|Thursday, February 16, 2006
Dear Friends and family,
I’m writing the following in extreme agitation after my 15 year old son Yishai described to me his experience as a participant in the protest at Amona. Its not easy for me to write in my present state but I feel a need to write to you all - friends and family of varied political views - to inform you of what I see as a completely unacceptable situation. For those of you who don't live here – Amona is the settlement where Israeli security forces and settlers clashed two weeks ago – and is something like 15 km. from my home.
I would like to preface what I’m going to describe with the following: It is clear to me that not everyone on my side of the camp is entirely blameless. I am not happy with many things, and I am ambivalent about others BUT I reserve the right to protest what I see as wrong without fear and it is clear to me that the Government is responsible for bringing us to the edge of an abyss and for painting a whole segment of society with the brush of disloyalty and never was this clearer to me than after the events at Amona.
Perhaps only WE feel the rod now but the wise should take note so that we don't all pay in the future for the attempts to suppress our voice, and for what appears to be the turning of us into a scapegoat for all the ills of Israeli society.
I believe every word of my child, and even taking into account that he was not in all places at once in Amona, his description speaks volumes of what actually transpired. Not surprisingly, it is apparently not the same picture that the public was largely presented with, though I am grateful to those who did see and filmed the proceedings honestly and understood the importance of showing it. Most of you saw the pictures and heard the news. I admit I did not – I was out of the country and only saw some of the reports on my return. I have zero tolerance for those that threw blocks but it is clear to me that that is NOT the story. At Amona a line was crossed and not by the protesters. I admit with shame that I was blind to some of the "early warning signs".
As I was safely ensconced in Canada during the Amona protest, I got only a limited exposure to the media and to descriptions of the events. Even so, I could see how awful it was from any point of view. I tend to take a very skeptical view of what I hear on the news (any news – whether right leaning or otherwise) so over Friday night dinner I asked Yishai to describe his experience. I can't repeat the description word for word but I can say that it was shocking.
It went something like this: He was positioned outside one of the houses set to be demolished – house no. 4 out of the 9 to be specific. The houses were on a rise above the gate of the settlement. Protesters were positioned in the houses, to the sides and in front all the way down to the gate. Mounted police (Magav) and the black suited Yassam were positioned by the gates and at both ends of the line of houses (maybe elsewhere as well?). There were also soldiers but I am not clear on whether they were "active" participants or not. At any rate, from the sound of it Yishai had a fair view of what was happening.
From what I understood – from the moment it was announced that the final petition to the High court was rejected , with no provocation, the police and mounted police rode into the crowd smashing with batons indiscriminately starting at the gate and moving in from both ends of the lines of houses. Yishai was "lucky" enough to get thrown against the wall by a horse and while the police were busy smashing those to either side of him he had the sense to run down the hill and get out of the melee. He is adamant that the stones only started flying after he was already down the hill. Around him were kids with bloodied heads, girls with clothes ripped off them!!! He claims that the Police were acting like animals with incredible brutality, hitting both with rubber and metal ended batons, taunting with awful words that I will not repeat. None of the police had nametags as required by law.
I must say that I have never ever seen him so beside himself. At this point in the story he broke into hysterical crying and screamed at us that someone who wasn't there can't possibly understand what transpired. From his condition I could see he was absolutely traumatized. It took us a long time to get him to calm down. I must say that from his description I couldn't escape the understanding that not only were the police brutal, but that this was a premeditated, prearranged attack on the demonstrators and much as I am horrified by the ensuing melee of stones and cement blocks, I can't help but feel that, though they are certainly a symptom of the disease, something unimaginable happened here. This was not a single policeman losing his cool, a harassed security person acting unprofessionally – here was an organized attack that sure sounded to me like – dare I say it - a Pogrom!
What was the point here? How does an attack like that on good citizens contribute to law and order? Why was it necessary, (particularly in light of the fact that the settlers had offered to take the place down themselves)? In August, painful as it was, we saw that there was another way to evict thousands of people. There was nothing different in the form of protest from the form of protests that were in Gush Katif in the summer. What justification is there for indiscriminately beating passive protesters, many of them high school kids, if not younger. What a lesson in Ezrachut!!!(citizenship)? I've always taught my kids to respect the law. In spite of my desire to strongly protest the disengagement, during the summer I drew my line of protest at Kfar Maimon and refused to allow Yishai's entry into Gush Katif which would entail pitting himself against soldiers (and certainly I'm sorry that he went now and I admit to a degree of ambivalence regarding whether it is a useful form of protest). What do I tell him now? That he and the rest of us are enemies of the State? I admit that since last Friday it has crossed my mind that perhaps I should believe the version of events of many of the Arab citizens of this country whose sons were killed during the October 2000 riots. Maybe we have been blind to what our security forces are doing. Certainly it shouldn't be news to me that the behaviour of the Yassam is brutal. (Hillel had experience with them a number of years ago).
BUT the one thing that Yishai was absolutely livid about and appeared to him to be the final straw was the fraudulent way the event was presented in much of the media – I have no doubt that the police will certainly lie to cover up their part and as the fish appears to smell from the top, I also have little remaining faith that there will be a fair trial of events. After hearing a number of police higher-ups paint themselves as the victims on the radio I can see that this is what we can expect.
What do I and other parents I've spoken to whose kids are traumatized by the events at Amona tell our kids? We've worked hard to educate them to live and let live, to serve their country, to respect law and order, to serve proudly in the army.
Two of my sons proudly served in the Golani brigade – one fighting in the battle in Jenin during Homat Magen. Though it is starting to appear that there are forces that do not wish to see our sons in the army, and that are actively harassing kid who are being interviewed about their activities protesting during the summer – (this in direct disregard of army guidelines), I choose to see this as a passing aberration, but I think its necessary for all of us to wake up before its too late. I'm not sure how kids of Yishai's age and those approaching army age are going to feel about the army after the last year and particularly after Amona. It should come as a surprise to no-one that more and more kids are being pushed into the arms of extremism and it is only the abilities of many educational leaders standing in the breach that are stopping the stampede. If we have any leaders left in our camp after the oppression of the past year, they need to speak out clearly, but I admit their jobs and ours as parents just became that much more difficult.
Why am I surprised, many of my friends in the disengagement camp exclaim? Do I not know from solid sources that there were pictures that none except a few saw of brutality even in the summer during the disengagement. There too the same arms of the security forces were caught doing what is apparently what they do naturally, but till now I was skeptical, and until now the cases were isolated and never anything like what was perpetrated in this case!
Do I not know that there are hundreds of youths who still have trials pending for assorted trumped up cases based on lies or even based on nothing? (trumped up by police along the lines of "the best form of defence is attack"). I have no doubt that there are a number of cases that are genuine, but the lack of ability (at best) or the intentional (at worst) failure to differentiate between law abiding citizens and those that flaunt the law is appalling and it is taking us all on a slippery slope to a place in history where other regimes that the Jewish people have a bellyful of self-righteous criticism of, have been in the past. My mind works overtime to avoid comparing current events with history, but there are times when the signposts are too large to ignore.
Sara Shor, Ma'ale Adumim – One very angry citizen.