to an important sector of our society, to what were called "religious Zionist" youth. Avraham Gisser, the rabbi of Ofra, the settlement closest to Amona, said sorrowfully in this newspaper on Friday, "The violence at Amona is living proof for many settlers that their feelings are justified. It is proof that the government, the army and the police are our enemies."

A vicious circle is being created in which it is a "victory" for settler protesters to prove that the state is brutal. During last summer's disengagement, the government and the security forces were fully aware of this and were determined to use force as little and as sensitively as possible; that was not the case last week. And so a dire situation was created at Amona in which both sides braced themselves for violence: the protesting settlers to force the state to back down, and the government and security forces to demonstrate that they would not be deterred.

Gisser implies that this is what happened: "Amona will go down in history as a symbol of the limits of the struggle for Greater Israel, beyond which is death and abyss," he said.

But are these really the limits? At the heart of the matter is the transformation of some religious Zionist youth from uber-patriots, who even saw the state as embodying messianic processes in history, into anti-Zionists who view the state as the enemy of these same ideals. Israel cannot be sanguine about such extreme alienation of so important a part of the public.

Given the past history of police brutality against the 'settlers,' I am much more inclined to believe the kids' version of events than the police's version. But in any case, read the whole thing.


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