Police, left-wing activists clash over illegal Homesh march

Left-wing NGO Peace Now threatened it will knock the Homesh settlement down if the government does not enforce a law that forbids settlement.

 Left-wing protestors call on the government to dismantle 150 settlements, with a bulldozer allegedly intended for the razing of Homesh in the background, on May 28, 2022. (photo credit: PEACE NOW)
Left-wing protestors call on the government to dismantle 150 settlements, with a bulldozer allegedly intended for the razing of Homesh in the background, on May 28, 2022.
(photo credit: PEACE NOW)

Israel Police officers and left-wing activists clashed on Saturday before a planned march to the controversial West Bank settlement of Homesh, after police insisted that the march was illegal.

Police blocked the protesters from continuing past the settlement of Kedumim, Ynet reported.

Plain-clothed officers arrested the driver of a truck in Rosh Ha’ayin carrying a bulldozer rented by Peace Now, suspecting that it was headed for Homesh, the left-wing NGO said.

Earlier this week, Peace Now threatened that it would raze Homesh with a bulldozer if the state failed to do so, since it claimed that the state was intentionally refraining from enforcing the Disengagement Law, which prohibits Israelis from settling in the town.

"Policemen acting without authority are arresting law-abiding citizens based on invented laws that exist in their imagination. Instead of evacuating the group of violent criminals from Homesh, the government, military and police are guarding it in a discriminatory way."

Peace Now

Left-wing activist Yishai Hadas is arrested by police after allegedly plotting to raze Homesh with a rented bulldozer, on May 28, 2022. (credit: PEACE NOW)Left-wing activist Yishai Hadas is arrested by police after allegedly plotting to raze Homesh with a rented bulldozer, on May 28, 2022. (credit: PEACE NOW)

Israel Police arrest left-wing protester

The police also arrested left-wing activist Yishai Hadas and the bulldozer’s owner. The officers said that Peace Now’s actions were a violation of a directive issued by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs that prevented them from approaching Homesh. According to the NGO, the police said that they were operating on the attorney-general’s orders, but failed to procure a warrant.

The protest came a day after hundreds of settlers reportedly attacked Palestinians around Homesh, entering the nearby Palestinian village of Burqa to throw stones at houses and set fields on fire, according to Palestinian reports.

Homesh was evacuated and razed during the 2005 Gaza disengagement, which included four settlements in Samaria.

“Policemen acting without authority are arresting law-abiding citizens based on invented laws that exist in their imagination,” Peace Now said in a statement. “Instead of evacuating the group of violent criminals from Homesh, the government, military and police are guarding it in a discriminatory way.

“The day in which the state defends law-breaking criminals and heckles law-abiding citizens is a sad day for the State of Israel and for our democracy,” Peace Now concluded. “These terrible days, in which a small, violent, messianic group is holding the Israeli government hostage, must stop.”

The organization argued that the prohibition to go to Homesh did not apply unless one reaches the perimeter of the settlement, and that a preemptive arrest in Rosh Ha’ayin based on future intentions is illegal.

During Passover, on April 19, some 15,000 right-wing activists marched to Homesh. While IDF officers initially warned that they would not secure that march due to its illegal nature, they eventually did provide security.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said at the time that “the thousands who came here today, did so to give a message to the government: Don’t touch Homesh. The IDF must stop with the evictions and the checkpoints,” he said at the time, adding that the “nation is with Homesh” and pledging that “we will rebuild it” along with the settlement of Sa-Nur which was also destroyed in 2005.

A bill proposed by the opposition to repeal the Disengagement Law was struck down in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.

Yesh Din, another left-wing NGO, petitioned the High Court in 2019 regarding the state’s failure to evacuate Homesh. The state’s answer to the petition is expected on Sunday and might be a death blow to the teetering coalition, as right-wing coalition MKs and ministers strongly oppose the evacuation, while left-wing ones see it as crucial.

"During preemptive operations and in light of the actual fear of harm to public safety and violent clashes, the police arrested three suspects who were intending to disrupt public order, violate the Disengagement Law and damage property."

Statement by the Israel Police's Judea and Samaria District

“Since the early morning hours, police and security forces are preparing for an illegal demonstration that is scheduled to occur in the town Homesh,” the Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria District said in response.

“During preemptive operations and in light of the actual fear of harm to public safety and violent clashes, the police arrested three suspects who were intending to disrupt public order, violate the Disengagement Law and damage property,” it said.

“The police stress that they will continue to allow any person to actualize their freedom of expression and protest according to law, while maintaining public order and the safety of the protesters.”