Settlers: Security forces treat us as enemy

Settlers Security force

Police regard settler leaders as their enemies and have deliberately targeted and attacked them during protests in West Bank settlements in the last two weeks, charged Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "They treat us as if we were their foes," said Dayan, who spoke Tuesday at a Knesset meeting of the Internal Affairs and Environment committee. He charged that at recent protests against the settlement freeze, police had physically assaulted Kedumim Regional Council head Hananel Durani, acting Samaria Regional Council head Reuven Gur Aryeh, and Avi Na'im, who heads the joint Beit Arye-Ofarim Council. "It was intentional - there was no reason to do it this way. Those who marked them and hit them did it as part of a policy," said Dayan, who called for the matter to be investigated. "What have we come to when police assault an elected official?" asked Gur Aryeh. He recounted how a police commander at a demonstration on Monday in the settlement of Revava had curtly dismissed him by saying, "Get out of my sight." "I was not yelling at him," said Gur Aryeh. He recounted how he had reminded the commander that he was an elected official and that therefore he should be treated with a modicum of respect. "His response was the palm of his hand," said Gur Aryeh. "It was such a terrible blow that I saw stars. I could not sleep all night," he said. "I was in shock." Na'im recounted his experience from last week in which he was assaulted and temporarily arrested as he stood at the gate to the Beit Arye settlement and asked the civil administration inspectors to leave. The ambulance that later took him to the hospital, he said, had been held up at a checkpoint for half an hour because the IDF would not let it pass. They were finally released only with the intervention of the council's attorney, said Na'im. Civil Administration inspectors have visited most settlements in the last two weeks to seek out violations of the 10-month moratorium on new Jewish West Bank construction. Settler leaders have vowed to thwart their work, and in many cases have closed the settlement gates to prevent their entry to the community. Na'im said he had seen the police commander receive an order by phone to arrest him. "That kind of an order is a blow to democracy," he said. "We have a right to protest." Na'im equated the protests with the Chinese students in Tiananman Square in 1989, who had stood in front of a tank to block its path. He added that he believed the moratorium was illegal and had been improperly executed. The injunctions the regional and local council heads had received had been, in many cases, handed to them just one hour before the start of Shabbat on November 27, Na'im said. "They called me, and I refused to accept it until Sunday. Immediately the army leaked this stance to the media. If the army is leaking information to the media, that is serious," said Na'im. A Civil Administration representative said that the injunctions had been handed out so quickly because they had already gone into effect and it was important that the council heads understood the new regulations. But the Civil Administration officials did not insist on delivering the injunctions on Friday and respected the requests of all settlers leaders who preferred to receive the edicts on Sunday, he said. The representative said that at this point, the inspectors were handing out stop-work orders and ensuring that settlers were adhering to the new edict. He added that in many settlements, they had not found any building violations. Na'im and other settler leaders further complained that the police had sent an abnormally large force to accompany the inspectors. In some cases, several hundred officers have arrived to escort two or three inspectors. Dayan said that if the police had wanted to fully occupy the Ma'aleh Levona settlement, they would not have needed the 30 vehicles that arrived there on Monday. It's possible, he said, that the government wanted the Americans to take note of their actions. Na'im said the police were acting as if building violations occurred only in Judea and Samaria and as if "we were the worst criminals." "I am a legally elected leader. Our public voted us in, and they expect that in difficult moments, we will be there with them," said Naim. The police representative at the meeting said that Na'im could not have expected the police and inspectors to halt their work just because he said so. It was their obligation to carry out their orders, he said. "There are laws in this nation." The security detail that accompanies the Civil Administration inspectors is there to insure their safety, he added. He did not address the specific charge that settler leaders had been targeted and attacked, but he did add, "We are not your foe." Settlers also charged that the police had ignored their pleas to use female officers to disperse religious female protesters, in keeping with their religious convictions that prohibit physical contact with men. On top of the physical trauma, there was another layer of religious trauma because of the lack of female officers, said Gur Aryeh. Police representatives said that they lacked a female force they could send into the settlements. Committee head MK David Azoulay (Shas) said that after listening to both sides, "there is a feeling of complete disconnect between the settlements and the security forces." He urged the police to remember that settler leaders were elected officials. He also chastised the police for handing out injunctions so close to Shabbat and for not including female officers in their security details. Azoulay asked both sides to meet to try and repair the rift between them.