‘Israel Uses Official Practices, Settler Violence to Drive Palestinian Pastoral Communities Off Land’ – B’tselem


Jewish settler violence against Palestinian shepherds is routine in West Bank. (Photo: via QNN)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

In February and March 2024, B’Tselem documented some 20 incidents in which illegal Jewish settlers and soldiers drove Palestinian shepherds out of pastureland in the South Hebron (Al Khalil) Hills.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has said that Israel “is working to drive Palestinian pastoral communities out of their homes” in the occupied West Bank, combining “official practices” and “organized settler violence” to achieve its aims.

In February and March 2024, B’Tselem documented some 20 incidents in which illegal Jewish settlers and soldiers drove Palestinian shepherds out of pastureland in the South Hebron (Al Khalil) Hills, using various means, the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

“These incidents are part of a deliberate pattern of settler actions meant to promote Israel’s policy of expulsion, crucially affecting the survival of these communities,” it said.

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Video Footage

B’Tselem supported their statement with video footage documenting the expulsions.

In the footage, illegal settlers, with the backing of soldiers, are seen chasing sheep with the use of drones and quad bikes, off grazing lands.

Israel works “to drive Palestinian pastoral communities out of their homes, “in order to take over their areas of habitation, including farmland and pastureland, and use them for its own purposes.”

“To that end, it combines official practices, implemented by branches of the state such as the Civil Administration and the military, with an unofficial arm of organized settler violence and harassment.”

This combination is used, among other things, “to limit the communities’ ability to set their flocks to graze, which damages their income – making them more vulnerable and easier to drive out,” B’tselem said.

Settlers Armed

In the last decade, “dozens of ‘farms’ have been established by settlers in the West Bank, supported by the state but not officially authorized, in order to take over pastureland in Palestinian rural areas,” the organization emphasized.

It said that since October 7, many illegal settlers involved in “these violent acts” have been deployed “in the military ‘territorial defense’ unit or in emergency squads and given military weapons.”

This, B’tselem explained, “makes it impossible to distinguish when they are operating under military orders and when they are acting independently while in uniform.”

The harassment is focused on preventing the communities from taking their flocks out to graze in broader and broader areas, the organization said.

“Sometimes, the settlers drive the shepherds out themselves with threats and violence, while the authorities turn a blind eye. At other times, they summon soldiers and Border Police officers who cite various pretexts to force the shepherds to leave.”

Some pretexts supposedly relate to security, such as being too close to roads serving settlers, for example on private Palestinian land, the organization said.

“Others relate to the status of the land, such as claiming that the shepherds are in state land allocated to settlers, a firing zone or a nature reserve, generally designated to exclude Palestinians, or a general assertion that the land is not private Palestinian land.”

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Forced to Scale Back

Under the pressure of violence and threats, and with no other options, “Palestinian communities are abandoning or scaling back traditional economic activities such as shepherding and growing seasonal crops, which supported them comfortably for generations.”

These Palestinians, said B’tselem, are moving away from pastureland and water sources they used to utilize, and are reducing the cultivation of farmland.

Meanwhile, the authorities “allow settlers to graze sheep freely on Israeli-declared state land, in firing zones, and even on private Palestinian land.”

The rights organizations said the settlers, “who often set their sheep to graze close to Palestinian homes, harass the residents and shepherds, assault them, and damage their crops and other property.”

‘State Violence’

“State violence – both official and unofficial – is integral to the Israeli apartheid regime, which seeks to Judaize the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” said B’tselem.

The Israeli “regime,” the statement added, “views land as a resource meant to serve the Jewish public, and therefore uses it almost exclusively to develop and expand existing Jewish settlements and establish new ones.”

At the same time, “the regime fragments Palestinian space, dispossesses Palestinians of their land, and pushes them into small, crowded enclaves.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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