Sunday, March 05, 2006

Amona, the Alamo of Judea and Samaria

Remember the Alamo! Such was the battle cry of the Texan patriots back in 1835. For ten years the territory of Texas, locked in the middle of a territorial dispute between the United States and Mexico, declared its independence and became the Republic of Texas.

The fighters for Texas’ independence lost a key battle which led them to win the war: the Battle of the Alamo. Few defenders, poorly armed, and with little at all in common besides their desire to fight for Texan freedom, confronted the Mexican army while entrenched inside the building of an old rural mission house. They lost catastrophically, ending up being massacred by the Mexicans. But the news of the massacre led the Texan population into an armed uprising against the forces of the Tyrant Santa Anna.

Remember the Alamo! Remember the Alamo! Before he could realize it, Santa Anna had lost the war; even though he never accepted defeat before a bunch of civilians who did not even count as a regular army. It was only in 1845 that, once the USA officially annexed the territory of Texas, that Mexico recognized having lost it.

With respect to all distances in history and context – or said in a more Jewish way: lehavdil mea havdalot – Israel has just had her own Alamo. For the Jewish dwellers of Judea and Samaria, Amona has become their own Alamo. Having lost Gush Katif and the four northernmost communities in Samaria, the residents of Yesha – the territories liberated by Israel en 1967 but not yet integrated into the State proper – were prepared to launch a resistance campaign that would prevent further surrender of the most sacred Jewish land into the criminal hands of Hamas and the PLO.

Experience through Israel’s legal system with the case of the homes build in Hebron’s Shuk showed how useless is to attempt a struggle through the avenues of law. Even when holding documents proving the legal Jewish entitlement to the Shuk’s land, as well as the explicit authorization by the lawful owner of the land, the Jewish residents had been violently ousted from their homes by Israeli police. The legal system is rendered useless when the government transgresses its democratic limits and orders to proceed in accordance to its extremely dangerous whim.

Nine houses in the Jewish community of Amona were declared illegal by an Israeli kangaroo court that, in fact, served as a puppet for Olmert’s government instead of using impartiality and autonomy. Thousands of buildings occupied by Arabs lack legal permits. Yet, Israel seldom does anything about it. Rather, it waits for a terrorist to come forth from one of them and commit an act of criminal aggression. Only then are orders of evacuation and demolition issued. But when it is about Jewish homes, the procedure is quite different.

The first of February of 2006 the youth active in the preservation of Eretz Israel in Jewish hands, known as the Orange Movement, come up in massive solidarity to the area of Amona threatened with expulsion and demolition. It was a move of support, and it was expected to simply be a protest which would make it clear that the Jewish people shall not easily surrender parts of Eretz Israel that had been liberated at such a high cost, and which with so much heroism had been redeemed. But for the regime of Ehud Olmert, instead, this was an opportunity to show those “orange outlaws” who’s boss in Israel.

Israeli law provides the police with right to use “reasonable force” to enforce the rule of law. Given that there was a court order – let us put aside for now the validity of such order – huge police forces were sent. There were skirmishes between some Jewish activists and Israeli police before dawn, and the road access to Amona had been closed by the Israeli Army. Secret orders were issued forbidding the Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) ambulances to enter until after a good deal of Jewish blood had been spilled. The Orange Youth, accompanied by grown ups and even three Members of Knesset, reached Amona through a “Burma Road”, a path crossing a nearby Arab village. Miraculously, there were no casualties, no body was attacked, and the local Arab population did not close them the pass.

At dawn the nine new houses of Amona’s new urban sprawl were filled to capacity with entrenched youth, unarmed, willing to resist passively. There were people in the rooftops of the houses, and graffiti and hanged signs announced clearly the claim of Jewish possession of, and the right to live in, ALL of Eretz Israel. A fifteen-year-old girl wrote with red paint in a near-by rock: “The true rule is that of G-d”. Olmert’s abusive authority was not recognized.

A family in Amona, already living in one of the homes, hoped to repeat the images of Gush Katif, and expected to be taken of their home against their will, but without a fight. They only wished to make known their opposition to the government. They still believed in a remnant of democracy. How naïve of them!

