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(en) Israel-Palestine, Just one day texts reffering to the Anarchists Against The Wall from the daily haaretz.com English edition

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 14 Apr 2004 17:44:50 +0200 (CEST)

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How not to disperse demonstrators - By Arnon Regular
During demonstrations last weekend at Biddu village, northwest
of Jerusalem, it appeared that protesters objecting to the
separation fence and Israeli security forces had adopted clear
"rules of the game." A few hundred residents from the village,
along with left-wing demonstrators in the Anarchists Against the
Wall group (some of them from overseas) came out day after day
to protest the construction of the fence. Well-equipped Border
Police units surrounded the village, and a few hundred meters
from where the security forces were deployed, six or seven
bulldozers plowed away areas where the fence is to be built,
sometimes ruining agricultural areas.

A number of groups of protesters, each one comprising of a few
dozen demonstrators, hassled the Border Police units, throwing
rocks at them, and sometimes using slingshots to hurl the
projectiles. Playing its part, the Border Police fired tear gas
canisters at the demonstrators. Then there was one Border
Policeman, or IDF soldier, who shot rubber-coated bullets at the
protesters from a distance of 70-80 meters. About every 30
minutes, one of the demonstrators was injured, and dragged by
fellow protesters a few dozen meters back, to a pick-up point
where a Red Crescent ambulance was waiting to bring them to the
village's health clinic.

These well-defined roles in the recent Biddu demonstrations come
as responses to events in the village last February, in which three
Palestinians were killed, and over 50 were injured. The recent
demonstrations have been a kind of ceremony, play-acting in
which the two sides follow newly established codes that prevent
the conflict from becoming too violent.

The problem is that these Biddu confrontations are the exception,
and not the rule in the West Bank. In Biddu, it appears the sides
have come prepared to the recent, much publicized, conflict: the
anarchist protesters, and the Israeli security forces, are organized
and coached in ways that prevent lethal violence. Yet a Haaretz
investigation reveals that confrontation realities are very different
in other West Bank Palestinian villages that border the Green Line
- these include Beit Lahia, Bitunya and Herbata.

Examination of video and still photograph footage of events, along
with eyewitness accounts from participants in anti-fence
demonstrations since the start of March, reveals a disturbing
pattern of behavior on the part of IDF, Border Police and civilian
security personnel who help the IDF disperse crowds.

Also, in various West Bank locales, some of the left-wing
demonstrators, such as the brothers Yonatan and Shai Polak,
behave in a far more militant and provocative fashion than what
has been in display recently in the Anarchists Against the Wall
protests in Biddu. Yonatan Polak taunts the soldiers, telling them
to refuse orders related to the fence. The demonstrators mock and
jeer the soldiers, chanting out sexual innuendo and relying on
other forms of verbal provocation that has not been witnessed
before in political protests in the territories.

While the protesters sometimes cross the line, the most troubling
aspect of the protests is the lack of a clear code of behavior for the
IDF soldiers. If in Biddu the soldiers seem to have drawn
conclusions from past tragedies, troops in other locales appear to
behave in a far less disciplined fashion, and do not appear
obligated to clearly defined rules of engagement.

On April 1, no work was done on the separation fence in Bitunya,
but a protest group nonetheless staged a demonstration in an area
where IDF bulldozers were parked. A group of 50 protesters
arrived at an area guarded by what appear on film to be mostly
IDF reservists. Originally, there were from five to eight soldiers,
and a few jeeps. The demonstrators approached to within a few
meters of the soldiers, who seemed confused and at a loss as to
how to respond. For 90 minutes, the demonstrators chanted
slogans, taunted and cursed the soldiers; as the protest finally
ended, and while the demonstrators dispersed, soldiers in a jeep
decided to ride toward them. Yonatan Polak and two fellow
demonstrators stood in the jeep's path; the army vehicle

The two protesters jumped out of the way; Polak jumped onto the
front of the jeep. For reasons that are unclear, the jeep continued
to charge forward; Polak came within a whisker of suffering
serious injury. At this stage, the scene became ugly: the soldiers
can be seen firing rubber bullets at Polak and other demonstrators,
who took cover behind some boulders about 50 meters from the
soldiers. The demonstrators, at this stage, posed absolutely no
threat to the soldiers; the film captures the soldiers firing rubber
bullets for no apparent reason. After Polak and other
demonstrators sustained injuries, the soldiers appeared not to
know what they should do next. One soldier proposed that IDF
medics should be summoned; another shouts "the Palestinians
will evacuate them."

