Israeli security forces stand by while settlers harass Palestinian shepherds, witnesses say

4 March 2013

Article by HAARETZ
By Amira Hass Mar.03, 2013

Photo circulated over the weekend shows Border Police officer shaking hands with masked settlers who proceeded to harass Palestinians who just moments before had been denied access to their land; Border Police: Officers were trying to stop the settlers.
A Border Police officer was caught on camera this weekend near a West Bank village shaking hands with a masked Israeli settler, and then reportedly stood by while that man and his friends proceeded to harass a group of Palestinian cattle herders.

The incident occurred after the officer and his comrades from the Border Police and the Israel Defense Forces barred the same Palestinian shepherds from herding their cattle on land belonging to their village Umm al-Amad, near Beit Amra.

The group of Israelis – which included two masked men – arrived on foot from the settlement of Otniel shortly after the Palestinians were denied entry to the fields.

Rather than blocking the Israelis’ access to the land, as they had the Palestinians, one of the officers shook the hand of one of the masked men and then let the whole group cross the fields undisturbed.

The soldiers and cops then stood by as the settlers threatened the young shepherds and approached the adjacent Palestinian homes, according to witnesses belonging to the Arab-Jewish Taayush activist group.

Sources in Umm al Amad say that Israeli security forces and settlers regularly block the cattle-herders’ access to the land.

The Border Police denied allowing the settlers to harass the Palestinians, saying the photo in questions was taken as the cops were asking the masked individuals to leave/ shortly before – and before the settlers began throwing rocks at the Israeli forces.

“Border Police officers seek to enforce law and order in a manner that treats all sides equally,” a spokesperson for the Border Police said, adding that the officers prefer to settle issues that come up via peaceful dialogue whenever possible.

“Such dialogue, which incorporates both sides without bias, should not be seen as an attempt to take sides,” the spokesperson said