The human rights organization Yesh Din says not one of the 69 complaints filed during the past four years on damage to Palestinians' trees in the West Bank has resulted in an indictment. The organization released a report on the matter Tuesday and makes specific reference to damage caused to olive groves, central to the livelihood of Palestinian villagers.
The olive harvest season is coming to an end in most parts of the West Bank this week, with the exception of those areas at higher elevations. Attacks targeting trees harvested by Palestinians - olive trees in particular, but also almond, fig, lemon and others - has been on the rise in recent years.
During the past four years, Yesh Din filed 69 complaints which are under investigation by police in the West Bank. The toll involves many thousands of trees in numerous areas, from Susya in the southern Hebron Hills to Salem in northern Samaria.
According to the report, 27 cases (40 percent of the cases for which complaints were filed) were documented between January and October of this year. Notwithstanding Israel Defense Forces reports that the olive harvest passed "quietly" during the months of September and October, the human rights group reported dozens of incidents in which hundreds of Palestinian trees were damaged.
According to the reports, not a single one of the 69 cases under investigation has led to an indictment of the suspects. Fourteen cases are still under investigation; another four are being evaluated by police and state prosecutors, and a decision is pending on whether the authorities will press charges against the suspects.
"Continuous damage to the livelihood of Palestinian families is not met with immediate response from the law enforcement authorities," said Lior Yavne, head of research at Yesh Din.
"Yesh Din's multi-year follow up on the results of investigations into violations carried out by Israeli citizens against Palestinians shows that nearly 92 percent of the investigations fail, and the cases are closed without charges being filed," he added. "The incidents of damage to the trees, [and] the rate of failure of the investigations conducted by Judea and Samaria District [police] is 100 percent."
In response to these claims, the Yesha Council of settlements says "We have followed for years the dozens of cases of damage to Jewish farmers, and our report, 'Who will Defend my Olive Tree?' shows that selective law enforcement exists. All authorities go out of their way to protect the Arab farmer. On the other hand, they do not even investigate the complaints of the Jewish farmer. There are restraining orders against Jews during the olive harvest season but nothing against the Arabs."
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