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Israelis fight for a Palestinian Jordan Valley

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — A military mini-drone melts into a flock of panicking sheep. For the Palestinian Bedouins and their rare Israeli allies there, this is just the start of another day of tension in the Jordan Valley that Israel promises to annex, reports AFP news agency.

That morning, the Bedouins were escorted not by Palestinian police but by Israeli activists who opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to lay hands on this fertile valley nestled in the east of the West Bank.

Israelis fight for a Palestinian Jordan Valley Israelis fight for a Palestinian Jordan Valley Israelis fight for a Palestinian Jordan Valley

“For me, silence is a war crime,” insists Guy Hirschfeld, escorting shepherds grazing their flocks on the side of a hill, wedged between a military base and an Israeli settlement in the north of the Jordan Valley.

When a military drone arises and sows panic among the hundreds of woolly animals, Mr. Hirschfeld is convinced: it does not bode well.

With his colleague, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, he is one of those few Israelis who are fighting against Israel’s stranglehold on the Jordan Valley, a vast agricultural plain dotted with Israeli settlements.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz both promise to annex this tongue of land, which accounts for 30% of the occupied West Bank, to become an integral part of Israel.

– Wild colony –

The Israeli political class had strong support in late January when US President Donald Trump presented his plan for the Middle East, which rightly provides for Israel’s annexation of the valley despite warnings from the United Nations and the Palestinians.

Messrs. Ascherman and Hirschfeld, with their small organization Torat Tzedek, are determined to oppose this project. “I cannot stay at home and know that everything that is done, is partly done in my name,” said AFP Guy Hirschfeld. “Every Israeli citizen must do something” against this project.

The two men know the Palestinian family Daraghmeh, who lives in Oum Zuka, a remote hamlet in the Jordan Valley, well. The three Daraghmeh brothers, in their forties, cultivate these lands since their childhood and affirm that it was the same for their ancestors well before 1967.

But in the aftermath of the Israeli occupation, their land was designated an Israeli military zone, and was then overlooked by an army base. And four years ago, a wooden structure arose on a hill opposite the base: it was a “wild” settlement, a settlement of settlers who did not receive the green light from Israel.

This colony shelters only a family and some teenagers. But for the Daraghmeh, this new presence is a way of forcing them to leave their land.

“Wherever the Bedouins live, a settler is brought there to settle in the middle (of his land). Why? So that some residents are afraid (and leave),” said AFP Thiab Daraghmeh.

– “Living in the sky?” –

The presence of MM. Ascherman and Hirschfeld alongside the three brothers allowed them to bring their animals to graze near the base and the colony where they would be afraid to venture alone.

But this presence does not prevent, an hour after the overflight of the drone, soldiers flanked by four settlers from disembarking, pushing the Palestinians towards their dilapidated houses, lower in the valley.

Mr. Ascherman may negotiate, the soldiers claim that their location is military land. “And the settlers don’t have to leave,” squeaks the American-Israeli, kippah on his head. “This is what we call in Hebrew Vifah Vifah: two weights, two measures”.

Neither the soldiers nor the settlers wanted to speak to AFP. Contacted later by AFP, the Israeli army said “protect all residents in this area equally”.

If they are determined to stay on their land, the Daraghmeh are showing increasing pressure. “Sometimes they forbid us to graze our animals in the valley, and then they forbid us to come here (on the hill),” says Thiab Daraghmeh. “Do they want us to go live in the sky?”.

For Guy Hirschfeld too, the situation is hardly tenable. He says he is “exhausted” and isolated, friends and family members having cut ties because of his engagement with the Palestinians. “We see fewer and fewer Israeli activists engaged in activities in the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Some days he plans to stop everything. Then thinks that he will continue as long as he feels he is useful. “Everything I do, I do because I love my country,” he says. “I say to my daughters:” one day you will understand what your father is doing”.

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