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Monday, July 07, 2008

Rule of law?

A police commander admitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday that he gave the order to brutally remove two members of Knesset - Effie Eitam (pictured at the protest) and Arye Eldad - from a protest against the demolition of the Jewish neighborhood of Amona in the Samarian town of Ofra in January 2006 (Hat Tip: IMRA).
A senior Israeli police officer has admitted that he ordered police to forcibly remove a parliamentarian, involved in passive civil disobedience, from an anti-government protest, causing him serious injury.

"I would allow zero time for dialogue [with them]," Brig.-Gen. Meir Bukovza, deputy commander of the Judea and Samaria police district, said. "I gave the order to forcibly get rid of them."

Bukovza told Jerusalem Magistrate Arnon Darel on July 6 that he ordered security forces to immediately get rid of Knesset members Aryeh Eldad, Benny Elon and Effy Eitam, who were standing several meters away from a bulldozer set to destroy one of nine homes in the West Bank Jewish community of Amona on Feb. 1, 2006. The Knesset members, who said they were involved in passive civil disobedience, also had parliamentary immunity from violating a military order that prevented people from being in the area.

"I didn't recognize the Knesset member [Aryeh Eldad]," Bukovza said. "Even today I don't know the Knesset members."

Bukovza said that the police, based on intelligence reports, conducted a three-day training exercise before the Amona evacuation, fearing violent resistance by Jewish protesters. Police officers testified that they were treated to a magic show and a field trip during the training but were not familiarized with Knesset members expected to be in Amona to assuage the protesters.

"We thought there would be Knesset members and there was training that began several days earlier," Bukovza said. "They trained and then had some fun."

During the violent evacuation and demolition of the homes, at least 250 demonstrators were injured, including Eitam who was struck in the head and Eldad, whose hand was crushed by police officer Ibrahim Rachal. The ligament joining the thumb to the palm of his hand was torn and Eldad, formerly the chief plastic surgeon at Jeruslem's Hadassah Hospital, is no longer able to operate.

"The police had told us that our job was to be involved and to prevent [violent] confrontation as we had done in the expulsion [from the Gaza Strip and nothern West Bank in August 2005]," Eldad said.

Eldad said that the Knesset members had placed themselves between the police and the demonstrators to try and calm the atmosphere and engage in a dialogue with the security forces.

"The aim was protest. The location was between the police and demonstrators to prevent violence," Eldad said. "I believed that the natural act was to come and speak with us. [Instead] they [police] pushed us towards the bulldozer."

Video footage presented at the hearing showed Eldad and Elon being pushed by nine police officers towards the bulldozer which was ready to demolish the first house. At least 500 more police officers stood in two columns on either side of the Knesset members.

"They broke the law when they tried to interfere with the work of the bulldozer," Bukovza said.

As soon as Eldad and Elon grasped onto the bulldozer, Bukovza shouted an order from an adjoining hilltop to get rid of them.

"I got an order to evacuate them immediately," former police office Ibrahim Rachal said. "I didn't know they were Knesset members."

Four police officers jumped on Eldad and it took seven seconds to peel his hands from the bulldozer. Rachal admitted that he grasped Eldad's right hand and footage showed him pushing Eldad's thumb back until the connecting ligament snapped. Eldad fainted and was carried off upside down by the officers.

Police officers, including Bukovza and Police Commander Shmuel Rosenthal who grabbed Eldad from behind during the evacuation, failed to explain why Eldad was not evacuated according to the police guidelines. [Four officers each hold a limb and carry the person away].

"I would not have resisted," Eldad said. "I would have been evacuated peacefully."

Despite the heavy casualties, Bukovza said that the police had not used undue force in Amona but had reacted to the violence of the protesters.

"We were in a life threatening situation," Rosenthal testified. "I was hit in the head with a brick and then in the testicles but I would not leave my troops."

Still, video footage of the incident did not show any objects being thrown at Rosenthal or Rachal. Instead, Rosenthal applied more force to remove Eldad, a slight man, whom he characterized as "very strong."

"Why didn't you take another 50 policemen and remove them?" the judge asked. "You should have prevented this situation."

Eldad was forced to bring a civil suit against the police officers after the police unit dealing with complaints against officers twice refused to investigate the charges or open a criminal case.

"Large claims [for damages] will deter police violence," Eldad, who now suffers from 10 percent disability in his hand, said.
More photos of the carnage at Amona here.

Knesset members are supposed to have immunity in carrying out their duties. These Knesset members were not engaged in any violent acts. But in the brutal atmosphere that the police brought to Amona that day, it didn't matter.

For those of you who have forgotten what happened at Amona and who did not click the links above, I have a videotaped interview with Effie Eitam, which was made that night in the hospital. After the tape, I will have a loose translation. Recall that this occurred six months after the Jews were expelled from Gush Katif, when Ehud K. Olmert was acting Prime Minister during the period between Ariel Sharon's stroke and the elections. Note that even then, Olmert's unfitness for leadership was quite clear.

Let's go to the videotape.

Here's what Eitam said:
"The mounted police officers were well-aware of our presence, but then a horse with a mounted policeman hit me and I lost consciousness," he added.

Eitam harshly blasted Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Directly addressing Olmert, he said that “you are far from being the successor of (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon.”

“You have proven today that you are frightened, confused and manipulative. You have acted with stupidity and narrow-mindedness. This is not the way to build premiership,” he charged.

"We would have known how to control this incident like in Gush Katif, but the police officers were ordered to act with violence against the children and public leaders. This is a pogrom against young people."

Eitam said that he did not get the opportunity to express his leadership.

"For 30 years I fought in the battlefield and I never believed I will be wounded by a Jewish policeman while I fulfill my duty as a Knesset member. I bear no grudge toward this policeman. He carried out the order of an inexperienced acting prime minister driven by his media advisors," he said.

"Olmert is producing a TV campaign advertisement for Kadima and the police officers were there to display brutal force and intimidate a public that has already been seriously hit in the summer. Olmert proved that he is unworthy of leading a state and a nation. He is a very small politician who held a demonstration on the Israeli society's account," Eitam charged.

He added that he was feeling well and had undergone a number of comprehensive medical tests.
If this is how the police treat Knesset members, you can imagine how they treat ordinary citizens in Israel.


At 12:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Rule of law? Its quite striking the energy with which the police applied themselves in Amona while they were helpless in Jerusalem on two occasions. They had no trouble dealing with Jews but they couldn't figure out how to respond to Arab terrorists. The corruption and absence of moral character in the Israel Police is characterized in how it enforces - or rather - does not enforce the law in Israel. And the people responsible for it all still serve in the high ranks of the Israel Police.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There will be an accounting one day, in a true court of law. The names are written down, the evidence has been recorded and the witnesses will give their testimony.

The Israeli penal and judicial systems will be purged from the tyrants and thugs who currently hold sway on the country.

Patience is a virtue.


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