Jordan Valley: what is new with the illegal colonist outposts ?
We came to have a fresh look at the situation around the two new illegal colonist outposts – at Umm Zuka and near the older illegal outpost of Giv’at Sal’it (adjacent to Palestinian Al Hema). Both are inhabited mostly by ‘hilltop youth’ (popular appellation of Jewish national-religious youths, usually school dropouts, on the militant end of the settler-colonist spectrum) – who take the Jewish settler-colonist’s livestock out to pasture and by the way habitually and violently assault Palestinian shepherds, block their way to the grazing ground, physically impact them, kill and wound animals. Volunteers of human rights organizations reach the area and accompany the Palestinian shepherds in the vicinity of these two pirate outposts. Today volunteers arrived different places in Israel, of the organization “Dharma Social Involvement”. This week the area in question was also visited by policemen from the West Bank Central Unit of the Israel Police, to look into the numerous complaints lodged against the settler colonists. Apparently one should call the police and report every single such harassment incident. Apparently these outposts are financially supported by some organization, and from what we’ve seen, evidently the National Parks and Nature Reserves Authority validates and supports them as well.
The Outpost at Umm Zuka
Since our last visit the moving truck at the site has been transformed into a dwelling caravan, with entry doors and windows. In the large tent, invader Kobi and his wife were dining along with another 6-7 boys. In front of the gate we saw four vehicles parked, had no idea who their owners are.
Inside the corrals were about 20 heads of cattle. We were told the man owns about 50 cows here, and another two corrals, one east of Maskiyot settler-colony where there are also apparently some people working. We were also told that these settler-colonies have been laying out barbed wire in the nature reserves, acting concretely on the threats they keep sounding to the Palestinian shepherds in order for these not to dare graze in this area.
About the Theft of Five Donkeys
On February 28, 2017, settler-colonists from Umm Zuka detained Palestinian shepherds who grazed their herd inside the nature reserve. The alerted Nature Resrves Authority staff on the claim that the Palestinians are not allowed inside the reserves, certainly not shepherds with their herds. The settler-colonists are naturally free to graze there. During the verbal exchange – which ended I have no idea how – the settler-colonists kidnapped five donkeys from the shepherds and took them over to the outpost. The matter became known to a Haaretz journalist who inquired about this at the army spokesperson unit and the Civil Administration. That night, at 23:00, Nature Reserves Authority staff suddenly showed up at the outpost and took the donkeys away to quarantine. They are still held there. Why are they not returned to their owners? This is the way the Nature Reserves Authority collaborates with the settler-colonists at the outpost which has been declared illegal and the army intends to remove…
We were told o an outpost erected in September near the pirate outpost of Giv’at Sal’it. The boss is Tzuriel and there too, ‘hilltop youth’ are employed. It is not clear whether they all live there permanently. Lately they have grazed a flock of sheep belonging to someone from Giv’at Sal’it. They also have 2 horses. This week, the said police personnel also arrived here, spoke with the Palestinians as well as the settler-colonists who presented themselves as the victims. The policemen told the Palestinian shepherds they should document the assaults against them. And indeed, B’Tselem (human rights organization) equipped them with cameras.
We also met Yossi of Taayush there as well as Dharma volunteers who escorted the shepherds. Guy of Taayush is in favor of the idea of providing the Palestinian shepherds with legal aid, as a reaction to the settler-colonist harassments, namely that they be defended by a lawyer beside the Israeli volunteer accompanists as has been done so far.
On our way
Hamra Checkpoint 11:00 – the checkpoint is active. Cars are inspected on a single lane, alternating directions. At 15:00 ( on our way back) the checkpoint was wide open. Thus uncertainty/arbitrariness of freedom of movement is perpetuated.
Something optimistic to end with:
On our way back, we saw a rare sight: a Palestinian family sitting in a circle in nature, having a picnic in a wadi not far from the road. Doubtless this is the best way to enjoy the good weather and the magnificent burst of wild flowers everywhere.