In the early days of the Zionist enterprise, a group of Jewish Palestinians — in those days, the word ‘Palestinian’ referred to Jews — organized a group called hashomer, ‘guardians’ who defended Jewish farms and towns against marauding Arab bandits. Not everyone who applied to join was accepted, including David Ben-Gurion.
Today, despite the existence of a Jewish state with police, an army and numerous other security-related institutions, it’s become necessary to recreate this paramilitary organization.
In recent years, it has become harder and harder for Jewish farmers in the Galilee and Negev to survive, because they are assailed on a daily (or nightly) basis by Bedouins or Palestinian Arabs who steal everything that isn’t nailed down, destroy fences, set fire to crops, build squatter dwellings on farmers’ land, slaughter their animals in their fields, and threaten, beat or even try to kill anyone who tries to prevent them.
These aren’t ‘settlements’, by the way (not that it matters), this is happening inside the Green Line.
Here is a video — unfortunately in Hebrew only, without subtitles — of a young man named Yoel Z. making a presentation at a Jerusalem meeting, explaining how he and his friends, veterans of elite army units, have created an organization called hashomer hachadash (‘new guardians’) in order to do the job that the authorities will not or cannot do. He tells of farmers, individuals, kibbutzim and moshavim, simply abandoning thousands of acres of land because they don’t have the ability to defend it. He tells about roads — roads within the state of Israel — that are too dangerous to use because Bedouin bandits block them with boulders and old washing machines, etc., stop vehicles and beat and rob the occupants.
Hashomer hachadash now has 600 volunteers who donate between one and three weeks of their time — a new kind of ‘reserve duty’, in addition to what they must give to the army, of course — to protect the agricultural resources of the state, which Yoel calls “the fortified walls of Jerusalem.”
In addition to admiring the courage, Zionism and generosity of these young people, we have to ask the obvious question:
Why are the police, army, border police, etc. powerless or uninterested? Yoel’s father, a farmer living on Moshav Tzipori in the Galilee, told him that he had made over 250 complaints to the police and nothing was done.
Bedouins have not been particularly political. But the Arabs have always understood that ‘criminal activity’ can also be an effective weapon of war. If Jewish farmers are driven off their land to be replaced by Arabs, the effect is the same as if it were accomplished by conventional warfare. Possibly the Bedouins have been incited to think that soon the land and property of the Jews will be theirs — or maybe they’ve decided this by themselves. “The Arabs are just waiting for someone to tell them whose land it is,” concludes Yoel.