Monday, March 31, 2008

It never stops: more about Shaadi

A few days ago, I went running to Khoruba after I was told that settlers had hit Shaadi with a rock. On the way, I heard a huge bang that sounded like gun shots. I arrived to find Shaadi in quite a state. Settlers from Havot Ma'on had shot two of his sheep and his large ram (the most valuable animal in his herd.) The sheep were wounded and Shaadi was distraught. I started photographing the injuries and then watched as Shaadi gave his testimony to various Israeli authorities. He must have told his story 20 times that day.
In the end, some three hours later, I videotaped as one sheep and the ram were loaded into a police van and taken away from Shaadi. A few days later, I talked to one of Shaadi's daughters. She told me that the sheep and ram in custody died and Shaadi lays awake all night.

Here's the release we put out with the full story:

Israeli Settlers Shoot and Wound Palestinian Sheep and Goat near At-Tuwani
Settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on fired five shots into a
Palestinian flock of sheep and goats late Wednesday morning, badly
wounding a sheep and a large male goat. The shooting took place on
Palestinain land in Khoruba valley near the village of At-Tuwani in the
South Hebron Hills. A second sheep, believed by shepherds to have also
been wounded, fled into the valley and could not be found.

Israeli police and Army personnel arrived shortly after noon and spoke
with the owner of the sheep, a shepherd from the nearby village of Magayer
al Abeed. Two settlers, armed with automatic weapons, arrived at about
2:00 PM and spoke with the Israeli police and Army personnel. The settlers
attempted to prevent international volunteers from Christian Peacemaker
Teams (CPT) from filming, and threatened to take video cameras and tapes
from them and have them arrested. The CPT volunteers observed the
settlers remove the written police report from the police vehicle and then
return it after several minutes.

Several Palestinian shepherds from surrounding villages arrived at the
scene and told Police that they heard five shots fired at about 11:00 that
morning. They said they were unable to use their grazing land that day
due to the violence. At roughly a 4:00 pm the Police left the scene,
taking both injured animals with them.

Palestinian shepherds in the area and volunteers working with Christian
Peacemaker Teams report that Settler violence directed at Shepherds in the
Tuwani Area has increased sharply in March. On multiple occasions both
Settlers and Army Personnel have injured Palestinian-owned animals.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Stations of Shaadi
13 March, 2008
Written by Eileen

The South Hebron Hills are a place of great beauty. Gazelles roam the
hillsides, birds are abundant in the sky. When you look out over the
hills you can see ancient Palestinian villages where people are still
living a simple, subsistence lifestyle. They have flocks of sheep and
goats. They market lambs, and the women make delicious cheese and
butter. In springtime, the valleys are brilliant green with crops of
wheat and barley.

But this beauty is marked with pain. As you look out across the
horizon now, you also see the unmistakable mark of Israeli
settlements. They appear as modern suburban developments dropped down
on the hilltops in this rugged terrain. Settlement outposts extend the
reach of these settlements, and confiscate increasingly more
Palestinian land exclusively for Israeli use. Religiously zealous,
ideological and violent settlers threaten and attack anyone who dares
draw near. Palestinian shepherds here find they have less and less
land to graze their flocks, and must take grave risks when they do.

As we accompany these shepherds, they often speak of the stories this
landscape holds for them. They speak of the land they knew as
children; the places they used to roam; the valleys their fathers and
grandfathers used to graze the flocks. Recently, as we accompanied one
shepherd, Shaadi, he pointed out some of the landmarks in his memory
along the way.

From high on a hilltop, we can see the nearby settlement and outpost.
Although he does not mention it, we are looking across at a place
where his children have been repeatedly attacked while walking to
school. He continues to send his children to school, knowing that to
do so is defiance of the violence and threats to push him and his
family off of their land.

As we pause at the cistern to water the flocks, he recounts the time
when three masked settlers from the outpost attacked him and his young
son while they were watering the sheep. The settlers arrived in a
truck and began firing stones at them with a slingshot. They broke the
legs of two of his sheep. His nine year old son was also hit by the
rocks. Shaadi tried to comfort his son, who would not speak after the

When he called the Israeli police to report the attack, the police
refused to come to the village to take his report saying they were
afraid of the settlers, "We are only two police. We need a whole army
to go in there. The settlers will break our windows." Shaadi replied,
"If you are afraid of the settlers, how do you think I am?"

A short walk later, we pass by the place where three years ago a
settler from the illegal settlement outpost Havat Maon, stole fifteen
sheep from his flock. Despite filing a police report, including video
evidence of the entire incident and eyewitness testimony from an
international observer, no charges were filed against the settler.

