Palestinian Jordan Valley: Israeli army harassing Taayush activists
The activity of Taayush – together with other organizations and individual activists – in accompanying Palestinian shepherds in this region can hardly be underestimated, especially since the founding of two “illegal” settler-colonist outposts (here meaning outposts created each at the intiative of an individual without overt government support. In fact all settler-colonies and outposts in the West Bank are illegal) near Al Hemma and in Umm Zuka. From here the “hill youth” emerge to commit targeted terrorist attacks against Palestinian shepherds in order to increasingly reduce their access to their grazing grounds and force them out of the area entirely. At this time of year, the end of a droughty summer, when hardly any dry grass remains in the fields, such attacks and denying livestock its meager grazing is most critical. The shepherds are forced to purchase feed for their sheep and cannot afford it, even as things are they hardly eke out a living of husbanding their flocks.
Without the accompaniment of Taayush volunteers the shepherds are now afraid to approach most of the grazing grounds in the area. They fear the armed settler-colonists who at times summon armed soldiers who do not deter them. It should be mentioned that by law the grazing grounds are open to all shepherds, and the chasing off of Palestinian shepherds is an illegal act. In spite of this, the army which is the sovereign here and supposed to implement the law, has been harassing Taayush volunteers as well of late, and personally – Guy Hirschfeld who has been accompanying Palestinian shepherds nearly every day.
Several examples of late: Guy received a distancing order from the area, his car has been impounded, he was detained at a checkpoint: in a video of Friday September 28, 2018, Guy is seen attacked by a settler-colonist who came on his mini-tractor out of the outpost at Al Hemma. The soldiers view this indifferently and do not interfere. Then a closed military zone edict was issued against Taayush volunteers only, while it is not enforced against the settler-colonists.
The military patrol visits the outposts routinely, and with time friendly ties are formed between the soldiers and the youngsters at the outposts. Naturally they invite the soldiers over for coffee and a chat. This is not hypothetical, we have witnessed it in action. Naturally there are no friendly visits and chats over coffee at the shepherds’ encampments. In the occupation routine, even friendship between the Jewish settler-colonists outlaws and the soldiers who are supposed to enforce the law is somehow… a routine matter.
As we heard from the soldiers in the Jordan Valley themselves, they were told that their job is to look after the settler-colonists, whoever they might be, and human rights activists are regarded as a nuisance to be gotten rid of. Besides Taayush, active here are also officials of a European human rights organization who help the Palestinian shepherds – BDI – lodging in Jericho.
At Mekhora settler-colony we saw a new neighborhood in the making, including about 10 caravans. Have they been issued construction permits by the Civil Administration? If not, will their structures be demolished as are all Palestinian new structures in Area C?
At the checkpoints of Hamra, Male Efrayim and Zaatara we saw no outstanding activity today.