Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Olive Groves Kept Top Secret by State

Olive orchards are being destroyed in the West Bank, but defense and media officials have agreed yet again that everything should be done to respect the public's right not to know.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A document obtained by Haaretz details a series of incidents that have been kept confidential. Defense officials are content that the information has been kept secret for so long and that the leak of a few details on social media hasn't caused a fuss. The officials clearly appreciate reporters' responsibility and restraint on the issue - they haven't exploited the right of freedom of information.

The following are the incidents in the secret document - all of them in the West Bank in September and October.

Sept. 11: 500 trees burned on land belonging to the village of Deir al-Khatab.

Sept. 15: 17 olive trees chopped down on land belonging to the village of Kafr Laqif.

Sept. 17: 18 olive trees chopped down on land belonging to the village of Kafr Laqif.

Sept. 20: 27 olive trees burned in Kafr Qaddum.

Sept. 21: 70 trees chopped down in Kafr Qaddum.

Oct. 2: Serious damage to several olive trees on land belonging to the Raba'i family.

Oct. 2: Serious damage to about 30 olive trees in the village of Jitt.

Oct. 3: 48 olive trees of the Shatat family chopped down.

Oct. 5: Serious damage to 130 olive trees of the Fukha family.

Oct. 5: 15 olive trees chopped down and olives stolen in the village of Deir Sharaf.

Oct. 7: Serious damage to about 60 olive trees and olives stolen in the village of Jitt.

Oct. 7: Serious damage to eight olive trees on land belonging to the village of Ras Karkar.

Oct. 7: 35 olive trees in the village of Far'ata chopped down and about a quarter of the olive crop stolen.

Oct. 8: About 400 olive trees in the village of Jalud set on fire.

Oct. 13-14: Olive trees and grapevines vandalized in the village of Far'ata.

Oct. 20: Jewish Israelis from the settlement of Yitzhar attacked Palestinian farmers who, with the help of volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights, had been harvesting olives. The attackers used iron rods, clubs and stones. Two farmers and two volunteers - a 71-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman - were injured.

The common denominator (and this is not a complete list) is that all these incidents took place in areas of the West Bank where the Israel Defense Forces has full security responsibility. They happened near Israeli settlements and their offspring, the outposts, all of which are well guarded by batteries of soldiers, cameras and watchtowers at Elon Moreh, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Ma'on and the Ma'on Farm, Sussia, Shavei Shomron, Zayit Ra'anan, the Gilad Farm, Shiloh and Yitzhar.

A page in the commanders' diary

Another common element: These incidents were perpetrated in the same places as similar previous incidents. And in many of the Palestinian villages, the IDF, which does not rein in the serial perpetrators, denies the Palestinians, the potential victims of such attacks, access to their land except for twice a year, when they are allowed in under military escort. Therefore, apart from the list's last item, the date provided isn't the date on which the attack took place. It's the date when the vandalism was discovered.

A letter from Rabbis for Human Rights and the Yesh Din human rights group details these incidents through October 7. The letter was sent on October 9 to the commanders of the IDF brigades in the West Bank - colonels Avi Balut, Yossi Pinto, Ran Kahane and Yoav Marom - as well as to the legal adviser to the West Bank division, Doron Ben-Barak. The letter accuses the commanders of failing to fulfill their obligation to protect the Palestinian farmers and their property. The IDF Spokesman's Office said it would respond directly to the letter's authors, not to the media.

Some of the commanders who are due to finish their service soon will have copied the confidential information into their personal diaries, which must be full of similar confidential information from previous years. Shortly after they take off their uniforms, they'll tell the cameras that they always were concerned that these unreported attacks would ultimately trigger an explosion. When they're asked why they didn't say this during their service, they'll cite the cognitive dissonance between the oath they took as soldiers and social-historical truth and common sense.

Their oath as soldiers was to protect Jewish citizens of Israel wherever and whatever the circumstances. Their oath as commanders was also to protect Israeli soldiers wherever and whatever the circumstances. But social-historical truth and common sense attest that violence by Jewish Israeli citizens invites a response and additional violence. Social-historical truth also proves that those in uniform who dominate a population that did not elect them as their rulers are violent in their mere presence, even when they aren't killing or injuring, even when it's only serial armed robbery of land and the protection of robbers.

In retirement, the army commanders will say that their oath overrode common sense, requiring them to nullify the Jewish violence with the best postmodern tools that have been developed in the IDF's consciousness-engineering laboratories.

Meanwhile, in a secret meeting that might have taken place, defense and media officials might have agreed that the grove attacks can't be defined as a quiet - or noisy - escalation because the attacks have been happening for years at more or less the same frequency and intensity. They might have agreed that as long as these attacks aren't spoken about on our side, they don't exist and other events have nothing to do with them. The officials must have decided that everything should be done to respect the public's desire not to know.

Olive trees damaged in the West Bank village of Jalud. Credit: Guy / Taayush

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