This clumsy and dangerous scene from Bitunya resembles a
number of incidents that occurred over the past month in the
West Bank. Some events involved trained policemen; others
involved regular IDF solders and reservists. The incidents
involving soldiers are typically characterized by chaos - the
soldiers utilize improvised solutions, and it is clear they lack
training in crowd dispersal. In several cases, the soldiers appear
ill-acquainted with crowd dispersal equipment in their own
possession - as the events unfold, officers instruct them as to how
to use the rubber bullets or tear gas canisters. In many cases, an
IDF soldier can be seen firing several rubber bullets in succession,
without taking aim.

There are also cases of hand-to-hand combat in which soldiers
appear not to know how to act. For instance, in one incident on
March 8 at Beit Lahia, protesters moved to within a few meters of
the soldiers, who fired bullets haplessly into the air, or flailed with
clubs. In this demonstration, soldiers fired rubber bullets from a
number of different positions and distances - from 20 to 50 to 100
meters from protesters; sometimes, the soldiers took aim with the
rubber bullets, and on other occasions they fired indiscriminately
at the protesters. At one stage, a guard from a private security
company appears to be hysterical, and fires shots from a rifle at
the ground, in front of the group of demonstrators. His behavior
clearly violates all established rules of engagement.

Apart from the recent demonstrations at Biddu, aspects of these
chaotic scenes from Bitunya and Beit Lahia can be observed in all
anti-fence demonstrations staged around the West Bank.

Analysis / Ongoing nightmare for the military - By Amos Harel

When the political leadership decided after a delay of two years to
accelerate construction of the separation fence, it's doubtful it
considered the barrier's repercussions on the Israel Defense
An artillery unit the size of a brigade was originally deployed to
guard construction of the fence from Elkana to the Jerusalem
region. But as protests against the fence expanded in size and
intensity, larger deployments of IDF troops were needed to
constrain these demonstrations.

It turns out that guarding the work-in-progress fence in the field
has turned out to be a taxing military challenge for IDF

Today, no less than five companies are deployed regularly to
handle the protests. A few infantry battalions will soon be needed
to evacuate five settlement outposts in the West Bank. With so
much manpower allocated to deal with the fence and the outposts,
it's a wonder the IDF has time for anti-terror operations in the
West Bank.

The "Anarchists Against the Wall" protesters are objectionable
types. They are crude and provocative, and resort to violence to
rattle the soldiers. When Yonatan Polak, the most strident and
vocal member of the group, hurled himself onto a moving IDF
jeep, he was clearly trying to create a provocation that would win
media attention. Nor does Polak put much stock in trifling matters
like court decisions: Yesterday, he explained that efforts to disrupt
the bulldozers would continue, even though court petitions
protesting the work were rejected.

Just as surely, the (edited) film clips that members of the group
disseminate do not not protect them against palpable dangers - in
other words, though the protesters circulated the footage to win
sympathy for their cause, the only sure thing that can be said after
viewing the films is that the protesters' lives are at risk.

"Dispersal of a civilian demonstration never looks good," bemoans
a senior IDF officer. Such laments relate to an objective truth:
what the first Palestinian intifada revealed holds true 16 years
later. The IDF, which excels in high precision offensive
operations, stumbles with the thankless task of dealing with
civilians, some of whom resort to violent methods. The same
army that gained control (without causing injuries to either side)
of a psychiatric hospital in Bethlehem housing terror suspects
finds it difficult to obtain the same results when confronting
women, youths and elderly civilians who protest the separation

Last Update: 14/04/2004 16:52
12 protesters hurt during protest against West Bank fence
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and

Some 12 people were wounded Wednesday during during clashes
between Border Police officers and protesters demonstrating
against the West Bank separation fence under construction
between the villages of Biddu and Beit Ajaza, west of Jerusalem.
Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the

Ten Palestinians were hurt, including a 12-year-old Palestinian
boy who was seriously injured after being hit in the head by a
rubber-coated bullet.

Two Israeli protesters were also lightly hurt in their legs.

There are almost daily protests near this section of the fence,
which is close to the Israeli town of Mevasseret Zion. Hundreds of
Biddu residents, as well as five to ten members of the Anarchists
Against the Wall groups and foreign left-wing protesters
participate in the demonstrations.

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