Controversy Erupts in Shooting at Fence
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The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
Controversy Erupts in Shooting at Fence
by Dan Baron
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Talk about trading places. Last month, Gil Na'amati finished
his three-year stint of compulsory military service after
serving in Israel's artillery corps and spending time
operating in the West Bank. Now the 22-year-old kibbutznik
is the poster boy for Palestinian grievances against Israel.
During a demonstration last week by Palestinians and Israeli
left-wingers against Israel's West Bank security barrier,
Na’amati was shot by soldiers, who until recently might have
stood shoulder to shoulder with him at a checkpoint. An
American activist also was lightly hurt in the clash.
"I was in the military and am familiar with the rules of
engagement. What I did was not even close to something that
I think would warrant opening fire," Na'amati said from his
hospital bed, where he was recovering from leg and hip
wounds. "It's unbelievable."
The sentiments were echoed around the country after last
week's incident at a section of the security fence outside
Kalkilya. It was the first time an Israeli Jew had been
targeted by forces meant to protect Israelis from
The shooting was the latest incident to divide the country
in the ongoing dispute over how to resolve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians and some
left-wing Israelis have complained that the fence disrupts
Palestinian civilian life and livelihood, while Israeli
officials have maintained that it is a necessary bulwark
Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, army chief of staff, ordered an
investigation of the shooting, which occurred when Na'amati
and fellow members of a fringe pro-Palestinian group,
Anarchists Against the Fence, were protesting, along with
the International Solidarity Movement. They attacked the
barrier with wire cutters.
Police questioned Na'amati under warning, meaning that his
statements could be used against him if he is prosecuted for
causing damage to the fence, unruly behavior and violating a
military order prohibiting entry to the area next to the fence.
Na'amati's father, Uri, said he advised his son to exercise
his right to remain silent. The investigator decided not to
press the wounded man for answers at this stage, in light of
Na'amati's medical condition, the Israeli daily newspaper,
Ya’alon made no secret of where he believed blame for the
incident lay. The protesters "masqueraded as Arabs, mingled
with Palestinians and entered the Palestinian side of the
fence illegally," he told Israel Radio.
The commander of the force involved reportedly told
investigators that he thought it was a group of Palestinians
trying to break through the fence into Israel, and that it
might be a diversionary tactic aimed at allowing a terrorist
to infiltrate the fence at another location.
Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said soldiers followed
orders by first shouting warnings and firing shots over the
protesters' heads, before aiming at their legs. Witnesses
disputed the account.
Television footage showed soldiers taking aim at the
protesters from approximately 50 feet away, despite clear
appeals to the soldiers in Hebrew not to shoot. The footage
had a major impact on public opinion.
Ami Ayalon, a former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security
service, said any orders to shoot the unarmed protesters
were illegal and should have been disobeyed. His viewpoint
was endorsed by Avshalom Vilan, a former commando, member of
the liberal Meretz Party and a founder of the Peace Now
"In a proper country, you don’t shoot civilians," Vilan said.
At least one newspaper said the issue wouldn't have been a
matter of such great debate had it been a non-Jew who was
"Let's not kid ourselves," an editorial in Israel’s daily
Yediot Achronot said. "If a Palestinian" had been shot, "it
probably would not have merited even one line in the newspaper."
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