They Didn't Use Enough Force

The overall weakness and lack of police force in demolishing outposts when necessary can be seen as a contributing factor to the violent scenes in Amona last week.

The police forces that operated at Amona were violent and brutal as usual, though this violence was limited in comparison to what we have become accustomed to witnessing - there was no live fire, or even tear gas, rubber-coated bullets or other measures Israel uses against demonstrations in Bil'in, for example. This is good. The fact that Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and non-violent demonstrators against the separation fence can only dream of police batons being used against them does not make the excessive violence at Amona desirable. It is true that the police acted in Amona against violent and dangerous lawbreakers, who require violent handling, but there is still a difference between a necessary response and excessive violence. (When the same police force acts brutally against innocents, from Russian prostitutes to bicyclists who complain to policemen about their wild driving, no one demands a committee of inquiry be established.)

But the important question is not the extent of violence exercised this time, but the extent of force - and this should be distinguished from the violence the state has exercised for years against those who challenge it. Against the settlers, it employs very weak force, too weak. Anyone who is now boasting about the enforcement of law at Amona is bluffing: Amona still remains, thanks to the legal authorities that for years have acted with harmful weakness, with governments lending a hand to criminal acts. The demolition of nine illegal homes does nothing at all to atone for this.

In fact, the scenes at Amona were unnecessary. If government representatives were truly guided by a desire to protect the law, not a single building would have arisen there. The police should have been there when the foundations for the first homes were poured on the stolen land. Inspectors from the Civil Administration should have been there when the first street light was erected. The High Court of Justice should have made a determined statement after receiving the first petition from Peace Now. The feebleness of these entities was what subsequently compelled the dispatching of a violent cavalry to the scene of the crime.

But Amona is an individual case, marginal in importance. The territories are strewn with Amonas. If the state had exercised force against them, we would have avoided the scenes of violence we witnessed and will witness at the next Amonas. Those who released the violent demonstrators at Homesh and Kfar Darom without bringing them to court received the rock throwers at Amona and are liable to receive gunfire at the next evacuation.

When the state formulates a scandalous plea bargain with the squatters in the Hebron market, it sets the stage for the next violent battle. When the state allows the daily takeover and construction on stolen lands, it not only gives a green light to lawbreaking, it becomes a lawbreaker itself. When for years the police and state prosecutor have refrained from indicting uprooters and looters, lawbreakers and abusers, and the courts release on bail suspected killers of Palestinians - the legal authorities become responsible for the rocks thrown at policemen. From the first Civil Administration official to the last High Court justice, all are partners - including the media. Central, important parts of the media, especially the reporters on settlement affairs, for years portrayed the settlement enterprise with rhetorical descriptions of pioneering and values, distinguishing between the "moderates" and the "extremists," voicing pious words about the need for "reconciliation" and "unity" and, in particular, blurring the criminal injustice that underlies the entire settlement enterprise.

In the meantime, armed militias arose in the territories, imposing their terror on frightened citizens, and no one thought about fighting them. Now, as the golem is rising up against its creator, the elite police forces are being called in to confront this phenomenon after it has already strengthened its hold on thousands of teenagers who lack all moral and legal inhibitions.

Only now, when the rocks are flying at the policemen, do we remember to be appalled. Where were all these shocked people when the rocks and bullets were directed against Palestinians? Where was the judicial system when hundreds of lawbreaking settlers were acquitted or not even indicted? And where was Ehud Olmert, who is now seeking to fashion for himself the image of a determined statesman and knight of the rule of law?

Suddenly the state awoke from its stupor, horrified at the sight of the "wild weeds" growing in its midst. The military reporter Roni Daniel recalled at the end of the week how he once heard the mythological farmer, the late Zerubavel Arbel from Maoz Haim, tell the Haaretz columnist Israel Harel, a resident of the settlement of Ofra, where the weeds grow: not at the edge of the field, as the settlers claim, but by the main irrigation outlets piping water into the fields. In our fields, the wild crops grew next to the main water springs, and we closed our eyes.