As we approach his home, he talks about the forced removal of several
hundred people from this area. On April 7, 1998 over one hundred
families in the area, including Shaadi's, were served orders to
abandon their homes by April 12th. In a dark irony, the deadline
given was Easter Sunday. The families refused to leave. The military
confiscated their meager belongings, and offered to return them if
they agreed to leave. They refused.

Shaadi's home is a simple place, closely connected with the homes of
his extended family. But even home is a place of scarred memories.
Settlers have come and attacked his family. Shaadi shares the painful
memory of the time when armed settlers came to the village, and
started shooting. His mother was shot in the leg, and his brother was
also wounded. For him and his family, there is no safe place of refuge.

As is typical in the area, they once had a toilet out-building
adjacent to the house. In May of 2006, the Israeli Civil
Administration issued a demolition order for the toilet. A few days
later a bulldozer came and destroyed it. He has not been allowed to
rebuild it. It seems even the basic human dignity and privacy of a
toilet will be denied him.

Shepherds in this area continue to face violence and threats on a
daily basis. In January of this year, while Shaadi was out grazing his
flocks with a few other local shepherds, settlers came out from the
outpost and fired six shots at them. The flocks scattered, and the
shepherds fled. The Israeli police refused to respond, saying they
`had better things to do".

A few weeks ago, Shaadi was one of several shepherds that went to
graze their flocks in a valley called Mshaha, south of the illegal
settlement outpost, Havat Maon. They went together as an act of
resistance to threats and violence from the settlers. They went to
recover the use of their land, and find sustenance for their flocks.
On this day, Israeli soldiers arrived and demanded that the shepherds
leave. The shepherds responded that this was their land, and that they
wanted to appeal to the commander to decide the issue. Settlers from
the outpost also came and spoke with the soldiers. The soldiers ran
toward the flocks and kicked several sheep, trying to drive them away.
Many of these shepherds reported injuries to their sheep, including
broken teeth, and internal bleeding. Shaadi lost two lambs later that
week from injured ewes.

As we were finishing up this long walk, we paused along the way as a
young lamb was born. Shaadi tended gently and expertly to the newborn,
and invited us back to his house for a meal. We rejoiced in the new
birth, hopeful that this might be finally a sign of new life for him
and his family.

i:`Settlements' refers to Israeli only housing built within the
occupied Palestinian territories. Settlements are all illegal
according to international law. Settlement outposts are illegal under
international law, as well as under Israeli law.
Israeli settlers threaten Palestinian school children, attack CPTers in South Hebron Hills

On 17 March 2008, an Israeli settler yelled and threatened to throw a rock at Palestinian children on the way to elementary school in the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Two days later, masked settlers attacked CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson who were monitoring the school patrol from a new location.

About twenty children from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed walk to school in At-Tuwani each day. The Israeli military, under orders from the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Committee for the Rights of the Child, have accompanied the children past the Hill 833 settlement outpost since 2004 because of settler attacks on the children.

On the morning of 17 March 2008, the children were unable to meet the regular military escort, because it stopped short of the appointed meeting place, and despite repeated calls to the military by international volunteers and concerned Israelis, the escort jeep never came forward to meet the children. The children could not go toward the escort jeep because of the presence of the settler, who was speaking with soldiers and threatening the children with a rock.

Most of the children eventually decided to take the long path to school, walking unescorted through the hills and arriving in At-Tuwani about 9:00 a.m., an hour after school had started. Four children decided not to attend school that day and went home.

On the morning of 19 March, two settlers with their faces covered used slingshots to fire stones at CPTers Cassandra Dixon and Eileen Hanson and chased them as they attempted to monitor the escort. Dixon and Hanson were attempting to observe the children from a new location since soldiers were leaving them unaccompanied for half the route.

The recent problems with the escort arose after settlers installed a gate in the road. Because the jeep stops short of the gate, the children cannot see whether it is waiting for them. Often a few children go ahead, in order to check for the presence of the escort. This reconnaissance is dangerous for the children, because settlers are often in close proximity. One house in the outpost lies only fifty meters away from the road, and often a settler is working around the nearby chicken barns at this time.

In the afternoon, the escort jeep again stops short of the gate; the children go on ahead, and the escort jeep leaves the area before the children are out of sight. This negligence leaves the children unaccompanied for the last half of their walk past the settlement outpost, within reach of people who have previously attacked them.

The new gate on the road represents yet another expansion in the Hill 833 settlement outpost, called by the settlers Havat Ma'on. Despite orders issued by the Israeli government calling for the removal of this outpost, to date it has taken no action to remove it.
Well, it's been over a month since I've managed to update this, which should tell you something about my life here. It's been busy, busy, busy. A few days ago, the Israeli army demolished 9 homes in surrounding villages. We spent the day in front of the mosque in Tuwani, hoping that bulldozers wouldn't come for it. Rather stressful, as you might think.

More to come soon.