Hundreds March in South Hebron, Settlers Retaliate by Attacking Local Boy

2 December 2007

On Saturday nearly 200 Israelis and internationals joined the Palestinian residents of Tuwani and Tuba in the South Hebron Hills as they marched from Tuwani to Tuba where they accompanied local farmers as they plowed their fields next to the illegal Israeli outpost, Ma’on Farm. Ta’ayush Movement and Combatants for Peace organized this delegation both to raise awareness within the Israeli population about the plight of the Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills, and to provide a level of protection for the Palestinian farmers, who are often viciously assaulted by the right-wing extremists living in Ma’on Farm.

The group began with a briefing by members of Ta’ayush Movement on the local situation in Tuwani village. As the march approached the edge of the village, over 30 Israeli soldiers and police officers formed a line and attempted to prevent the participants from walking on towards Tuba, past Ma’on Farm. Organizers attempted to reason with the police and soldiers, assuring them that the participants had no intention of confronting the settlers or going near the settlement, but were simply walking past on their way to the second Palestinian village. When the Israeli soldiers and police continued to deny the organizers permission, participants began walking around the forces. Soldiers then assaulted several of the participants and cameramen with independent media, violently pushing them, grabbing them and throwing them to the side in an attempt to prevent the march from moving forward, even though several participants had babies and small children with them. The Israeli forces quickly realized that they would not be able to prevent the people from proceeding with their march, and after two more short attempts to stop the group, they contented themselves with escorting the march past the outpost.

Once past, the marchers stopped for their picnic lunch as local residents addressed the group and explained the terror they experience from the local settlers in the area. Everyday, Palestinian children from Tuba take the same path the marchers took to and from their school in Tuwani. Since 2004 the Israeli military and police have been ordered by the Israeli Knesset to accompany the children to and from school because of the numerous violent attacks on children by the settlers. Farmers, who grow wheat and barley in that arid land, mostly to feed their sheep, are constantly attacked by settlers whenever they venture near the outpost, which is illegal even by Israel’s own laws (all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law).

On this day, even with 200 witnesses, about a dozen settlers came down towards the farmers, where they were prevented from attacking the marchers and farmers by reluctant Israeli police. When the farmers completed their plowing, everyone began marching back towards Tuwani. The settlers walked along the group, hurling insults at the participants as the marchers chanted in hebrew, arabic, and english, “out, settlers! Out, Out!” and sang in hebrew calling for the dismantling of Ma’on Farm.

After the participants returned to their buses in Tuwani, they received word that after the march, a teenage boy riding his donkey near Tuba was attacked by a settler from Ma’on who pulled him off his donkey, beat him while he was on the ground, and then stole his donkey, taking it with him into the settlement. Some Israeli and international participants then attempted to enter Ma’on settlement to demand the return of the donkey, which was essential to the family’s livelihood. When approximately 25 activists approached the entrance to Ma’on, they were violently attacked by Israeli police who began pushing and hitting the activists. The participants agreed to back off a few dozen yards if the police would investigate the theft, return the donkey, and press charges against the settler responsible for the assault and theft. The young man who was riding the donkey was brought to the settlement entrance and in a rare display of interest, the Israeli police took his statement, had him identify the settler using pictures taken that day during the march, and promised that they would locate the donkey and return it to him, with an apology and compensation for the days of missed work. It is clear that the Israeli police were pressured to do their jobs by the presence of Israeli and international witnesses; settlers are very rarely held accountable for their campaign of terror and violence against the Palestinian people.