Wednesday, December 31, 2003

More prejudices
Peace activists marched on a segment of wire security fence from the Palestinian side, on Friday, and commenced attempting, peacefully and non-violently, to tear it down, aided by wire cutters. When one of the soldiers guarding the fence eventually opened fire and badly wounded one of them, they were astounded, absolutely flabbergasted. Couldn’t the soldiers see they weren’t Palestinians? Yes, it seems to have been the demonstrators, some of whom we could clearly see on TV newsreels with faces covered like Palestinians or wearing Palestinian-style kaffiyot, and their supporters, who brought up this complaint first, and not the soldiers, as Yishay (from his excellent vantage point in London) asserts. As far as the soldiers were concerned, the demonstrators looked like any other dangerous, hostile mob. There is now wide spread indignation in the Israeli Left, and in some corners of the Israeli Media, at the soldiers’ unfathomable, and even criminal, lack of racial discrimination.

I am not defending the shooting, mind you. The soldier could very well have been in breach of the regulations for opening fire, as far as I am aware of them (but I could be wrong), and if this is the case, the officer who gave the order will very likely get the book thrown at him, even though he probably wasn’t really to blame. He didn’t have any other means at his disposal, did he? Why didn’t the army supply him with one of those nice crowd-dispersing vehicles that spray uncontrollable, violent demonstrators with liquid (Preferably mixed with ink in an easily distinguishable color such as shocking pink, or phosphoric orange), for instance? Methinks such a vehicle would have been effective even against a far more hostile mob, had the water pressure been strong enough, unless the rioters started actually shooting at the soldiers (Hmm, there’s a thought: I wonder if drenching a bomb belt renders it ineffective).

A friend of mine, who lives quite near to the Israeli side of that particular part of the fence, in a town that has had its fair share of terrorist attacks in recent years, said he would have been quite happy to volunteer to go operate the water thing on them, even though he was dismissed from reserve duty years ago, for reasons of age. He sees the fence as providing direct protection for him and his family. And he was not the only one I spoke to who was angry about the demonstrators’ actions, and less than sympathetic about their being shot at, legal or not.

If we’re on the subject of protective fences, top Israeli journalist, Nahum Barne’a, who cannot be suspected of being even slightly right wing by any measure, pointed out an interesting twist in this particular story, in Monday’s Yediot Aharonot (Sorry, no link. For some reason, I couldn’t find the opinion page in Ynet). Gil Na’amati, the young man who was wounded during the riot (that’s what Barne’a calls it) alongside the Fence in the West Bank on Friday, lives in Kibbutz Re’im in the Northern Negev. His father, Uri Na’amati, holds the position of Head of Eshkol Regional Council. Every week or two, Barne’a tells us, Palestinians attempt to get across the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel and are regularly shot at by IDF soldiers. This happens just a few kilometers from the home of the Na’amati family. Barne’a says that while the fence crossers in Gaza are not all terrorists, and many of them are laborers seeking work, the young people at the fence in the West Bank were a bunch of provokers, wearing their Jewishness as a flak jacket, and looking for a confrontation with the army at all costs.

Nevertheless, Barne’a claims, the members of Kibbutz Re’im have never demonstrated against the fence that divides between them and the Gaza Strip nor against the shooting at people who try to cross it. Most of them, he presumes, see the fence as a blessing. And, as far as he can recall, the head of the regional council has never complained either. He says that it is understandable that he is complaining now that his son has been wounded by the soldiers’ shots, but that “the sound of wailing and weeping coming from others in the Left smells of racism, hypocrisy and favoritism”.

Today there was more fence-connected violence. Read about it at Tal's.