Security crackdown bypasses Jews

March 08, 1994|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- Baruch Marzel is one of the most popular media interviews around right now.

The head of Kach, a radical settlers' organization, is officially "wanted" by the Israeli government. They say they cannot find him -- or two more of the five wanted radicals. But he has been available for television, radio and newspaper interviews.

Similarly, the government announced that it would disarm sett- lers after the Feb. 25 massacre of Muslim worshipers in Hebron by a Kach member, and it announced a travel closure on the Jewish settlements there.

But the "less than 100" settlers whom the Israeli police minister said would be disarmed translated into disarmament orders against only 18. And of those 18, only five have been served with the orders.

The curfew on Hebron still is enforced strictly against the 100,000 Arabs who live in the city. But the 6,000 Jews in the settlements there come and go easily, and they still move about Hebron with automatic weapons.

The restrictions against settlers announced by the government after last month's mass murder in a Hebron mosque have turned out to be more publicity than fact.

Although Arabs were the victims of this incident, the 2 million Palestinians in the occupied territories -- not the 120,000 Jewish settlers -- are suffering the consequences. Many Palestinian towns remain under curfew; all Palestinians are prevented from leaving their towns for jobs, school, worship or medical treatment in Jerusalem or elsewhere in Israel.

Yesterday, two more Palestinians were killed during rock-throwing clashes with soldiers enforcing the curfew. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers drove in and out of their communities in Hebron.

"There's no curfew on Jews," said one Army official. "I know the closure was never lifted. But it's not being enforced."

The failure of the government's announced crackdown on settlers has been highlighted in the public interviews given by the most extreme radicals sought by authorities.

"I have no personal difficulty in hiding," Mr. Marzel, the Kach leader, told the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot. "Everywhere I receive wide public backing and an amazing willingness to help me. . . . I have attended a few meetings in all sorts of forums."

Two of the five wanted men have been detained; the others have appeared on Israeli television and radio.

Their interviews "are making a laughingstock of the government," complained government minister Ora Namir at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "They are playing with the government."

The National Police and the Israeli army have pointed fingers at each other for not carrying out the orders. There has been a long reluctance by Israeli authorities to use muscle against Jewish settlers; last December, soldiers watched settlers in Hebron rampage and shoot at will at Arabs during clashes in the city.

The ineffectiveness of the crackdown against even the most extreme settlers does not suggest the will to evacuate the Jews living inside Hebron, despite public statements on Sunday by several ministers advocating the move.

To stop further embarrassment, Israel's government-controlled television said yesterday that it would no longer broadcast live interviews with the wanted Kach members.

And officials announced that they would prepare indictments for inciting violence against settlers who gave television and radio interviews applauding the massacre and expressing a wish for more. Asked how many might be charged, Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair told the cabinet "at least three."

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