Labor Mks Rap Government for ‘over-reaction’ to West Bank Incidents

The Labor Alignment today sharply criticized the government for what it called “unjust over-reaction” to the wave of anti-Israel protests and sporadic incidents of violence on the West Bank in recent days. Victor Shemtov of Mapam, acting chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, has summoned Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to appear before the committee to explain the new policy.

The Labor MKs are disturbed by the harsh punitive measures by the Israeli military, which include blowing up houses of families whose members are accused of participating in acts of violence. One house was demolished in Hebron Monday because a youthful member of the family tossed a Molotov cocktail at a passing bus. The gasoline bomb caused no injuries or damage.

Such measures were reserved for more serious incidents of violence in the past. Shemtov observed that “collective punishment will cause a further deterioration of the situation in the administrated areas. It will tarnish Israel’s image and not improve its security.”

Sharon told reporters last week that Israel’s policy on the West Bank is to treat “gently” those Arabs who cooperate with Israel and to crack down harder than ever on those who do not. Labor MK Yossi Sarid, a party dove, denounced the military measures as “brutality.” Michael Bar-Zohar, a member of Labor’s hawkish wing, criticized them on grounds that they were ineffective.

Meanwhile, Charlie Biton, a Hadash (Communist) MK, created an uproar in the Knesset yesterday and was tossed out of the chamber after he compared Sharon to Hitler. Deputy Speaker Meir Cohen of Likud’s Herut wing, demanded that Biton retract his remarks. Biton refused but agreed to sit down. Cohen ordered him removed and burly ushers escorted him out of the chamber.

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