Hamad Abu Sabhu -Nir Kafri
Hamad Abu Sabhu with his wife and grandkids. Photo by Nir Kafri
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It was nothing more than a sack full of olives - 50 kilograms of them, freshly picked from trees that had been cultivated for years. Only 25 trees remains today in the grove of 300 trees planted in the 1980s, which have been damaged or uprooted over the years by settlers. In this case, members of the Abu Sabha family from the village of Yatta, south of Hebron, picked the olives, the settlers attacked them - and the police gave the sack to the settlers. Adding insult to injury, the police detained two members of the family, but not a single one of the attackers.

According to data that Haaretz recently publicized, the current olive season in the territories is the most violent one in years. Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights found that over the past five years, police have opened 97 investigations into damage to Palestinian groves by settlers, yet not a single one resulted in an indictment.

"Did they return the olives?" we ask Hamad Abu Sabha, 71. "To where?" he asks, with a bitter grin. "The settlers ate them all." Wearing a galabiya and a kaffiyeh, with eyeglasses he purchased in Jordan, the elderly farmer greets us in front of his stone house, barefoot and leaning on a walking stick.

On Friday, October 22, his family went by truck to their grove to harvest olives. In recent years it has become difficult for them to reach their plot, located a few hundred meters from the fence of the settlement of Susya. A week earlier, some settlers had thrown rocks at their truck and damaged it. On that particular day, they arrived at the grove at 10 A.M., accompanied by activists from the Taayush Arab-Jewish coexistence organization. One of them, a plumber from Be'er Sheva named Ezra Nawi, deserves mention for helping the Palestinians pick their olives.

After about an hour of olive-picking, a red Nissan jeep suddenly approached from Susya, with two people inside. One got out and started slashing the tires of the Abu Sabhas' truck with a knife, family members said. A few minutes later, another four settlers, wearing masks, arrived and started throwing rocks at them. Nawi was hit in the leg, and the hooligans shattered the truck's lights and damaged the windshield. Younger members of the family retaliated by throwing stones.

Nawi called the police, and shortly afterward officers from the Israel Defense Forces, Border Police and the police arrived on the scene. The four masked settlers fled; only the two men in the jeep remained.

The police immediately apprehended 17-year-old Marwan Abu Sabha, who had a rock in his hand. His hands were cuffed behind his back, and he was blindfolded and forced to sit under one of the trees. His mother Sumiya tried in vain to persuade the soldiers and policemen to free him, but they would not let her approach.

Meanwhile, someone apparently videotaped the whole scene. The video shows the family arriving, setting up a blanket and ladder, and picking olives. Then the jeep drives up and later the masked men. The footage also shows the tires being slashed, soldiers arriving and the masked men racing back to Susya. Somebody calls out to the soldiers, "Catch them!" - but they do nothing, gazing apathetically at the fleeing men. After apprehending Marwan, the soldiers are seen standing over the high-schooler, their rifles dangling, and chasing Sumiya away.