29 March 2009
In three recent incidents Palestinian shepherds asserted their right to graze their sheep on their own land, despite Israeli settlers’ attempts to intimidate the Palestinians and disrupt their agricultural work. Palestinians in the South Hebron hills have responded to recent violence and incursions on their lands with a law suit and a nonviolent grazing action.
The morning of March 22, as shepherds from the village of At-Tuwani grazed their sheep in nearby Humra valley, a settler brought his flock to the area from the Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma’on. The settler called the police and army, claiming that one of the Palestinians had thrown a stone at him. When the police arrived, they detained the accused
Palestinian and took him to Kiryat Arba police station. Internationals who had been present and videotaped the scene showed the police video and pictures demonstrating that the shepherd had not thrown stones, and the man was released. The following day the Palestinian shepherd returned to the police station with papers proving his ownership of the valley. He has filed a suit against the settler for trespassing.
On March 25, while Palestinian shepherds grazed their sheep on land belonging to the village of Juwayye, twenty Israelis approached from the settlement of Ma’on and shot at the shepherds. Despite the presence of Israeli soldiers and the Ma’on settlement security guard at the time of the shooting, no Israelis were arrested. Palestinian shepherds continued to graze their sheep for two hours after the shooting, but were then forced from the land by soldiers claiming they were too close to road 317.
On March 28 shepherds from Tuwani and other villages in the South Hebron Hills responded to recent harassment by gathering peacefully with their families to graze sheep in Khoruba valley near Tuwani. After they had been in the valley for about an hour four settlers, two with their faces covered, walked out from Havat Ma’on outpost into the flocks and among the
shepherds and their children. In response, Palestinian shepherds sat down and refused to remove their sheep from the area. Israeli soldiers, police, and border police arrived but did nothing to prevent the settlers from disrupting the grazing sheep.
Palestinians in Tuwani and the surrounding villages face continued threats of violence and intimidation from setters. With the start of the grazing season, villagers say they expect the actions of the settlers will become increasingly disruptive, but that the villages remain committed to nonviolence as they confront the incursions.[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]