Photo: Reuters
Police struggle with protester at Kfar Maimon
Photo: Reuters

Anti-democratic and stupid

No reason to block drivers from traveling to Netivot, writes Ofer Shelah

Photographs of clashes between settlers and security forces at the Kissufim Crossing show clearly the dilemma faced by law enforcement officials.


A minority of demonstrators forced hundreds of IDF soldiers, police officers and border policemen in order to stop their progress towards the Gaza border.




Just multiply that number by the number of protesters currently headed from Kfar Maimon toward the crossing to understand the challenge they present for security forces.


In addition, the language settlers are using is threatening. People claim they are “disgusted” at being associated with individuals who have chosen illegal paths, but rush on the other hand to say “preventing protest causes violence.”



The Yesha Council must decide: Either people such as Yigal Amir are not affected by such organized protests, and any connection between them is collective accusation and incitement, or we are speaking about a society that will turn to violence if prevented from demonstrating.


You can’t have it both ways.


Undemocratic, police intervention


Still, the police decision to prevent chartered buses from traveling to Netivot yesterday was undemocratic and a serious public mistake.


The claim that people were traveling to an illegal demonstration, and therefore it was proper to stop them, crosses the boundaries of legitimate public authority.


An illegal demonstration (in actuality, it was a demonstration without a permit, but “illegal” sounds so much worse) is a demonstration the police have every right to disperse. This is not to say that authorities have the right to threaten bus drivers in order to prevent people from traveling to the demonstration.


There is no justification for limiting freedom of movement of thousands of people without proof they intend on acting violently, blocking traffic, or doing anything else that would justify such a move.


The photographs of stranded buses only strengthen the protesters’ message. They presented the government as a hysterical and demonstrators as individuals determined to exercise their right to move freely, prepared even to walk to Netivot.


It was a political stunt, but that’s not really the point.


How not to enforce a democracy


The disengagement plan was approved by a government decision and a Knesset vote. The authorities responsible for implementing those decisions must try their best to do so.


If there is a reasonable suspicion protesters might try to break into the Gaza Strip using unacceptable, or even dangerous methods, they must stop them, perhaps even from approaching the strip. They must use necessary force, as well as their powers of arrest and punishment.


If someone organizes a protest without a police license, the law provides enough power to punish that person. But there is huge gap between that and preventing people from Kiryat Shemone from traveling to Netivot.


As usual, the responsibility for breaking this norm fall on the shoulders of the executive branch.


Since yesterday, police have repeated over and over, that the decision to ban the march was taken my Police Chief Moshe Karadi.


Karadi himself said the police made the decision without intervention from politicians.


Missing government


Internal Security Minister Gidon Ezra was forced to defend police, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government, who convene to debate every minor issue, have suddenly been left out of the loop.


As if an issue that affected the rights of thousands of citizens and a political fight that is gripping the nation, isn’t important enough to concern government ministers.


It is impossible not to recall many other instances in which the IDF was saddled with responsibility for government decisions, the army’s supreme commander.


Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens once called it “politicians hiding behind the skirts of extremists.”


The only difference is that this time, it’s the color of the left—blue, not khaki.


פרסום ראשון: 07.19.05, 20:30
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