Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Letter that Didn't Make it into the Jerusalem Post

Your editorial (Descent into violence, Feb. 2) asserts that "the use of force by Israeli citizens against Israeli security personnel is unacceptable. In a democracy, the government retains, and must always retain, a monopoly on the use of force". A monopoly, yes but not an exclusivity I maintain. In a democracy, no citizen should yield up his rights completely.

For example, if an observer had seen a policeman senselessly beating an unarmed citizen and endangering his life, a citizen who was posing no physical threat to the officer of the law and was acting in an obvious non-violent manner, would not that observer be justified in using force to halt that activity? Are not policemen servants of the law, not its masters?

Neither am I referring to Amona. Not yet. I am referring to situations we are all aware of at Birmingham, Alabama 50 years ago and I am referring to Dharasna, India some 80 years ago. Police violence is not an unknown factor in our societies. Illegal police violence is also a recorded fact. "Bull" Connor's dogs galvanized support for the civil rights campaign. British police beating non-violent activists to death during the Free Salt campaign of Gandhi weakened their imperial rule in India.

All of our newspapers commented on the unnecessary use of force by the police at Amona to the extent that citizens' lives were at stake. The video tapes and still photographs attest to that. The throwing of objects at the police by those under attack was in response, an unfortunate one, illegal and counterproductive one, true. Nevertheless, if the Yesha community and its supporters are to be vilified, why not appoint an inquiry commission to make sure that all violent people, demonstrators and police, meet their just punishment?

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