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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

'Amona Video' - Knesset Inquiry into 'Amona' Events Begins

The Knesset inquiry into the violence last month at 'Amona' began this morning. Before you read about the inquiry, I suggest that you look back at what happened. The following came from Ira in Petach Tikva:

Note1.: The video at the following link is stark and shocking. Not for children.

Note 2.: The clubs you will see wielded by the military and police personnel against unresisting men, women and children is known as a "Monadnock baton".

It was introduced in the late 60s to early 70s when violent anti-war protests became common and police needed extra protection. I'm familiar with it as a result of having seen its' use demonstrated by a rep from the company that makes them when I served as a USAF Chief of Security Police. I clearly remember hearing the warning that only trained, disciplined personnel should be issued the weapon and then only under hazardous conditions, precisely because careless or overly aggressive use could easily result in severe or even lethal injuries. I didn't order any because I considered them too dangerous in the hands of an overly aggressive or angry person. As you can see from the description in the above link, the baton is made of molded polycarbonate. Even a short, mildly firm blow or prod from the baton will cause bruising. It is very dense (indestructible) and has a lot of heft especially when swung hard with the short perpendicular arm on the striking end as happened at Amona. The short arm perpendicular to the main shaft is an auxiliary handle and is not intended for use as a hammerhead except in self-defense in a life and death situation. That it is not intended for aggressive, offensive force is stated in the description above: "For maximum personal protection,....", i.e. self-defense.

Clearly, the troops were instructed to inflict serious injuries to as many people as possible. Based on what I know about this baton, the fact that no one was killed is almost unbelievable.

This morning, the Knesset began looking into the 'Amona' violence.


Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra began his testimony to the committee at the Knesset Wednesday by promising to bring all requested information to the committee members, and leveled harsh criticism against the committee for calling police officers ahead of political leaders. [I have to say that I don't understand why this is worthy of criticism. Jews - more than any other people in the world - should be sensitive to claims that someone was "just following orders." The army has, as part of its rules of war, a concept that an order may be "bilti chuki ba'alil," i.e. that an order may be illegal per se. In that event, a soldier has a duty to disobey that order. I cannot think of an order that would be more illegal than one to inflict severe injury on fellow Jews - as cited in Note 2 above. From the pictures and films that I have seen (including the one linked above), I believe that the police are the ones who are to blame here and not the army, but as far as I know, the police also have the same concept - that an order may be illegalper se. CiJ]

A compromise reached late Tuesday stipulated that although MKs Aryeh Eldad and Effi Eitam would be present during the investigation on Wednesday, they would not participate in the proceedings. [Eldad and Eitam were both beaten and injured at 'Amona.' CiJ]


Eitam added that he preferred that the investigation target the politicians who made the decision how and when to evacuate Amona, rather than the "anonymous" security forces who executed the decision.

"I want the committee to look into whether [Acting Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, and others, really foresaw the events at Amona," Eitam said. [I have no doubt that Olmert foresaw what would happen. One look at the film where you see the police riding horses straight into the crowd shows that it was all planned. I think statements like this one by Eitam make the investigation look 'political.' There are much more serious issues here than who the next Prime Minister of Israel is going to be. CiJ]

On Tuesday, a day before the Knesset launched its investigation on the Amona evacuation, security officials sought to undermine the committee.

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. [How can you file a complaint against an individual cop if the badge was covered - as was often the case in 'Amona'? What are the odds that someone who was being beaten over the head with a Mondanock baton would have the presence of mind or the ability to get a look at the name of the cop who was beating him? And who in their right mind would trust anything connected with the Israeli government to investigate itself??? CiJ]

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.


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