There is certainly more than one reason for the ongoing scandal regarding the non-evacuation of the illegal West Bank outposts, a matter on which the prime minister and defense minister trade accusations in a way that sounds farcical. But it's clear that one of the reasons is the trauma of Amona. The government fears that outpost evacuation will be accompanied by serious violence and that it will be the one to pay the public price, which is what happened following the 2006 evacuation of the Amona outpost.
Those who organized the violence at Amona, then, achieved their goal - belligerent intimidation of the government. They stated from the beginning that they would oppose the evacuation with force - with great force - and they kept to their word, winning big from the fact that the suppression of the violence they instigated looked bad on camera.
I saw a live television broadcast that showed mounted police twice attempting to disperse the crowd without using their clubs. Both times, they were warded off with a shower of stones that were big enough to be seen clearly on the screen. The third time, the mounted police used their clubs, and naturally, this looked bad. Of course, the evening news showed just the third attack, and since then those images have been broadcast again and again.
This doesn't mean that there wasn't also excessive and superfluous police violence, or that the police should be exempt from criticism. But in order to determine that police used excessive force, one must first accurately describe the force used against them, and that is something people tend not to do within the pseudo-humanitarian discourse developing in the wake of these events.
This discourse refuses to view keeping Israeli police officers' skulls intact as a humanitarian consideration. In addition, even when the police are legitimately criticized for an excess reaction to violence, it is the instigators of the violence who must be condemned first and foremost. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to gain political profit from the result of the confrontation they forced on the police.
The heroes and supporters of Amona are not alone. In its investigation of the October 2000 riots, which led to the deaths of 13 Arabs during clashes with police, the Or Commission - which did not shy away from criticizing the police - wrote the following about the conduct of Arab public officials.
"A pattern of threats of serious violence and of the use of violence for the sake of achieving various goals was engendered... Ahead of 2000, and during that year [there was] a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of clashes with police. Even though the slide from organized protests to unrestrained riots was consistently repeated, the Arab leadership did not make an effort to stop the deterioration toward violence... In addition, in the days following each event, public officials, in their statements and speeches, tended to heap praise on the protest activities, including violent activities."
The leaders described thus by the Or Commission emerged victorious in the public debate that developed after the publication of the commission's report, since that debate focused entirely on criticism of the police. This was the case even though the commission determined that before and during the riots, Arab leaders "transmitted messages encouraging violence," that "the intensity of the violence and aggression... was very high," and that this included "live fire in isolated cases." But who got to hear about the live fire? Not even one percent of the public debate dealt with that.
Police brutality against civilians is a real risk everywhere, and in Israel it's clear that Arab civilians are at greater risk than Jewish ones. We must deal with this risk - but fairly, without the language laundering that covers up deliberate political violence, and without rewarding that violence.
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