JERUSALEM (Jan. 25)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin defended his controversial policy of beatings and curfews to counter unrest in the administered territories. He told military correspondents here Monday that they have brought relative calm to the area.
Rabin said the reduction in the number of shootings is a significant achievement and stressed that any beatings occurred “while violence was taking place, not before it and not after.”
The defense minister admitted there were several cases where excessive force was used, but on the whole the soldiers behaved properly. He promised that all cases where they allegedly exceeded their orders would be investigated.
Rabin has come under fire in Israel and abroad since he announced last week that the Israel Defense Force is under orders to pursue and vigorously beat Palestinian demonstrators, while cutting back on the use of live ammunition.
On Sunday, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, condemned “the indiscriminate beating of Arabs” as “an offense to the Jewish spirit” that “violates every principle of human decency” and “betrays the Zionist dream.”
In a cable to President Chaim Herzog, he warned that the policy wold serve only to “shift the responsibility for the neglect and abuse of the Palestinians from the Arab (countries) to the shoulders of Israel.”
Last Friday, Theodore Ellenoff, national president of the American Jewish Committee, cabled Israeli leaders, saying the use of “physical violence” is undercutting Israel’s positive image in the United States. He urged them to be “more imaginative” in finding a solution to Palestinian unrest in the administered territories.
COMPLAINT AGAINST ‘TORTURE’
In Israel, Felicia Langer, an Israeli lawyer who has long defended Palestinians charged with security offenses, lodged a complaint with Attorney General Yosef Harish on Monday against “the torture of residents of the Gaza Strip by the illegal use of force, in line with the policy of Defense Minister Rabin.”
She demanded an immediate investigation of the parties who gave the “illegal orders” and those who carried them out.
Some Palestinians in the territory hold American citizenship. Three so far have filed complaints at the United States Consulate in East Jerusalem that they were beaten by Israeli soldiers. Two of the complainants claimed they were in their homes when soldiers burst in and began “striking everyone in sight.”
A military spokesman said persons who feel they have complaints should file them with the local military authorities.
No serious disturbances were reported in the territories Monday. There were several minor incidents of rock-throwing and a few roadblocks were reported. The commercial strike by East Jerusalem merchants continued into its third week.
Rabin conceded that conditions have not returned to normal in the territories and that it was still necessary to maintain a large IDF force in the West Bank an Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Voice of Israel Radio reported Monday that a new body, known as the United National Leadership, has surfaced in the territories to guide the unrest which, initially, was spontaneous. The report said Israeli sources are not certain whether the new body exists in substance or is merely a name.
(New York correspondent Andrew Silow Carroll contributed to this report.)