On the IDF's Most Wanted List: A Palestinian Shepherd and Two Baby Goats

According to the IDF, the shepherd planned to steal ammunition, while kindhearted soldiers returned a goat and two kids they didn't even take.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

If it weren’t for the nudniks of Ta'ayush – a group of Israelis active in the southern West Bank – this story would be yet another unwritten chapter in the chronicles of the hostile rule, another grain of dust from the daily fallout of toxins we're addicted to.

But for the Ta'ayush nudniks – this time Ezra Nawi and a man named Guy – this isn't a tiny story because it’s a big deal for Kamel Mahamra, a shepherd from the village of Maghayir al-Abeed in the South Hebron Hills. And it's a big deal for a she-goat and her two kids, born on February 18, in the hills and green pastures near the village of Al-Majaz.

Two and half hours after the kids were born a group of soldiers, probably serving at the Nahal base at Krayot (not in the West Bank), showed up and confiscated the goat and two newborn kids, loading them on their Hummer. Mahamra's donkey, which had been harnessed to a water container on wheels, disappeared too.

Under heavy pressure from Ezra and Guy, I sent a question the next day to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office with the details above.

"Ezra Nawi of Ta'ayush spoke by phone with the humanitarian hotline and the district coordination office, and one of the DCO's officers finally told him that soldiers had indeed confiscated the animals," I wrote. "At one stage, Nawi and Mahamra were told the goat and kids had been returned to the area, but this morning they were nowhere to be found."

Nawi says several dozen people called the office asking about the goat, the kids and the donkey after he posted the story on Facebook along with the telephone numbers of the DCO's officers.

After describing the event I asked the IDF Spokesman's Office: "Was there an order to confiscate the animals or did the soldiers decide on site? Why were the animals confiscated? Do the soldiers know how to take care of kids so they won't die? Do the soldiers intend to return the animals to their rightful owner? The High Court of Justice has ruled that the army must not harm residents in the area (firing range 918) until a further ruling is issued. Isn't the confiscation a breach of the High Court order?"

The IDF Spokesman's Office responded as follows: "The claims raised do an injustice to the truth of the matter. In this case, a shepherd entered a closed firing zone with the aim of stealing ammunition. The animals weren't confiscated but were brought by the IDF forces to the tent area from which the shepherd came in order to return them to their owner."

Let's have a look at this response.

"An injustice to the truth of the matter," meaning that Kamel, Ezra and Guy are lying.

"Closed firing zone." The fate of the 918 area (a 30,000-dunam area where the defense minister ordered the demolition of eight of 12 villages to let the IDF prepare for its next wars), is still being debated by the High Court of Justice.

Until the court rules in favor of justice or arms, the IDF is not supposed to alter the status quo in this area where people live, shepherds lead their flocks, goats graze, kids are born, wheat is grown and the Civil Administration issues demolition orders. In other words, at this point in time, Israel's High Court of Justice is still allowing Mahamra to raise his livestock just as his forefathers did. It is still allowing his goats to have kids.

"The aim of stealing ammunition." In other words, the shepherd Mahamra is not only a liar, but also a thief, and a very stupid or brave thief at that. Not only did he plan to steal ammunition in broad daylight, he planned to do so with a flock of goats and newborn kids tied like weights to his feet, preventing him from fleeing swiftly after the theft.

The soldiers are mind readers and guessed what he was planning to do, since he didn't actually steal ammunition.

The soldiers are kindhearted. Every day the IDF arrests Palestinians suspected of trying to carry out evil deeds. A plan to steal ammunition could easily turn into a plan to kidnap a soldier and lead to a Shin Bet interrogation, which could last 20 days. This could include tying the suspect to a chair and depriving him of sleep, producing a confession that the shepherd was actually dreaming of getting rid of the occupying power, a very serious crime under military law.

But this time the soldiers let him off the hook. Did the mind-reading soldiers actually decide to punish him for his evil intent by "not confiscating" the two newborn kids, the goat and the donkey?

A logical leap and a missing verb. The soldiers did not confiscate the animals and then delivered them to one of the encampments. But to bring them there, they had to first take them, and according to the IDF Spokesman's Office, they did not confiscate them and did not even take them.

"IDF forces." This sounds much better than just "soldiers" because "soldiers" implies boredom, lack of sleep and sore feet. IDF forces are those that "return without casualties" or "return safely."

How about the goat, the kids and the donkey? Did they return safely? They did if one believes the IDF spokesman's response. The fact that Kamel, Ezra and Guy say they didn't, and that all their searches were in vain, doesn't mean anything because the spokesman already implied that they're all liars.

A shepherd walking near the settlement of Revava. Credit: AP

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