CPT: When Grazing Sheep Becomes Act of Non-Violent Resistance

15 March 2008

From Christian Peacemaker Teams

In At-Tuwani Village, South Hebron Hills, Israeli soldiers and ‘border police’ assaulted Palestinian shepherds.

While they grazed their sheep and worked in their olive groves in the Khoruba Valley, Israeli police threatened the shepherds with arrest and assaulted them. This was on Palestinian land in the southern West Bank’s Hebron Governorate.

A border police officer twisted the wrist of one shepherd and pushed him to the ground. Police grabbed another by his collar and pushed several other Palestinians.

The shepherds were engaging in a simple act of life that has become an act of nonviolent resistance – feeding their sheep and tending their trees on their own lands.

The Palestinians were attempting to graze their sheep and repair olives trees damaged by Israeli settlers over the last month. This is the same area in which settlers kicked in the teeth of sheep last month and cause serious bleeding to a lactating sheep.

The Israeli police also pushed and assaulted a group of Christian foreigners who were accompanying the shepherds, threatening them with arrest. No one was seriously injured physically, but all were affected.

Around 10 am, two border police jeeps, two army jeeps, and an Israeli civilian police vehicle arrived and spoke with Israeli settlers from the Havot Ma’on settlement outpost.

When foreign volunteers approached the police and asked them to observe the damaged olive trees, an officer of the District Coordinating Office, which is a branch of the Israeli military, told them that the area was a “closed military zone.” Police threatened to arrest two shepherds and assaulted two more.

Police also threatened to arrest the foreigners and shoved and grabbed them as they attempted to leave the area. Police stomped on the feet of five of the Christian volunteers, calling one of them “a whore.” Police twisted the wrists of two volunteers in an attempt to grab their video cameras and pushed another into a rock.

The shepherds and foreigners left the area and proceeded to the grove of olive trees.

Over the past month, Palestinians have found broken branches on a total of twelve trees. It has been noted that Israeli settlers are responsible for the damage, as settlers have destroyed trees in the past.

However, the shepherds remain undeterred and continue to graze their sheep and tend their trees, these simple acts of live which have become, for them, the ultimate acts of nonviolent resistance.