JPost - Rights groups decry olive harvest settler vandalism
- JPost - Sun, Oct 31, 2010
The Jerusalem Post
Rights groups decry olive harvest settler vandalism
By DAN IZENBERG AND JERUSALEM POST STAFF
"IDF aren’t doing enough to prevent damage to trees," say human rights
organizations in letter to commanders.
Despite warnings by human rights organizations to the army about settler
vandalism against Palestinian olive orchards, there have been 35
incidents of this sort between the beginning of September and
mid-October, the organizations charged in a letter to OC Central Command
Maj.- Gen. Avi Mizrahi and the commander of IDF forces in the West Bank,
“We demand that you take all necessary steps to guarantee that the
Palestinians in the West Bank receive full protection from damage to
their property, and particularly protection against olive theft and
damage to olive trees during the olive harvest,” wrote officials from
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories, Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din Volunteers for
Human Rights and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The IDF had no immediate response to the letter.
According to the letter, seven of the vandalism incidents took place in
two villages, Burin and Hawara, which border on Yitzhar.
There were also several incidents in the villages of Turmus Aiya and
El-Murain, near the illegal outpost of Adei Ad and the villages of
Farata, Tell, Amatin and Yinon, near the Gilad Farm.
The worst of the 35 cases of vandalism occurred on October 15 in the
villages surrounding the Gilad Farm.
“Israeli citizens set fire to a large number of olive trees belonging to
villagers in Farata and Tell,” the letter stated.
“The Palestinian firefighting services and the orchard owners estimated
that hundreds of trees were damaged.”
Worse still, the human rights organizations charged, “from reports about
this incident it emerges that the fires were set in the presence of IDF
soldiers. The soldiers did not lift a finger to stop what was happening,
but prevented the firefighters from reaching the orchard to extinguish
The soldiers chose to detain a number of Palestinians who had rushed to
the scene to try and save the orchards.”
The organizations called for Mizrahi and Alon to maintain a permanent
force guarding the known flashpoints and bar access to these areas by
all but the owners of the orchards. In addition, the groups demanded
that they draft clear orders for every soldier and officer regarding law
enforcement authority and duties and that they press criminal procedures
against anyone suspected of vandalism.
Group claims Arabs sawed trees in attempt to accuse settlers
Photographs showing Palestinians and leftwing activists cutting down
Palestinian olive trees using an electric saw were released on Saturday
by a group claiming the images were part of a campaign to accuse
settlers of vandalism.
Ynet reported that the photos, taken on Friday near Neveh Tzuf, were
made by Tazpit Unit members, an organization identified with the
settlers which documents news events in the territories.
Tazpit photographer Ehud Amiton told Ynet that the olive grove was
located east of Beit Zayit, located near Route 60.
“I immediately saw that it was no ordinary pruning. It was done very
aggressively... Some of the branches broke, and other trees were cut off
entirely. When I approached closer with my camera, the Palestinian man
waved his saw at me threateningly. I felt uneasy, so I backed off,”
Tazpit unit director Amotz Eyal told Ynet that “during every olive
harvest season, just like this one, there are many cases of Arab farmers
cutting down olive branches and later blaming it on the settlers.
“Time after time, photos prove that these Arabs are not holding back;
they provoke in order to tarnish the image of Jewish settlers,” he said.