Why Would the Army Spokesperson Lie?

Every Jewish Israeli mother should know her son was drafted to ensure that only kosher Jewish sheep enjoy a free life in the Jordan Valley

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Palestinian shepherds grazing their flock in the Auja area of the West Bank, north of Jericho.
Palestinian shepherds grazing their flock in the Auja area of the West Bank, north of Jericho.Credit: Courtesy of Ta'ayush
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Before you know it, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Office will also be saying that peace activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman attacked Israel Defense Forces officer Osher Ein-Gal. It’s just the type of falsehood that has appeared more than once in its responses to questions about Israeli soldiers who attacked Palestinian civilians, and it was all that was missing from the fantastical account it provided me of a recent incident.

In brief, I had asked if when Ein-Gal had kicked a row of spikes under the slowing car being driven by Ascherman, he was following the procedure at flying checkpoints. The spokesperson's office basically responded that Ascherman had driven over the spikes of his own free will. With four occupants in his car.

These details are of marginal importance here, but they are typical. Anything goes when the IDF is obeying its settler masters and is fulfilling the sacred mission of expelling Palestinian shepherds from their pastureland.

On Friday, August 25, at around 6 A.M., the cars of two Israeli activists arrived in the Auja area of the West Bank, just north of Jericho. For several months now, the activists have been accompanying Palestinian shepherds from the Bedouin Ka’bana tribe who had been driven off their grazing lands in the Jordan Valley by settler violence for many years. The activists are members of the joint Jewish-Palestinian Ta’ayush movement and are sometimes joined by members of Machsom Watch, Combatants for Peace and non-affiliated activists.

By the way, some of the people accompanying the shepherds were attacked last April by “unknown” masked Israelis who came from the vicinity of the Kochav Hashahar settlement, armed with clubs and stones. A video clip of the brutal attack has been posted online. Thanks for asking. The attackers are all well and kicking.

Ascherman and another occupant of the car were among three activists who were injured in April, not lightly. Settlers had previously attacked them elsewhere in the West Bank. But they continue. None is the Rambo type. They never raise a hand, only in order to protect their heads; they abhor violence and by their activity express their abhorrence of the organized land theft.

The shepherds’ decision to return their flocks to the grazing lands has irked the settlers of Mevo’ot Yericho and at the unauthorized, illegal Einot Kedem ranch. Members of the Najadah family from the Ka’bana tribe sum up: “We are grazing our flock, Omer [Atidia, the owner of Einot Kedem] shows up. We see him making a call on his cellphone and the army immediately arrives.”

The army had issued closure orders to the area in advance, to send the activists home and the flocks to their pens, to eat animal feed their owners had to purchase. Every Jewish-Israeli mother should know her son was drafted to ensure that only kosher Jewish sheep enjoy the grazing land and a free life in the Jordan Valley.

But back to the story of that Friday morning. One car was halted at a flying military checkpoint near the settlement of Yitav. The second car – driven by Ascherman – was allowed to proceed and drove a few kilometers south, en route to the shepherds’ encampment of Ma’arjat. A short time later, the occupants of the car spotted another flying checkpoint near a junction, along with a soldier standing in the middle of the road.

Ascherman continued driving in the right-hand lane. There were two rows of spikes ahead – one stretched out, the other contracted in the left lane, as if to say: Entry to the road is forbidden; exit allowed.

When Ascherman’s car approached, the soldier signaled for him to stop. Ascherman began to slow down, but to his surprise the soldier, who turned out to be an officer, kicked the row of spikes under his car. A scary moment ensued when the car’s rear-right tire was punctured.

Ascherman asked the officer to identify himself, but he refused. Ascherman called the police, who required the officer to provide his name: When a soldier does policing work, he is supposed to provide his name, just as a policeman would.

And here is what the IDF Spokesperson’s Office had to say:

“Manned checkpoints were placed in the area in an effort to prevent incidents of friction that could cause bodily injury or damage to property of those involved.”

That’s how it is throughout the West Bank: the state-sanctioned theft of land is not enough for the settlers. To expand the area they dominate, they use violence against the legal residents. The army salutes the settlers and bars the movement of Palestinians and those accompanying them.

“[Ascherman’s] vehicle did not slow down or stop, despite road signs in the area and, as a result, he drove over spikes that were placed in advance at the roadblock.”

Sure, because left-wingers’ favorite hobby is driving over spikes. And a road sign? If there had been one (and the occupants of the car don’t remember seeing one), it was facing motorists coming from the other direction, not Ascherman’s direction of travel.

“Contrary to what has been claimed, the vehicle was damaged following an attempt by the driver to pass by. The officer at the site did not move the spikes in order to damage the vehicle.”

The IDF should check the effectiveness of those spikes. If the car ran over them deliberately with all four wheels yet only one rear tire was blown, the army has a serious problem with its equipment.

“The Mevo’ot Yericho area has been quiet for years, until in recent months anarchist activists began arriving, creating violent friction there.”

Oh, where are the good old days when the settlers threatened and attacked as they pleased? This lie from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office is not new, but it is nevertheless outrageous. The officers who formulated the response bandied about the term “anarchists,” which is not appropriate in this case, and also accused those who act to quell violence of violence themselves.

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