Opinion |

A Shadowy Edict of Israeli Occupation

A corollary of Military Edict No. 1933 is that army commanders obey settlers' instructions to prevent Palestinians from reaching their lands.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Fawzi Ibrahim stands next to his destroyed olive trees that were destroyed in 1998.
Fawzi Ibrahim stands next to his destroyed olive trees that were destroyed in 1998.Credit: Alex Levac
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Military Edict No. 1933 is a far more effective tool than the blatant land-theft law (the “Regulation Law”). In contrast to that civil statute, there is no High Court of Justice that can overrule the military edict. And contrary to formal military orders, this one is shadowy. It obliges every foot soldier and commander to obey every settler, to fulfill his every wish. This order has evolved of its own accord over the years, deriving from the concept of the Jew as belonging to a superior nation, and from the idea that every settler embodies the wishes of the Creator to rid the land of its indigenous natives or at least to concentrate them in closed reserves.

One of the corollaries of this edict is that army commanders obey settlers’ instructions to prevent members of the lesser race from reaching their lands in order to work them.

The instructions are translated into weapons, dogs, batons, stones, saws, shooting, fire, blows, threats and their enactment; and smiles, lots of smiles. Anyone who hasn’t witnessed the white-toothed smile of an armed master removing farmers and shepherds from their land has not seen a real smile. The armed master knows that ultimately the High Court of Justice will confirm that he has been on this plot of land for 3,200 years, which gives him ownership rights over it.

If you’ve scarcely heard of these instructions it’s because giving them is not the kind of event Israeli media define as news, and because in many locations the edict has already attained its objectives. On one hand, Judeo-Samarian troops indeed frighten and deter Palestinian farmers from reaching their orchards and fields and shepherds from going to pasture, while on the other hand our army has issued orders barring these farmers from entering their land. The Judeo-Samarians attack? The military commander will prohibit Palestinians from moving around. This results in curfew, closure, orders for closing off areas, binding shepherds tending their flocks, detention.

And now, from the general to the specific: Fawzi Ibrahim is from the village of Jalud. He’s seen everything, his trees uprooted and burned, attacks, threats. A few violent outposts placed themselves on land belonging to Jalud and other villages in the area. The result: Palestinians can’t reach their lands. This is exactly what the settlers want in what is termed the “Shiloh Valley.” However, the army is ostensibly committed to abiding by High Court rulings, so it allows the farmers to reach their plots twice a year. (Show me a Jewish farmer who’d agree to these terms.) This can only be done in coordination with and accompanied by the army, and only to plots designated by Israeli authorities as private land, not commonly owned plots.

Since early January, Ibrahim has been trying to reach his plot to plow and sow his crops. However, this task seems too complicated for the bureaucracy linking the military brigade commander and the District Coordination and Liaison Office. The request was received; no it wasn’t; they knew who dealt with it; they didn’t know. The army said last week that a request to plow and sow the fields had been received. Then the rains started and the plowing was postponed. Ibrahim is stubborn, but what happens if his sons aren’t as stubborn?

In the northern Jordan Valley there are two new unauthorized outposts. They are thriving and expanding under the eyes of the authorities. They are also adopting methods that were used so successfully in the “Shiloh Valley.” One outpost is at Tel al-Hima and the other is at Umm Zuka. The pattern is the same: two adults, a flock of sheep or herd of cows, and a group of smiling and hormone-primed youngsters, some of whom are yeshiva dropouts. Together they form ripples of terror, ever expanding in an attempt to chase away shepherds, all the way to their encampments.

On Saturday, three settlers at Umm Zuka demanded that three shepherds move away. When they refused, settlement outpost members summoned soldiers, who tied up two of the shepherds. Activists from Ta’ayush, Machsom Watch and Combatants for Peace have joined shepherds in the northern Jordan Valley, in the knowledge that the presence of left-wing Israeli Jews makes ethnic cleansing more difficult. But they are few. The Judeo-Samarians rule, since they are the government’s emissaries.

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