A delegation of Peace Now members from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem toured Wednesday the Palestinian village of Naalin, which has been a focal point of clashes between Israeli security forces and rioters protesting the West Bank fence construction.
Participants in the tour said they were aiming to see what goes on at the site with their own eyes. They were joined by some writers and artists invited to join the tour in order to boost its publicity.
"We want to bring the mainstream to Naalin and expose what's happening there," said Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer. "The story of Naalin has been portrayed as a pro-Palestinian struggle against the fence and against IDF troops. Yet this is not a struggle against the fence, but rather, against the fence route and the notion that the State exploits the fence in order to improve the settlers' real-estate situation."
What about the stone throwers? (Photo: Peace Now)
Tour participants were joined by Muhammad Amira, a local resident and the cousin of Yusuf Amira, killed in a clash with Israeli forces. It is doubtful whether Amira realized that many of his guests happen to support the idea of a security fence – which he views as a disaster, regardless of its route. Amira delivered his messages in fluent Hebrew, but sounded confused with excitement.
"We saw the jeep approach, and then I saw Yusuf fall down and bleed," he said. "He didn't do a thing, the troops fired indiscriminately."
At one point in the tour, participants encountered Border Guard police officers securing the site. The commander presented Oppenheimer with a decree that forbids civilians from being in the area. "This is a closed military zone. You're not allowed to be here," he said.
Yet Oppenheimer convinced the commander that "we're just going to tour and then leave," and pledged to maintain order.
One of the participants in the tour was author Eyal Megged, who in the past was classified as a "rightist intellectual" due to his friendly relations with Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I tend to arrive at such places myself and see what's going on with my own eyes," he said. "This reality is a dark reality. I did not come to express my solidarity with the Palestinians, but rather, to express common sense and a sense of conscience. This fence is a psychotic paranoia."
As opposed to Peace Now members, Megged said he strongly objects to the security fence.
"I don't think the fence has any security benefit; I would of course be in favor of it if that was the case," he said. "If the Palestinians wanted to carry out attacks, they would find the way."
Later, local resident Amira boarded the bus and slammed the IDF conduct against Palestinian protestors.
"When a Jewish protestor grabs a soldier's weapon and fires in the middle of a rally, nothing is done to him. Yet when I, the person being occupied, protest against those who want to take away my home, they fire at us," he said.
Somehow, Amira says nothing about the stones hurled at soldiers during the protests; somehow, nobody even asked him about it.