JERUSALEM (Nov. 13)
A dispute has broken out between Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan and other Cabinet ministers over his statement yesterday that Israel is stiffening its response to terrorist activities by use of collective punishment. “Neighborhood punishment” was the term he used to newsmen to describe the recently-begun practice of demolition of homes of Arabs who had been uncooperative in investigations of terrorism or who had declined to come forward with information.
It was understood today that Gen. Dayan’s pronouncement has been criticized by Foreign Minister Abba Eban.
A statement issued by Prime Minister Golda Meir’s office following a Cabinet meeting indicated that General Dayan’s statement did not represent official Government policy.
Meanwhile, Arabs in Jerusalem said that the inauguration of village and “neighborhood punishment” has triggered the biggest exodus from the occupied areas since the 1967 war. Arabs said that 200 families had already fled.
The Defense Minister said Israel would no longer tolerate a “double standard” from occupied territory Arabs in that they could no longer ask Israeli protection from Palestine terrorist organizations and at the same time refuse to give security forces information about the terrorists’ presence and activities.
In one case, he said, an Israeli merchant was murdered in Gaza and the killers remained for hours in the area where everyone must have known of their presence. “Later on, not one would volunteer information on the color of the murderer’s shirt,” he said. He acknowledged that the security situation in Gaza had deteriorated and warned that Arab leaders there would be deported if they failed to cooperate in abating the situation.
The toughening of Israeli policy in the occupied areas became evident last month when security officers began blowing up houses–18 in all–in Halhul village near Hebron. This action followed the murder of an Army officer who had been part of a search party looking for terrorists who previously killed five Arab “collaborators” in the village.
Since the Oct. 13 murder in Gaza of the town’s only Jewish shopkeeper, eight houses have been demolished there. The murdered Jew, from B’nai B’rak, was an exponent of Israeli-Arab rapprochement and had to become one of the leading promoters of Arab-made wares in Israel. “In Gaza, we have been getting tougher,” said Gen. Dayan, “because the situation has been clearly getting out of hand. The question is what will happen there in the future. We have no intention of leaving the Gaza area or any other area and must guarantee a minimum of security.”
Israel has blown up homes since 1967 as a method of combating Arab terrorism. However, in the past Arab houses were destroyed only when a direct connection between the house owner and saboteuers was established. Israeli military sources said that in recent days owners or inhabitants saw terrorists prepare to attack and failed to notify occupation authorities. After raids they also did not help the authorities trace the terrorists.