Latest attack on ‘Breaking the Silence’ shows pressure is growing on the group
An Israeli settler from the Nof Nesher outpost disrupted a Breaking the Silence Tour last Wednesday, parking in the middle of the road to prevent a bus carrying internationals and a guide from the NGO to go past.
Breaking the Silence is a leftist NGO which collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza and are now ashamed of the Israeli Army’s activities there.
Mainstream Israeli public and politicians look on the NGO with suspicion because of its advocacy for a full withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories and for ending the Israeli Army’s presence there.
As part of their campaigning on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ‘Breaking the Silence’ also runs tours in the West Bank, for Israelis and foreigners alike. Activist Ido Even Paz was guiding the tour across the South Hebron hills when settler Yedidya Talya blocked the road with his car last Wednesday.
The road in question led to Nof Nesher, a settlement that also goes by the name of Lucifer Farm located south of the Palestinian village of Susiya.
Talya claimed the road was built and owned by his family, which moved to Israel after his father converted from Christianity to Judaism in South Africa about 38 years ago. He therefore claimed a right to deny right of passage on the piece on land too.
Talya called Breaking the Silence tours “full of lies” and pointed to a hand-made sign he put up himself saying “shvil prati”, the Hebrew for “private path”, to claim his right to block access on the road.
Breaking the Silence activist Ido Even Paz, however, insisted the road was public and quoted previous instances where the Magav (or Israeli Border Police) had deliberated Talya did not actually own the road.
"Breaking the Silence" tours take place in both Hebrew and English and run either to central Hebron or to the South Hebron hills, such as the one disrupted by Talya.
After an Israeli army patrol came to scene, the commander admitted he was not sure whether the road was private or public, as the settler and the activist respectively claimed.
The patrol however greeted local settler Yedidya Talya warmly and decided to issue a “zav shetach zvai sagur”, the Hebrew for a military warrant declaring the area “closed” for the rest of the day.
The military order meant both settler Yedidya Talya and activist Even Paz, alongside its group of touring internationals, had to leave the road. The outcome represented a victory for Talya, who had managed to prevent passage.
“This episode shows what I explained to you during the day”, said Breaking the Silence activist Even Paz to his twenty or so visitors from abroad. “The army and the settlers have an intimate relationship in the West Bank”.
Eventually, Israel Army patrol comes to the scene and say they are not sure whether the road is public or actually belongs to the settler, as he claims. Commander issues an order asking both @BtSIsrael and Yedidya Talya to leave pic.twitter.com/88thAXlxPY— davide (@DavideLerner) January 14, 2018
The IDF commander admitted characters like Talya created more problems than the Palestinians in the area, but then asked everyone to vacate the site as per his order.
Breaking the Silence tours get regularly harassed by settlers who disagree with the views expressed by the NGO. Asked whether he had stopped the bus with his car before, Talya himself recalled doing it many times.
“This is my road, this is my land”, he said to foreigners who asked him to let the bus go through. “Like in any other country, also in Israel property rights are protected”, he said.
The Lucifer Farm, the settlement where Talya lives, is situated in an area referred to as “Seam Zone”. The label “Seam Zone” is applied to all territories situated between the Green line and the Israeli roadblocks that separate the West Bank from Israel proper.
The Metzudat Yehuda checkpoint, the closest one to where Talya lives, is located for instance around 8 kilometres from the Green Line. During the debate over the nature of the road he had blocked, activist Ido Even Paz and the local military commander argued over whether he should be called a “settler”.
“He lives beyond the Green Line, that is why I call him a settler”, said Even Paz from Breaking the Silence, while the soldier claimed the area was Israel proper because it was before the check-point of Metzudat Yehuda.
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