“The soldiers’ eyes were full of fear. It was the same fear that I’d detected in soldiers serving near the outposts in the northern Jordan Valley, not just here, in Ouja [north of Jericho, near the soon-to-be-legalized outpost of Einot Kedem]. When the settlers who give the orders are far away, the soldiers allow the shepherds to graze their flocks. When the settlers come near – sometimes on horseback, sometimes on a Jeep rushing toward the flock – the soldiers send the sheep away themselves.”
The speaker is Guy Hirshfeld, a left-wing activist who regularly goes out to the Wild West with other brave souls seeking to stop the terror. And the fear in the eyes is of soldiers who feel uncomfortable, but know that they must obey the orders of the arch-settlers, because their own commanders do so.
The massive shock over a few yeshiva students and their portrayal as the embodiment of Jewish terror is a distraction. There is no question that these teens are suspected of an abhorrent act – the murder of Aisha Rabi. It’s easy to be horrified by the murder of a woman riding innocently in her car and even more from the Sabbath desecration that it entailed.
But the murder of Palestinians is not the objective of Jewish terror, even if in their habitats they don’t shed any tears over the shedding of Palestinian blood. Jewish terror, i.e., acts that sow terror committed by God’s emissaries on earth, seeks to grab whatever Palestinian space is left. And this is where it meets up with the Israeli state terror.
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On Friday, January 4, a female soldier explained to Hirschfeld why the Kaabana family shepherds from the village of Ouja had to leave the area where their ancestors had grazed their flocks since before the State of Israel was established. “There’s an order here. It disturbs him [the owner of the outpost, Omer Atidya] that you are here. It bothers everyone. It bothers the people here on the ranch. And this is a closed military zone.”
The outpost was set up in 2004 on the site of an evacuated army base. Its residents’ violent harassment took its toll; the shepherds, who live in the village since the British Mandate period, had been barred from grazing their flocks and forced to spend a fortune on feed. But two years ago they got fed up and they decided to resume grazing out in the open, assisted and accompanied by Israeli activists.
It didn’t go smoothly; there were always commanders there who obeyed the supreme commander in the outpost. But still, some modus vivendi was achieved, and the Kaabana sheep returned to their pastures. Since this year’s welcome rains began falling, however, the Jewish flock defense forces have been forcefully evicting the Palestinian shepherds and their sheep. “At 8 A.M. we go out to pasture, and the soldiers appear immediately, together with people from the outpost, and they throw us out,” Mahmoud Kaabana told Haaretz.
I asked the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman for details of the order, like who signed it, and if it confirms what the above-mentioned soldier had said. I also asked whether the army didn’t think the Palestinians had the right to graze their sheep in the area where they’d been living for decades, and what its response was to the impression that the soldiers are afraid of the outpost’s residents.
As usual, the IDF Spokesman didn’t answer the questions, but confirmed that the army submits to Jewish terror. “On January 11 a number of people approached the area near Einot Kedem. In accordance with a security assessment and to prevent violent friction in the area, a closed military zone order was issued. The way in which the order was enforced at the site will be examined. Security officials will continue to work to preserve public order and security in the district,” was the response.
“Friction” is a whitewashed term for settler intimidation. What is written here describes processes that have occurred and still occur all over the West Bank: under the army’s auspices, private Jewish terror is pushing the Palestinians off lands they’ve cultivated, grazed and hiked on. It’s had great success since this is also the state’s objective. And since few people are shocked by Israeli land terror even fewer make any attempt to stop it.