In this article, Manal Shqair of Stop the Wall provides an account of the brutalization of the Jordan Valley by Israeli settler-shepherds who, along with the violent Hilltop Youth and the Israeli military, are ranged against pastoral Palestinian communities.
Israeli shepherd outposts are a recent phenomenon; according to local residents, Israel started the construction of shepherd settlements 4-5 years ago. Shepherd settlement outposts refer to small settlements built on a few hectares of land, usually hilly areas and inhabited by one or a few shepherd families. The danger of these settlements, the residents explain, lies in the ability of Israeli shepherds to block off Palestinian access to large swathes of grazing areas, usually by force, preventing their cattle from grazing.
Palestinian shepherds assert that Israeli shepherds are usually escorted by the Israeli army and fanatical settlers who affiliate with the ‘Hilltop Youth’. The Hilltop Youth is a group of hundreds of settlers who aim to take over Palestinian lands by establishing settler outposts especially on hilltops (Al-Qadi 2021). Since its creation at the end of the 1990s and until 2020, the group succeeded in building 170 settler outposts across the West Bank. The Hilltop Youth direct lynch mobs and other violence against Palestinians.
Shqair argues that Israeli shepherd settlement outposts accompanied by other impositions act to decimate Palestinians’ land-based pastoralism in the Jordan Valley, and represent a deliberate mechanism of the Zionist state to disrupt indigenous eco-social practices. Focusing on the communities of Khirbet AlHadidya, Khirbet Makhoul and Al-Farisya, the study concludes that the Israeli destruction of Palestinians’ eco-social relations falls with the framework of colonial ecological violence (CEV) described by Jules M. Bacon. CEV works slowly and strategically to advance the settler-colonial project, perpetually undermining the agricultural livelihood and social resilience of the indigenous population.
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