Former Gush Katif resident MK Tzvi Hendel (NRP/National Union) has asked the Chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to investigate what he calls the army's "scandalous behavior" towards thousands of people who marched to Homesh on Independence Day.
Committee member Hendel asked Chairman MK Tzachi HaNegbi to hold an urgent meeting on the matter, with the participation of the IDF's Chief of Staff or the Central Region Commander.
Organizers of a drive entitled "Homesh First!" arranged for thousands of people to return, for two days last month, to the Disengagement-destroyed Shomron community of Homesh. The army had announced that it would ban the march, but then abruptly reversed itself just two days before it and permitted the event. The protestors said this would be just the first step in their plan to ultimately rebuild the Jewish town.
This time, the army took the opposite approach. It first said it would allow a one-day march to Homesh on Independence Day - but then, just three days before the event, backtracked and banned it. Not surprisingly, close to 20,000 people tried to make their way to Homesh anyway, but were stopped by an army barrier at Kedumim, some 12 kilometers to the south.
Nevertheless, most of them proceeded by foot, unhindered by the army, and ultimately reached Homesh.
The problems began as night began to fall. MK Hendel notes, in his letter to HaNegbi, several examples of improper IDF treatment towards the marchers: "Not allowing drinking water to get through to the people, including women and children; prevention of medical treatment to marchers who fainted - even though there were ambulances on the spot; security and safety dangers when the marchers returned by foot from Homesh during the night, being forced to walk by four hostile Arab villages - with the IDF refusing to allow any form of transportation or protection."
MK Hendel acknowledges that the army did not officially permit the march, but "it must still not act towards Jews with more malice than towards its enemies, such as the Third Egyptian Army." Hendel was referring to an encircled division of Egyptian soldiers during the Yom Kippur War to whom the Israelis allowed food and supplies to pass through.
The army claimed that the routes were under its protection.
"A unmistakable political stench emanates from these draconian decisions," Hendel wrote in his letter, "and they were manifest in the soldiers' vulgar behavior towards the marchers. I ask that the session be held as soon as possible."
The march drew many more people than expected - between 20,000 and 30,000, according to the highest estimates. Among them were Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann of Jerusalem and the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior.
Despite the largely peaceful nature of the march, isolated incidents during the resettlement demonstration led to six arrests, an IDF spokesman said.