As in every week of the year, we woke up at 07:00 on a Saturday morning to oppose injustice. We, is a group of about 15, mostly Israeli and some International Activists lead by Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Arab organization opposing the occupation and trying to promote equality.
The South of Hebron Hills is one of the most difficult regions in the West Bank. Much of the native population of this area is Bedouin, a minority in Palestinian society to begin with, and generally invisible to the Israeli occupation authorities.
We first arrived to a location which became a focus of attention in recent weeks – the lands of Umm Zaytouna, near the village of Tuba (not that you could know, since the road signs only name the Jewish settlements in this area – did we say invisible?). Tuba’s misfortune is its neighbors. About 1km the east and north lie two Israeli settlements – Ma’on and Carmel. We will talk about Carmel later on.
The story here is quite simple. The whole land area around Ma’on is either private Palestinian land or “state lands”. This means of the settlers have no ownership rights over them. But, of course this doesn’t concern those whose land ownership is god-given. They don’t want Palestinians damaging the view. But Tuba’s residents need to make a living, and their Shepherds want to feed their herds on the land. When they do, they are expelled by the army – normally by shouting, threatening and sometimes even by taking a goat hostage (yes, that’s right). If the shepherds demand their rights on their own, they would be imprisoned and harassed in the better scenario, or physically hurt in worse scenario. Needless to say that all of this is illegal, either by international law (the mere existence of Ma’on) or by the occupation laws (forbidding the shepherds). The Israeli supreme court and legal adviser ordered the army that an area can be closed for Palestinians only if one of two conditions applies: an immediate security threat or immediate negative interaction with settlers. None of these exist here.
That’s where the activists come into the picture. We accompany the shepherds, demand their rights be realized and confront the army and police if they are not. The goal is to allow the herds to feed.