The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is appalled by reports that seven Jewish girls between the ages of 13 and 15, who were among those arrested three weeks ago for helping establish an outpost at Givat Haor near Beth-El in Judea, were taken to Binyamin Prison where, according to one of their mothers, The girls were asked to remove their clothes. They refused to do so, [and] they were handcuffed and forcibly stripped … These girls are devout and chaste. They have never worn a bikini in their lives. For them, the experience is tantamount to rape. The seven girls were also denied sleep. They have not been released because neither they nor their parents have agreed to divulge their names (Jerusalem Post, January 15, 2008).
This disturbing incident parallels an earlier one in February 2006 when the Israeli government sent armed and mounted riot troops to evacuate the 30 families living in Amona, near the town of Ofra in Judea, and destroy their homes.
On that occasion, huge numbers of Israeli riot police came to the town of Amona and physically attacked the teenage and adult protesters there. Many witnesses stated that the attacks, which included beatings through the use of horses, kickings, and batons, were largely unprovoked. Several teenage girls testified thus:
- Rivka K. We were a bunch of girls…trying to be a passive force against the police…with no warning, the police just rushed us, crushed us, hit us with their clubs.
- Shlomit T. I was just standing with the other girls…Our goal was to use passive resistance…The police started right away with the clubs…I was hit on my face and leg.
- Elazar K. We were planning to stand in a line and show passive resistance…The police came, with their horses, like a long powerful wave…Without talking to us…they charged toward us with full force, hitting us also with their clubs.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are simply shocked at this latest report of Israeli police abuse and unnecessary use of force and coercion upon defenseless religious teenage Jewish girls who generally have an especially high sensitivity when their standards of modesty are violated. We fail to understand why, at a time when Israel is facing huge problems — the continuing descent of Gaza into a world headquarters of terror, the smuggling of offensive weaponry by terrorists into Gaza, incessant rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns which are being increasingly abandoned by their residents — the Israeli government chooses to use degrade and humiliate unarmed Israeli civilians, especially teenage girls. At a time when Abbas has refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, when Fatah officials have stated they will fight alongside Hamas if Israel launches a counter-offensive against the terrorists in Gaza, and when Fatah has produced a new poster expunging Israel from the map of the Middle East, this act, which would be wrong at any time, sends a terrible message of Israeli weakness, appeasement and moral confusion to the Palestinian Arabs.
We are even more disturbed since, only last week, the ZOAs Israel Director, Jeff Daube also experienced Israeli police abuse and false arrest. Daube and two other activists were detained and brought to the Russian Compound police station in Jerusalem merely for peacefully distributing factual, non-classified material on Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, detailing their anti-peace actions.
We hope that the statement by the Judea and Samaria District Police spokesman, who said in response that the issue will be thoroughly investigated if a complaint is received, will be acted upon. We urge the Olmert government to investigate the matter promptly to ensure that these cruel and unnecessarily violent methods are not deployed again against unarmed Israeli civilians.