From the rooftop of one of the houses a bearded young man sang with his guitar a Hebrew song, as the halutzim – early pioneers – used to sing back in the nineteen twenties. Suddenly, police appeared every where with full battle gear, as it is used to break violent protests: full body shield, heavy hard wooden sticks, steal helmets and transparent face guards. Behind them there was a water-cannon vehicle…

A multitude of protestors encircled the houses, crossing arms with one another forming ring chains. Others courageously approached the police to argue. But there was no argument, the beating started. From the rooftops the youngsters started to yell slogans. A Member of Knesset, backed by the parliamentary immunity that the Law provides, addressed the police. He was not respected, and the strike of a policeman’s held stick fractured his arm. Another Member of Knesset stood on a vehicle. He was pushed violently. The third Member of Knesset was a victim of the aggression of a police horseman. It was then that the protest turn, rather, into a pogrom. Hundreds of mounted policemen came on at full gallop, to beat up protestors mercilessly. All the barriers of resistance were instantly broken. The protestors made a line of burning tires, and jumped in front of it, hoping to stop the police advance. The beating was atrocious. In a couple of minutes there was no more resistance on the ground. In its place, there were now injured people everywhere. Members of the Magen David Adom – who by law possess the right to pass through all roadblocks and to enter wherever they are needed – were attacked by police to prevent them from picking up the injured. Even as they were informed of the desperate need for medical assistance, the army insisted in preventing the entrance of ambulance.

The police broke through doors and windows and entered the houses to brutally beat the youths, who had agreed to sit peacefully, expecting to be simply hauled out. Bulldozers brought groups of policemen to the rooftops of the houses, to violently beat up protestors, not allowing them to surrender or to flee. Injured, many of them unconscious, they were finally brought down the lathers, or in bulldozer’s scoops.

Being most orange youths religiously observant, the entrenched youngsters were divided by gender: there were houses occupied by males, and houses occupied by females. The police brutally beat the youngsters mercilessly and without difference. But with the young women there was even greater aggravation. Men with the power to brutalize above – or in absence – of the Law. Brute men, with no fear of G-d, empowered by a corrupt and abusive government. Defenseless teenage girls, present there only by the innocence of faith and youthful idealism. A fantastic opportunity to be inside four walls were no cameras were recording what could happen…

An older woman could have, at least, counted with the strength of age to return a punch or to push away an attacker. These were very young girls. Fourteen, fifteen and sixteen years of age. Brutalized through beating. Easy victims. How easy was to grab them and touch them anywhere! They lifted the skirt of one of them and torn her underwear. They pushed a long wooden stick so far so far inside her that made her bleed profusely. They yelled at her: “You the religious are having children like rabbits! We want to make sure you have no more children!” The girl, whose name has not been revealed respecting her mother’s pleadings, was left barren. She was only fifteen! The girls were there ordered through yelling: “Get out, whores!” and were then thrown out. Without any charge of conscience they were further beating outside, where the lenses of cameras captured images of brutality, and notoriously the blood in the stick of a police officer whom the government still refuses to identify.

The homes of nine Jewish families in Amona were destroyed. When the day was over, the policemen returned home untroubled. Ehud Olmert, the acting Prime Minister, asked for silence, y launched a press release with a version of the story already prepared before the events actually took place. According to the official version, there was merely a “confrontation between the settlers and the police”. According to the official version, the “settlers attacked the police with stones and blocks of cement” and “it was necessary to bring hundreds of police officers to carry on with the orders of demolition.” Olmert claimed, before a full Knesset session, that “there were no abuses on the police’s side” and that “the request of three Members of Knesset is only a political move, intended as electoral propaganda.” We’d read “nothing happened here.” The Knesset voted by a landslide to veto Olmert, and to start immediately with an investigative committee.

Even as the issue is being reviewed, Olmert goes on with his policy of abusive discrimination against the Jewish residents of Yesha. At least two major residential expulsions have taken place between the Amona pogrom and the hour of writing these lines. In the first case, the expulsion took place at dawn, without prior notice. In the second, the expulsion was ordered on the spot, fifteen minutes before Shabbos. The Jewish residents, observant Jews, were forced to violate the sacred Sabbath in order to fulfill Olmert’s whim! Of course, in the Sabbath there were no cameramen recording evidence of what shameful acts the police could commit. But even more pathetically: the forced evictions are being carried about without court orders. The residents are simply ordered out, and the police would then take care of packing up the belongings.

Olmert feels that he is a great hero, such a macho. He has the power to jerk the candy from a child, and he likes using it. It does not matter to him to whom does the land of Israel belong, or if the land from which Jews have been evicted will end up in the hands of Hamas. He hopes to win the elections with his new image.

Israeli electorate: at the time of voting, remember Amona!

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