Writer David Shulman of Ta’ayush accompanied Palestinian shepherds in the Hebron Hills near the illegal colony, Maon, the other day. The army came in to force the shepherds, who had three flocks of sheep, including two from Um Zaituna, off their own lands. Part of his account:
First we see the police cars driving up to Maon, blue lights flashing. They sit there, waiting. I’m hoping they just came by to have a look and won’t come at us, especially since we’ve now opened up a substantial gap between the herd and the outer perimeter of the settlement. But of course the hope is quickly dashed. A large posse of soldiers and cops is soon marching toward us over the rocks. They reach Zvi and the other Um Zaituna flock first. Even at a distance, I can see them performing the remorseless stages of their beloved ritual: there is a piece of paper being waved at Zvi and the shepherds, clearly the signed order declaring this little patch of desert a Closed Military Zone; the order is examined, photographed, there are the always Quixotic protests, followed by threats from the soldiers and, after a few minutes, a gradual withdrawal of our people eastwards, deeper into the desert. Maybe, I say to myself, the soldiers won’t bother Jamil and his Ta’ayush protectors. No such luck. Having heroically driven the Um Zaituna flock down toward the wadi, the soldiers and policemen pick their way over the rocks toward us.“You are now in a Closed Military Zone. You have fifteen minutes to get out of here.”
“And just where are we supposed to go?”“Down into the wadi, past that curve in the hills.” The soldier points vaguely in an easterly direction. He’s also unrolled the map for our benefit, with a poorly defined area outlined in yellow marker.“And why are you doing this?”“I work for the Brigade Commander, ask him.”“I’ll be glad to ask him, but he doesn’t want to talk to me.”“You now have 14 minutes.”“You know what you are doing is illegal,” we say, “the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the Army cannot declare a Closed Military Zone arbitrarily, and it is expressly forbidden to do so if this means denying Palestinian shepherds and farmers access to their lands.”“Doesn’t interest me.”“And you know that the Army’s own legal adviser in the Territories backed up the Supreme Court’s ruling with a directive issued to all soldiers serving here.”“Twelve minutes.”“So why are you here? Taking orders, as usual, from the settlers?” Zvi has joined us, and he’s wonderfully eloquent at such moments.