Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Middle East's Only Democracy?

The violation of the right to free expression (if you happen to oppose the government's expulsion policy) is being violated so often now in Israel that I thought twice about posting this: This isn't news, this is boring! Then I changed my mind. Every despicable act of this government should and has to be publicized! If we value our civil rights we have protest every violation of them! From Arutz 7:
It happened last night, twice. A busload of 30 members of the Bnei Akiva youth movement from Peduel in the Shomron had arrived in Petach Tikvah, and was in the process of dropping off three groups of youngsters. Their mission: to hang banners against the withdrawal plan, and to distribute stickers and flyers to passing motorists.

Suddenly, a large group of Border Guard and special Yassam unit policemen surrounded the group of 8th graders, ordered them to return to the bus, and instructed the driver to turn around and head back to Peduel. In the meantime, another group had similarly been stopped, and forced to wait for the bus to pick them up.

The police even confiscated the passengers' identity cards, saying that they would return them only once the bus crossed the Oranim checkpoint on its way back to the Shomron.

Eitan, one of the 8th graders stopped by the police, told Arutz-7 today, "It was frustrating, because we were unable to do what we came to do, and it was also very embarrassing, being held there by the police in front of everyone..."

Shortly before this incident, another busload of people carrying Passover care packages from the Shilo area, north of Ofrah and Jerusalem, was delayed by police for 90 minutes. The bus was finally permitted to continue, but only with a police escort.

Last night, Yesha Council head Bentzy Lieberman phoned police officials, who did not deny that the incidents had taken place. The Council, which represents the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, released a statement saying that if the police continue to "fall upon innocent citizens and do not maintain the delicate balance between the fundamental rights of protest and expression and the fear of public disturbances, we will call upon the public not to adhere to police instructions in the future, with all that that entails."

Acknowledging that the call is a harsh one, Council Spokesperson Emily Amrousi said that it comes in response to a harsh situation - namely, the police disruption of lawful and protected activities by which those who object to government policy may present their views to the public.

Amrousi said that the police are causing added tensions, instead of reducing them, by stopping innocent people and treating them like criminals. "They have turned the Yesha protests into something illegitimate," she said.

A police spokesman told Arutz-7 this morning that though he was not familiar with the details of last night's incidents, police are generally not permitted to confiscate citizens' ID cards. Only when there is a suspicion that the bearer is fraudulently using someone else's card, or that the card is forged, or when the bearer is under arrest or officially detained, or in similar cases, are the police permitted to take an ID card, the spokesman said.

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