Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Palestinian shepherd films settler stealing his sheep

Operation Dove was present at the incident.

26 July 2010

On July 21, three settlers stole a sheep from a young Palestinian shepherd while he was watering his flock at a well situated in Umm Zeitouna valley, located between the Israeli settlements of Ma’on and Karmel.

According to the shepherd, a resident of Tuba village, two Israeli settler vehicles stopped on the nearby settler bypass road. A settler exited from one of the vehicles, walked toward the shepherd’s flock, grabbed a sheep by the ear, and dragged the animal a few yards. He then loaded the sheep onto his sholders and walked back to the road, where two other settlers, one of them armed, were waiting. The settlers loaded the animal into a vehicle. During this time the shepherd remained at a distance filming the theft with a camera from the Israeli human rights association B’Tselem, given to Palestinians in the area to document attacks by settlers.

The young Palestinian pointed out that during the theft, on the road not far from the settlers cars, there was an Israeli military jeep. Although the soldiers were present during the incident they left the scene without intervening.

The shepherd then reported the theft of the sheep to Israeli police, who arrived on the scene with Ma’on settlement’s security guard and two other settlers identified as Havat Ma’on residents. The police refused to talk to the shepherd who wanted to make a complaint, saying they did not know Arabic or English and insisting on speaking with the boy’s father, although he was not present at the time of the robbery. A few minutes later the police went to the village of Tuba to pick up the father and bring him to the police station in Kiryat Arba. The father was fingerprinted, photographed, and threatened with a fine, but was not permitted to give testimony. Then the young shepherd, accompanied by international volunteers, followed his father to the Israeli police station to make a complaint and submit the video from the incident.

Episodes like this are frequent in the South Hebron Hills, where settlers from the settlements and the outposts attack Palestinian shepherds and farmers to intimidate and force them to leave their lands. These kinds of illegal actions are usually left unpunished and many of them occur with Israeli military and police complicity. The Palestinian communities of this area have chosen to nonviolently resist the continuous abuses of the Israeli settlers and military.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma'on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Why did the settlers steal the sheep, you might ask? Well, I don't think there is a reason other than pure harassment. Later that day, I accompanied the shepherd to the police station where he was treated more like a criminal than a victim. The shepherd was able to eventually file a complaint but we were told the settlers filed a counter complaint, claiming that the shepherd and his family also stole something (this is entirely false). This ensures that a judge will throw out the complaint because of the counteracting claims.

Also, the family got their sheep back, amazingly. The police watched the video and said, "Oh yeah, we know this settler, he lives in Suseya settlement and causes problems all the time." The police drove to his house and told him to hand over the sheep. Of course there were no charges filed or fines levied against the thief, despite the clear video evidence of his crime. So, he is a continual law breaker and criminal but the Israeli police refuse to do anything. Instead, the shepherd's father is fingerprinted, photographed, and told to never shepherd in that area again. An ounce of justice was served in getting back their sheep, but just an ounce, I say, an ounce.

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