Saturday, March 13 2010 Shepherds Accompment in Umm Zeitune and Mufakkara

For many weeks the army had prevented grazing in the area of Umm Zeitune, each time with different and changing excuses, always using the “closed military zone order”, whose legality is doubtful and whose malice is obvious. This time we arrived in a large group determined to ensure grazing in this area where it had always been allowed, with no disturbance, over all the previous years.

Shortly after we arrived and met the shepherds and their flocks, so did the army. The soldiers tried to take no notice of our presence and go straight to the shepherds in order to send them away, only this time we stood in their way and didn’t let them approach the shepherds. The soldiers were dumbfounded. They stood in their tracks and called for help from the army, the police, the Border Police and the Administration. During all this time the flocks continued to graze in the area. When finally people from the Civil Administration arrived, they permitted grazing to continue in the valleys and the hills under the protection of the army and in our presence. Gedalia, in charge of security in the nearby settlement of Maon, tried to persuade the security forces to remove the flocks and even tried to take hostage a goat from one of the flocks, but he was obliged to leave the area. For the first time in many weeks grazing was allowed in the whole area. During the next weeks we shall return to Um Zeituna to make sure that this was not a one-off event.

But this was not the end of our adventures on this Saturday.

Around two in the afternoon, after we had made sure that grazing was taking place peacefully, we were informed that settlers were attacking a Palestinian from Mufakkara next to the outpost of “Mitzpeh Yair”. While a group of activists remained in Umm Zeitune to make sure that the grazing would continue undisturbed, another group immediately set out for Mufakkara. As they reached the entrance to the outpost they managed to document a group of settler youths, helped by the soldiers who were guarding them, dragging into the outpost a donkey laden with full sacks stolen from a local Palestinian. The activists succeeded in freeing the donkey and its load from its captors and called the police to deal with the matter. In the meantime we located the Palestinian from whom the donkey and the sacks had been stolen, gave them back to him and took him to a place where he could lodge a complaint. When the police arrived and saw our photographic documentation, clear evidence that the soldiers not only did not prevent the crime but actually took active part in its perpetration, they acted with surprising efficiency: within minutes a jeep was sent into the outpost and returned with all the sacks and their contents, which were returned to their rightful owner.