JERUSALEM (Jan. 2)
Police intervention in an ecumenical peace demonstration around the Old City walls Saturday has had a bitter aftermath in Israel and brought at least one formal protest from a foreign government whose nationals were injured.
The Peace Now movement, which organized the event, accused the police of “excessive” use of force.
The rally brought together thousands of Jews, Arabs and peace advocates from abroad, who joined hands to encircle the wall.
Although the demonstration was undisturbed for the most part, tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon used at one site put a number of people in hospitals, and more than a few arrests were made.
A police investigation, completed in just one day, concluded Sunday that the use of force was justified. The police insisted it was a legitimate response to the provocation of some Palestinians, who waved outlawed Palestinian flags and shouted nationalist slogans.
Peace Now has charged that the show of police force it terms excessive was deliberately planned by senior government officials, to show that Jews and Arabs cannot hold a rally together peacefully in Jerusalem.
Tzali Reshef, one of the movement’s leaders, told a news conference that Peace Now would not accept the police findings and would ask the attorney general to investigate.
Peace Now spokesman Amiram Goldblum said a senior police officer told him even before the rally began that it would not end peacefully.
ITALIANS LODGE FORMAL PROTEST
The Israeli news agency Itim quoted security sources as saying the peace demonstration was planned by the Palestine Liberation Organization in Vienna last September, along with the Non-Governmental Organizations Central Committee.
In Rome, meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry instructed the Italian ambassador to Tel Aviv, Leoncini Bartoli, to lodge a formal protest over the indignities suffered by Italians who took part in the peace demonstration.
About 900 Italians participated. Ten of them were injured when Israeli police opened fire with water cannon to break up a “human chain.”
The most serious injury was sustained by Mariza Manno, a 40-year-old tourist from Naples who lost her right eye. She was hurt by glass splinters when police fired water cannon at the Pilgrim Hotel, near the Old City wall, where she was staying.
Manno is still under treatment at the St. John Ophthalmic Hospital in East Jerusalem.
The Italian Foreign Ministry was particularly upset by the arrest and hospitalization of Dacia Valent, an Italian member of the European Parliament.
In Rome, Communist members Italy’s Parliament urged Foreign Minister Gianni de Michelis to call for the immediate intervention of the European Community to stop Israeli violence against non-violent demonstrations for peace.
At least three pro-Palestinian groups from the Netherlands participated in the Jerusalem demonstration.
(JTA correspondent Ruth E. Gruber in Rome contributed to this report.)