+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

When remembering the Sabbath day enables settler violence

Settler violence on the Sabbath is not uncommon in the West Bank: Israeli civilians feel emboldened to attack Palestinians, knowing that law enforcement will refrain from taking serious action until the following week. 

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians, as soldiers stand on the side, during an attack by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya, April 30, 2013. Settlers burned fields and threw stones at houses in the village after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian man. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians, as soldiers stand on the side, during an attack by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya, April 30, 2013. Settlers burned fields and threw stones at houses in the village after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian man. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

They came riding on a horse, two Israeli civilians armed with firearms. One of them jumped off, drew a box cutter, and informed the Palestinian shepherd, B., that “this is our land.” As if to prove the point, he added that he would kill the sheep as well. The two Israelis began throwing stones at the animals, killing one of them with a direct hit to the head. The herd began running away in panic, and B. saw two of them falling down, their legs broken. One of the attackers began hitting sheep in the eyes with a stick.

The place: Khirbet Tel Al Hime, Tubas Region, Jordan Valley. The date: February 17, 2017. Khirbet Tel Al Hime is a small enclosure located some 250 meters west of Road 90, the major north-to-south highway in Israel-Palestine that runs through the West Bank. Around 30 people, all of them from the Ayoub family, live there, and have been living there since 1962.

Until the last few months, say the residents, they had few problems, and none with settlers — though the army did demolish some of their tents from time to time. They shepherded their flock and made cheese from the milk, selling it in the nearby town of Tubas. There is no infrastructure in place, and even the water has to be delivered in tanks from another town. But, all in all, the residents say it wasn’t bad.

All this changed in September 2016. The army raided the enclosure and demolished it. Almost at the same time, a new Israeli outpost was built nearby. Experience tells us that outposts built “accidentally” and without coordination with the Israeli authorities do not survive. So far, this new outpost is still standing.

One suspects we see the old method, the one described in Yesh Din’s The Road to Dispossession report, in action: first, the army allows Israelis to take over land, then turns a blind eye when they use ideological violence against Palestinians, all of which is part of an attempt to push them into despair so they’ll leave.

A masked Jewish Settler in front of Ma´on settlement, South Hebron hills, September 22, 2012. A masked Jewish Settler in front of Ma'on settlement, South Hebron hills, September 22, 2012. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A masked Jewish settler in front of Ma’on settlement, South Hebron hills, September 22, 2012. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The residents report that between September 2016 and February 2017 they were attacked no less than 30 times, almost always by armed Israeli civilians. In some cases Israeli civilians captured some of them, releasing them only after a large number of village residents arrived on the scene.

Back to the day of February 17. The Israeli civilians, as described by B., “weren’t boys”: they were about 30 years old, wearing small yarmulkes, and one of them had a black beard and hair. After attacking the sheep, the two of them went in the direction of the outpost. B. returned to Khirbet Tel Al Hime, rather scared. The residents called the Palestinian District Coordinating Office (DCO) in Tubas, and at one point officials from the Israeli DCO arrived.

One of the DCO officials, who spoke Arabic, accompanied the Palestinians to the scene of the attack, where he told them that since the Sabbath already began (according to Jewish law, it begins on Friday evening), he would return on Sunday.

However, the Palestinians recognized their attackers, pointing them out to the DCO officials. The latter drove in the direction of the outpost, but refrained from entering. Neither B. nor the other of the residents has heard from them since. If the DCO officials carried out any actions, they did not deign to inform the Palestinians.

This isn’t the first time we hear about the Sabbath becoming a preferred time for rioting on the part of the settlers. On the Sabbath itself, the Palestinians went back to herding, and fortunately for them they had with them something more deterring than the legal authorities: Ta’ayush activists, armed with something much scarier to the goons than a badge — a camera.

The Israeli civilians tried to drive the Palestinians away, but the Ta’ayush activists faced them down. This time it ended with “only” threats: “If you come to the grazing land tomorrow, I’ll shoot you and your flock.”

B. decided not to press charges. He saw, after all, just how effective they are even when he was pointing out the people who attacked him.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

Newsletter banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. JeffB

      Yep this is really bad. No reason this sort of thing should be happening in the Jordan Valley. The UN and the USA need to stop interfering in Israel establishing the rule of law. Israel needs to establish rule of law and step up and start clearly presenting both sides with law and declarations about who owns what property. There is no good reason for gang violence to settle property disputes and grazing policies when there is a viable government available to do it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Tell us how the UN and USA are interfering in Israel establishing the rule of law.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Bruce

          The Jordon Valley is in Area-C. Area-C is an area that the Israeli right would like to annex. Elements of the Israeli left has also traditionally supported the annexation ( see for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allon_Plan ). One of the key components of annexation is establishing Israeli civilian law. Were Israel to apply civilian law that would be seen as annexation. Begin for example faced UN and USA resistance in trying to apply civilian law to Jerusalem rather than military law.

