Israeli settlers gather during a rally in support of reestablishing a wildcat outpost of Eviatar near the West Bank city of Nablus, Feb. 18, 2022. Credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Haaretz Editorial: Time to Put an End to Nationalist Service Volunteers at Illegal West Bank Outposts

The growing settlement enterprise requires a constantly growing circle of partners in crime. Even the Authority for National-Civic Service, known in Hebrew as Sherut Leumi, contributes its bit to this criminal operation. Last week we discovered that the state allows national service volunteers to do their service in illegal West Bank settlement outposts.

According to the report, women doing their national service volunteer in the outposts through a placement organization that works with Sherut Leumi. This organization, Hashomer YOSH (Judea and Samaria), is exploiting its allotment of national service volunteers to send women to illegal outposts, including the Nahal Shiloh Farm, the Pnei Kedem Farm, Tzon Keidar, Kashuela and Ahavat Olam – all of which have been served with demolition orders. It also sends them to the Nof ABI farm, Hibat Ha’aretz, Meshek Mann and Teneh Yarok.

These outposts, termed “farms,” are the most common type of outpost in the West Bank. In general, they are inhabited by only one family plus a flock of sheep. The volunteers help take the sheep to pasture and guard them. The pasturage often serves as a way of increasing the outpost’s size at the expense of Palestinians who previously pastured their flocks there. Hashomer YOSH bills these volunteer positions as “protecting state land.”

And indeed, Tehila Shamla – who, together with her husband, runs the Nahal Shiloh Farm, which was established around half a year ago and has been served with a demolition order – explained that the volunteers are needed to take the sheep out to pasture and also to block the Palestinians, who “keep plowing and planting more.” As she explained it, “It’s simply a daily battle for the land. My husband planted the trees far apart from each other to take over as much land and block as much as possible.”

Even as one arm of the state is issuing demolition and eviction orders against outposts that were built illegally, another arm is funding national service positions for organizations that send the volunteers to work in these outposts. MK Gaby Lasky (Meretz) sent a letter to the head of the national service authority demanding that he stop allotting volunteers to any organization that knowingly sends them to break the law. MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) submitted a parliamentary question on the issue to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, asking why the ministry lets people do their national service in illegal outposts.

The national service authority’s response is completely unacceptable. It said it examines Hashomer YOSH according to the parameters set in the Civilian Service Law and ancillary regulations, but added, “The examination does not encompass all legal aspects.” The authority must ensure that volunteers aren’t engaging in illegal activity in illegal outposts. And the defense minister must ensure that this illegitimate practice is rooted out.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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