Tuesday, May 17, 2005

An army travels on its stomach, a police force on its...

Last night was the big trial run of some anti-expulsion movements. Throughout the country, intersections were blocked in an illegal protest. Yes, illegal--let's call it what it was; most of these protests had no permit and those which did had no permits for what they ended up doing. But let's add in another fact: they were protesting against the government. Who exactly was going to give them any permit? Did the Ukrainian government give permits to the Orange Revolution? Was Mandela given permits by the South African government?

I have to admit I am of two minds when it comes to roadblocking. As a driver who often needs to get somewhere on time (like to the airport) I despise them. But I know they are effective--they do disrupt normal life, reminding drivers that for some people, life will not be normal again (check out the statistics on those forced to leave the Sinai). (And, of course, nothing the anti-expulsion people can do will rival what the trade unions do by holding general strikes several times a year for weeks at a time.) I understand that permits for anti-disengagment protests are not easy to come by, yet I am almost pathologically law-abiding. I know that every successful grass-roots change of government left some in jail, but selfishly don't want the jailed to include my family.

Others have written about the protests last night. I want to write about a disturbing trend in the police reaction to protest by women and girls. There have been hints here and there on Hebrew language sites, but nothing major, which also disturbs me.

Increasingly, police deal with women, and especially with teenaged girls, through sexual harrassment and humiliation. When the girls protest, they are told to "take it to Internal Affairs--but they won't do anything."

Some of the stories sound like something Newsweek would cover if it were happening in Iraq and it were American soldiers instead of Israeli police, Muslim prisoners instead of Jewish. Three girls have told of how, when they were cuffed hand and foot, policemen groped their chests and between their legs, sometimes with policewomen in the room watching. Girls I know spoke of soldiers who, during last week's protest outside the Beer Shava courtroom, went around lifting the shirts of as many girls as they could catch. (When trying to drag a sit-down protester, I understand you sometimes have to grab the shirt. This was not the case here: the girls said their shirts were lifted when they were standing, and lifted way up.)

Not very much of this is being reported, and understandably. Most of these girls are between 13 and 16. All they know is that they feel abused and humiliated. Most wouldn't even know to whom to turn to report this. Some may feel it's their fault (I knew I was going to a protest where there would be male soldiers. I shouldn't have worn a shirt and skirt, I should have worn a dress with pants underneath...) We've heard all this before; it's the classic story of sexual abuse of those for whom one feels contempt, as a group, as a class, or individually. It's the siren song of absolute power twisted with something inhuman.

I read (again, in the Hebrew press--why doesn't this stuff seem to make the English news) that the State Attorney General is trying to decide if Jewish settlers have the basic human rights guaranteed under Israeli law. Are settlers human?

Rachel Ann calls on even those who are in favor of Sharon's plan to speak out against the silencing of the opposition. I join her call, and add my own. Does anyone think that abusers will stop their abuse once the current question is settled? "Boys will be boys" and they will continue from the Beer Sheva courthouse to Massiyahu Prison to your local neighborhood pub -- and G-d help the girl who gets in their way.

1 comment:

muse said...

Abusers look for victims wherever they are. My brief report from one of the dozens of demonstrations.