In the background, from the beginning of my visits to this area, there has been a group of Italians who run a project called Operation Dove(1). They describe themselves as a non-violent peace corps. I’d like to introduce you to them a little more, because I think they are running an excellent and inspiring project.
After getting to know the team for a month, I have found the who work with the project without exception to be sincere, courageous, hard working and generally lovely. They are welcomed by the shepherd families with wide open arms. Watching them play with the children is charming, and the adults trust them.
An Operation Dove volunteer plays with an albino rabbit next to the third new house in Mufaqarah. To prevent further and more political attacks, Operation Dove has asked that all names and faces of the volunteers be hidden.
One of their core activities is to ensure the safety of children walking to school. In the village of Tuwani, the route to the school goes right between two zionist colonies. Even I, obviously not Palestinian, am unable to approach the colonies without risk of being attacked. A bunch of school aged children walking right between the two colonies face a very high danger of attack twice a day.
Playing in Mufaqara
Operation Dove started their sub-project here in Tuwani to escort the children to school. This deters attacks because they document the situation and draw political attention to it. I have to admire the Palestinian children and their parents also for their courage and the value they place on education. Since the beginning of the project there has been a court case (in an Israeli court) and the Italians are no longer allowed to walk along the public road with the children. Instead, in an odd twist, Israeli soldiers accompany them. These days, Operation Dove keeps track of the situation and the volunteers do their best to ensure that the soldiers actually show up for their court-ordered duty.
This soldierly escort is, by the way, a good example of some quirky details inside the zionist movement. The settlers, in this case, are engaging in low-level criminal activity, and the soldiers occasionally actually playing a role in stopping them. Normally, the soldiers and settlers work together in colonization. Many soldiers and police are also settlers. The police play a similarly complex role, balancing a small amount of normal ideas of justice within their colonizing goals. This is the reason why settlers usually wear masks when they attack; to prevent their identification, which could cause the police to actually try and find them. The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered that police are to be proactive in preventing settler attacks, which they clearly are not. It’s a complicated situation that would be confusing if I hadn’t already seen enough colonization efforts to recognize it as such.
The other main activities that Operation Dove take core of are escorting shepherds and documenting the various settler attacks. They record the details about destroyed olive trees, burned wheat, bulldozed houses, broken legs and flattened power pylons. Often they face dangerous situations when settlers attack them, and volunteers working with them have been injured.
Which brings me to the main thrust of this article, which is to condemn recent attacks specifically against the volunteers. Normally, when they witness an attack it is because the settlers are attacking shepherds, which is obviously criminal and bad enough. But some settlers in this area have been taking their behavior to an especially (but not entirely new) low level by specifically targeting human rights activists. I am going to take a cue from Amnesty International and consider this something that needs special attention.
One June 11, volunteers from Operation Dove were walking by themselves when they were twice attacked by masked men, using rocks. In the second attack, the attackers used weapons (slings). You can see the video of the first attack on youtube.
The team issued reports to the police but the police were condescending and unhelpful, not taking the assaults seriously at all. They asked the volunteers: Why don’t you volunteer with the police instead? Instead of following the order by the Supreme Court of Israel and claiming their legitimacy as police by taking action against criminal activity, they chose to make fun of one the victims because of his less-than-perfect English.
This assault with a weapon against unarmed human rights observers is really reprehensible. The complicity of the “police”, even worse. The police not only failed in their supposed duty but went out of their way to make reporting the assault unpleasant.
For me, this whole situation has re-confirmed my impression that the “police” are not real police; they have no interest in reducing violent, politically motivated, crime. The assaults also clearly show that some people in the zionist movement do not want the world to see what is happening in these hills. Unfortunately for them, dear readers, as long as you continue read these posts they will not have their way.
-Official blog for the Mufaqara campaign to exist.