          Were it not for interference from the UN and the USA the Jordan Valley would be annexed, civilian law would be applied and the grazing policy would be established in a fair manner. There wouldn’t be any need for gangs to try and settle disputes on their own because they would have a well functioning interior ministry and court system that could resolve these disputes.

          Opposition to annexation is what is causing these injustices.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Bruce’s question is of course the heart of the matter. And it also gets to the heart of JeffB’s disingenuousness.

        I love that “Yep, this is really bad.” As if we needed to be told that or it is a credit to JeffB’s humanity and perspicacity to state that. As if this were in dispute or needed to be validated.
        What follows that opening line is a study in disingenuous. Every sentence a studious ignoring of reality. A studious normalizing of organized crime. A studious pretending. A studious pretending that this is not a military occupation. With military law applied in a severely oppressive way to Arabs, and civilian law, applied, almost entirely in the breach in the opposite encouraging direction, to Jews. And the whole disingenuous pretense that JeffB does not understand that this is all deliberate, calculated, meticulously planned, a regime, with the aim of dispossession; and is not some inexplicable failure to deal with “rule of law…both sides…who owns what…gang violence…property disputes…grazing policies.” Grazing policies! Is he kidding? And not only that. That this mysterious failure is, moreover, the fault of the UN and the United States of America who are preventing Israel from “establishing the rule of law” that it so wants to establish. You read that right. You are not hallucinating.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben

          Israel is a powerful state. If they wanted the 60-120k Palestinians dead who live in Area-C they would be dead. If they wanted them disposed forcibly they would be disposed. Israel doesn’t need a complex meticulous plan that extends over generations where they sneak around. The Yishuv might have needed such techniques 90 years ago, but the modern state of Israel does not.

          Your explanation simply doesn’t make any sense.

          Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        I do not understand why this site allows a small number of dishonest racists like yourself to troll every single article. Your mendacity is obvious.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Gearoid

          When have I ever made a claim based on race here?

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      You contradict yourself, Jeff B. The ultimate in “Israel is always the victim” special pleading. Israel is, you tell us, so powerful that it could commit mass extermination, mass murder of the “60-120k Palestinians who live in Area-C”…“they would be dead.” Israel, a powerful country, could then similarly withstand the isolation and sanctions and shame that would follow. And yet, Israel is so un-powerful at the very same time that it cannot stand up to the UN and USA and apply civilian law in the occupied territories? You spin tales, JeffB.

      So now Israel *behaves* like an annexing entity when it wants to, and by your dubious calculation this magically dissolves the occupation, but at the same time poor Israel is magically prevented by outside forces from applying military or civilian law in a fair manner in these territories. The ultimate in having it both ways.
      Yes, your mendacity is obvious.

      Reply to Comment
      • JeffB

        @Ben

        — And yet, Israel is so un-powerful at the very same time that it cannot stand up to the UN and USA and apply civilian law in the occupied territories? You spin tales, JeffB.

        I didn’t say that Israel “couldn’t” stand up to the USA and UN. Everything is cost benefit. The cost of standing up to the USA and UN over applying civilian law is high. By creating a high cost they prevent Israel from doing it. That’s not to say that Israel couldn’t do it decide to take the consequences. There is no contradiction there. The USA could fund high speed trains between all its major cities. The cost is so high we don’t. Were the cost lower we would.

        The USA and the UN by preventing full annexation and discouraging annexation activities like applying civilian law create the injustices that Palestinians suffer. Yes Israel is they were absolutely determined to create a just society for Palestinians could do so. But they aren’t absolutely determined they are merely willing.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “The USA and the UN by preventing full annexation and discouraging annexation activities like applying civilian law create the injustices that Palestinians suffer. Yes Israel is they were absolutely determined to create a just society for Palestinians could do so. But they aren’t absolutely determined they are merely willing.”

          This is so mendacious, or simply clueless, and truth-inverting, so contrary to everything Israel actually does, with selective applications and non-applications of military law and civilian law, that it is not worth a reply. It rather resembles the dezinformatsiya of your hero Putin, come to think of it.

          Reply to Comment

The stories that matter.
The missing context.
All in one weekly email.

Subscribe to +972's newsletter