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"Brutal Crackdown on Anti-Occupation Activists"

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo World Socialist Web Site Israel: Brutal crackdown on anti-occupation activists By Chris
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2004
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      World Socialist Web Site
      Israel: Brutal crackdown on anti-occupation activists
      By Chris Marsden
      mailto:editor@...
      8 January 2004

      The response of the army, judiciary and the government of
      Ariel Sharon to Jewish opponents of Israel's occupation of
      the West Bank and Gaza--and to foreign peace activists--is
      becoming ever more brutal.

      Israeli protester Gil Na'amati was shot in the legs by
      Israeli Defence Forces troops during a demonstration against
      the West Bank separation fence on December 27 near the
      village of Maskha. In a demonstration organised by
      Anarchists Against the Fence, the protesters were cutting a
      length of the fence when they were met with live fire by the
      IDF--seriously injuring Na'amati and slightly injuring an
      American citizen.

      The IDF regularly use live ammunition to disperse
      Palestinians, but this was the first time troops have opened
      fire on Jewish protesters.

      A military investigation later found the soldiers were
      following the rules of engagement. The IDF said in a
      statement, "Given all the factors involved, including the
      fact that the soldiers felt they were under a real threat,
      the lack of accessible riot control gear and the rules of
      engagement the force was operating under, there was no
      deviation from the normal rules of engagement."

      IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon told reporters he had "full
      confidence in the testimony of the soldiers, who said they
      felt threatened" by the demonstrators and "did not believe
      they were dealing with Israelis."

      Earlier Anarchists Against the Wall and the Association for
      Civil Rights in Israel had organised a press conference
      during which Na'amati's father, Uri, said, "One must be
      drunk to believe the IDF's version" of the circumstances of
      the shooting.

      Uri Na'amati said the IDF soldiers "not only shot Gil, but
      also failed to evacuate him, lied, and did not learn their
      lesson. The IDF version has only one true element--the
      shooter's name."

      According to reports, the material presented at the press
      conference and an independent probe by Haaretz newspaper
      disproves many of the army's claims.

      Video footage taken using three cameras at the site of the
      shooting shows that contrary to the IDF statements, the
      soldiers could not have believed their lives were in danger.
      The soldiers were also aware that the protesters were
      Israelis, because the distance between the troops and the
      demonstrators was just 26 meters rather than the 100 meters
      claimed by Ya'alon when speaking to the Knesset Foreign
      Affairs and Defence Committee. Protesters were shouting at
      the soldiers in Hebrew.

      The footage proves that the soldiers had not warned the
      demonstrators before shooting at them. It shows that
      soldiers were in shooting posture even when demonstrators
      were only shaking the fence. They could not have felt
      threatened because there was no chance the demonstrators
      could get through to the settlement behind the soldiers.
      Zionist settlers felt safe enough to cheer and dance beside
      the soldiers in the back of a pickup truck and were not
      prevented from doing so by the IDF.

      The IDF also maintained that Na’amati was "the chief
      instigator" of violence, but the video shows he arrived late
      on the scene and was not masked as the army claimed.

      Israel began to build what it calls a security fence and its
      opponents often refer to as "The Wall" in June 2002. Costing
      US$1.8 billion, the barrier slices through the Occupied
      Territories splitting villages in two and preventing free
      movement and access for Palestinians to vital services such
      as schools.

      On New Year's Day around 15 people were wounded as they took
      part in another protest against the construction of the
      security fence. Two of those injured were foreign peace
      activists who were taking part in the third such protest in
      the West Bank village of Budrus, near Modi'in.

      Some 30 protesters and one border policeman were injured.

      The security fence runs along the western edge of Bodrus,
      cutting off some farmers from their land. After a
      hundred-strong protest march, some youths began throwing
      stones at soldiers who responded with a volley of tear gas
      and plastic bullets. The IDF imposed a curfew on the village
      and carried out house-to-house searches. Five Palestinians
      were arrested.

      Four Israelis and four foreigners were also arrested,
      including Swedish Green Party MP Gustav Fridolin, who was
      later freed and escorted onto a flight to Stockholm by
      Swedish Embassy officials. Fridolin said that the arresting
      soldiers had "manhandled" him. The other three foreigners
      were Fredrik Batzler from Sweden and Americans Katherine
      Rafael and Kimberly Gray.

      Many of those arrested are activists with the International
      Solidarity Movement, which has been targeted for
      particularly vicious treatment by the Israeli state.

      In March 2003, US citizen Rachel Corrie, 23, was murdered by
      the IDF while trying to stop an army bulldozer demolishing
      Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza
      Strip. On April 5, US citizen Brian Avery, 24, was shot in
      the face in Jenin by IDF soldiers. On April 11, British
      citizen Tom Hurndall was a shot in the head while helping
      Palestinian children flee the scene of IDF gunfire in the
      Rafah. He has been in a coma ever since and is expected to
      die. It was only this month that an IDF soldier admitted to
      shooting Hurndall, claiming it was a deterrence shot.

      Since the start of the Palestinian intifada, the Israeli
      military police have opened only 72 inquiries, and only 13
      prosecutions have resulted from these.

      In another expression of the hard-line stance being taken
      against internal opponents of the occupation of the West
      Bank and Gaza, on July 4 the military court in Jaffa imposed
      one-year prison sentences on five conscientious objectors
      who refused to enlist in the IDF. This is the first time
      since 1981 that conscripts have been tried in a military
      court for refusing to serve in the armed forces on grounds
      of conscience.

      Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor and
      Noam Bahat are high school students who signed a letter
      almost two years ago refusing to enlist in the IDF as long
      as it continued to function as an occupying army.

      They were put in trial for nine months before being
      convicted of gross insubordination for refusing to obey an
      order. The three judges denounced the five conscientious
      objectors as draft dodgers who were giving Israel a bad name
      during a period of conflict that demanded national unity.
      The 14 months that the protesters have already served in
      detention will not be deducted from their sentences. One of
      the judges had recommended harsher sentences of up to 22
      months. Draft-dodging bears a maximum penalty of three years
      in jail.

      The court ruled that the objectors' freedom to follow their
      conscience must be balanced against its impact on national
      security. The court also insisted that as the five acted as
      a group with the explicit goal of bringing about a change in
      Israeli policy, their action was not conscientious objection
      but civil disobedience.

      Most significantly the judges ruled that the sentences were
      meant to serve as a warning to others, especially in light
      of the recent spate of elite reservists refusing to serve in
      the territories. The military prosecutor added that the
      sentence was "significant for the State of Israel" and would
      force the five to "understand the error of their delinquent
      ways."

      Hundreds of soldiers have refused to serve in the West Bank
      and Gaza, including recently 13 members of the elite Sayeret
      Matkal unit. A group of 27 Israeli Air Force pilots also
      issued a letter last September declaring their refusal to
      take part in military operations in the West Bank and Gaza
      Strip. Far more are evading the draft by citing medical
      reasons or religious objections. Hence, the determination of
      the courts to make an example of five young students, when
      dissenters more typically face a month or so in detention.

      The five young men refused to be intimidated. Shimri
      Tzameret predicted, "Ethical people will follow in our
      footsteps. The coming months will see other conscientious
      objectors like us undergoing this process."

      --
      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:
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      "It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
      *anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
      -- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
      _Detective Comics_ #608
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