Anti-Expulsion Protestors Block Roads - Others Rounded Up

Anti-expulsion activists captured the country's attention once again last night, blocking main intersections with limited success. Police stopped and turned back cars at random.

, | updated: 22:23

Protestors succeeded in blocking the major Poleg Junction on the coastal highway, near Netanya, for about 30 minutes during rush-hour Tuesday evening. The activists responded to police with non-violent passive resistance despite violent arrest tactics used by the officers. Thirty activists were arrested as well as a bus driver parked in Netanya who was suspected of transporting the protesters to the site.

A short time earlier, the main Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway was blocked by burning tires. By the time police arrived to unclog the traffic jam, protesters had fled the scene.

Anti-disengagement protesters also burned tires near the HaAmakim junction in the north of the country.

"The police failed, and were unsuccessful in halting the roadblock demonstrations of last night and last week," Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra admitted this morning.

Flustered at the failure to prevent the road-blockings, police detained and questioned a busload of residents of Judea, Samaria and the Jerusalem region who were delivering mishlo'ach manot Purim gifts to residents of towns along the coastal plain. The residents were bringing fresh produce from Gush Katif, along with pro-Land of Israel literature explaining the dangers of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan to Jews whose only exposure to the plan has been through the media.

The chartered bus they were riding in was halted by police at the Oranim Junction in Samaria and its passengers detained for over an hour.

Arutz-7's Itzik Wolf reported that the police threatened the bus's driver with the revocation of his license if he did not turn around and return to Eli. The police took the driver's ID and license, saying they had intelligence information that a bus full of protesters planning on blocking major intersections had left from a Jewish town in the Shomron region. The officers were unconvinced by the large bundles of Gush Katif parsley and lettuce on the bus ready for delivery. "We have orders to detain you," they told residents repeatedly.

Some of the detained residents alighted from the bus to pray the afternoon prayer. They were met with a large police presence and a police helicopter hovering overhead.

David, a 17-year-old passenger on another bus pulled over near the Glilot Junction and brought to a nearby police facility, told Arutz-7 of severe violence used by the police against the minors.

"They locked us in the bus for two hours without water or the ability to go to the bathroom," David said. "Then, they lost their temper and threw a gas canister into the bus. Afterward, an officer boarded and started indiscriminately hitting people sitting inside the bus for absolutely no reason, including girls. The police simply went berserk."

David also said the police who used violence had removed their name tags to prevent their being identified later. Police told Maariv newspaper they would investigate the use of pepper spray, but said that if it had in fact been used it was the decision of a lone officer who sprayed a small bottle of it from outside the bus. The police also claimed that any violence was used due to the passengers' refusal to "cooperate."

Elsewhere, dozens of right-wing activists who planned to hand out promotional material and bumper stickers were detained by police wherever they were spotted near major intersections. It is common for members of various political movements to stand at intersections and distribute literature and bumper stickers.

Two Yesha residents driving a commercial vehicle in Netanya were detained as well, on suspicion of involvement in the road-blocking. One activist called the police intervention "a new record in Sharon's tyranny. Now, all you have to do is appear outwardly religious or have a Yesha address to be rounded up by the Prime Minister's police."

Tel Aviv district police declare the highest state of alert yesterday evening, dispatching a helicopter in search of protestors planning to block traffic.

In Bat Yam, a group of anti-expulsion protesters gathered at the town's main intersections and were met by a very large police presence. The protesters did not interfere with the flow of traffic.

Police forces were spotted along most of Israel's main thoroughfares in the Tel Aviv region in anticipation of further obstructions of traffic. The strategy of the activists is that if the withdrawal plan is actually implemented, police would not be able to unclog the roads, quell mass civil disobedience and expel Jews from their homes all at once.

Gush Katif spokesman Eran Sternberg said the actions of the police were uncalled for and counterproductive: "Unfortunately, the out-of-control actions taken by the police played directly into the hands of the road-blockers by backing up their claim that it is the only protest action left. We will pursue disciplinary measures against those responsible [for the detainment of the Purim gift deliverers]."

The Yesha Council also condemned the police response. "This Bolshevik suppression of legitimate protest activities attests to the regime's attempt to curb and prevent the expression of the 'incorrect' public," a statement said.

Just last week, anti-expulsion protesters blocked the Ayalon expressway, one of Tel Aviv's major traffic arteries, for about an hour.

Though the Yesha Council distanced itself from the disruptions, several Land of Israel activists, including Nadia Matar of Women in Green and Moshe Feiglin of Jewish Leadership, hailed the road-blockings as a grassroots cry that "the house is on fire."

"If students block roads when their university courses are in danger, and if factory workers block roads when their salary is in danger, did anyone expect that the residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza and their many, many supporters would go like quiet sheep to the deportation?" Matar asked.

"The goal of blocking the roads is not to curry sympathy," Feiglin told Arutz-7 following the Ayalon highway protest last week. "It is to wake up a sleeping public." Feiglin, who founded the Zo Artzeinu (This is Our Land) movement during the period following the signing of the Oslo Accords, was arrested and tried for the exotic charge of sedition for bringing Israel's thoroughfares to a halt in the early 90s.

Feiglin, speaking on Israel National Radio's Eli Stutz and Yishai Fleisher Show, said he met a woman shortly after one of Zo Artzeinu's first road-blockings who told him, "I am left-wing, even extreme-left-wing, but I want you to know that until I saw people willingly getting arrested for blocking the highways, I had no idea that there was any problem with the Oslo process."

"Via these actions," Feiglin said, "regular citizens sitting in their cars getting angry, are made to see that the house is burning, and they begin to see that there's a problem."