Farsiya: Settlers steal cattle from the Palestinians day and night

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Tal Barglass and Mickey Fisher, (Reporting) Translation: Bracha Ben-Avraham

12/25/2023 Monday
We arrived at the Farsiya encampment in the afternoon for a "protective presence" shift. Interpretation: The Israely volunteers accompanying the Palestinian shepherds to pasture in the north of the Palestinians Jordan valley, also stay there 24/7 to prevent the violence of the outpost settlers, who regularly threaten the five families living in the Palestinian settlement. 

The families fear for their lives, the lives of their children, and their herds of sheep which are their source of income.  The settlers, supported by the army, have continuously embittered the lives of the Palestinian families for generations in an effort to force them to leave in an effort to complete the “purification” and annexation of the Jordan Valley.  

Our efforts to guard the Palestinian families have resulted in a family-like relationship between the Palestinian families and the volunteers.   When we came we visited all the families   Each evening we were invited for coffee and tea and were even invited to dinner.  At around 8:00 in the evening some of the parents and children gathered in A. and B’s house and had fun playing social games.   At about 9:00 we went to sleep in the volunteers’ tent that the families had set up for us as we requested.  We wished to respect their privacy and to alleviate the difficulty that our continued presence creates for the family.

12/26/2023 Tuesday 
The apparent quiet was broken at 06:30 in the morning when we received a call from A., who was responsible for the day.   All the herds of cows from Ein Hilweh, about 10 kilometers to the south, had been stolen by settlers and taken to a corral near the settlement of Hemdat.   We left quickly and picked up M., the brother of one of the herdsmen.   We arrived in the area near Hemdat settlement and saw the stolen cows in the corral.  We saw Oz, a worker from the regional council who was armed, a policeman from the border patrol, and a policeman named Arik.  M. shouted that the cows belonged to him and had been stolen by youths who had come to his tent site at night and let them out.  Oz did not deny this, but claimed that the cows had been on the road and had endangered drivers and orchards and had consequently been put in the corral.  M. was enraged and explained “These 150 cows are all that we own!”   Tal asked the policeman to release the cows and he refused, claiming that there were two versions of the incident and that a complaint needed to be lodged with the District Coordination and Liaison Office in Jericho.  M. continued to shout and collapsed, explaining that the settlers had come with weapons and harassed them.  They had watched them all night from a distance.  They wanted to see where they would take the cows, but remained at a distance because they were afraid the settlers would shoot at them.

After a half an hour the other Palestinian brothers arrived and pleaded for the herd to be released.  The policeman continued to refuse and claimed that he could not make the decision and that they had to lodge a complaint.  M. and his brothers answered that in their experience the police would not help them because a similar theft had occurred several weeks ago and the cows had been sold to someone in the Galilee or the Golan Heights.  They also knew that some of the cows were not there because they had been transported somewhere else.  Oz from the regional council verified this!  Suddenly M. and two of his brothers jumped over the fence and opened the gatesinfo-icon of the corral, let the cows out, and fled.  Oz wanted to shoot at them but the policeman stopped him and pursued them himself.  He arrested one of them and handcuffed him.   

Meanwhile Rabbi Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights arrived with M. and representatives from the Palestinian Authority.  It was apparent that 26 cows had been taken to the Allenby Bridge and 62 others had somehow been transported to a Bedouin village in the Galilee.  People had called from the village and demanded ransom for the return of the cows.   

Volunteers who escort and protect the Palestinians in the valley hired Attorney Sfarad in order to return the cows that had been brought to a corral at the Adam Bridge.  The cows were released for a sum of NIS 49,000 after 10 days of struggle.   According to the Palestinians five cows suffered broken legs as a result of being loaded onto the trucks, and 5 calves died.

We understood that the settlers have made their methods of harassment more sophisticated.  Instead of simply chasing after the shepherds with their ATVs they now harass them through bureaucracy.  They invent stories about the herds wandering freely after the youths from the outposts have let the animals out in the middle of the night, or declare they were grazing in “closed military zones” that the army establishes to prevent possible friction between settlers and Palestinians.  They are also accused of entering firing zones that have not been used for exercises for years, are not marked, and Palestinians have been grazing their flocks there. 

IN this way the occupation is using bureaucracy to usurp the Palestinians’ source of income.   They not only confiscate their animals, but they also force them to redeem them at a cost of thousands of Shekels.

The settlers, who have small herds, receive thousands of acres of state land for grazing.  

All these heroic deeds of the settlers in the occupied territories are not reported in the media, which is busy with the terrible war in Gaza that has been going on since October 7th.  

It should be noted that 10 days afterwards Uri the settler approached the shepherds and told them that they could graze their herds in “a certain area”.  When they got there he called the police, who confiscated the remaining animals, claiming that they were in a closed military zone.  They were forced to redeem them for an additional NIS 150,000!