Palestinians in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir awoke Monday morning to discover that they had had unwelcome visitors overnight: Car tires had been punctured, and houses were spray-painted with slogans in Hebrew protesting stone-throwing. Two kilometers away, 25 trees belonging to the villagers were cut down – the latest of more than 2,000 trees that have been destroyed since May 1.
As in dozens of similar incidents in recent months, police have opened an investigation but haven’t yet arrested any suspects.
Attacks by Jews on Palestinian villages throughout the West Bank have become commonplace in recent months. Almost every week, Palestinians somewhere in the territory wake up to vandalized property and racist slogans in Hebrew.
So far, police have arrested 10 people in the cases. Some were questioned about specific attacks, but most were only interrogated about involvement in hate crimes in general. And all were later released.
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The investigations continue, but they have yet to produce any results.
At least 2,000 trees were said to have been cut down between May 1 and July 7, including fruit trees, olive trees and grape vines, according to data from Palestinian victims of hate crimes collected by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
In some cases, the vandals torched bales of hay; in one case, they set fire to an entire field of barley. A particularly common slogan is “Enough agricultural terror,” the implication being that the attacks on Palestinian orchards and vineyards are to protest Palestinian attacks on Jewish orchards and vineyards.
Sometimes the damage is fairly small, such as the 25 trees cut down in Al-Mughayyir. Other attacks are much larger in scope. On May 26, for example, 700 vines were cut down in a vineyard near Hebron. On May 16, 400 vines were destroyed in Halhul, and on May 22, 180 vines were destroyed in the town.
Altogether, B’Tselem said, at least 880 vines in five separate vineyards were destroyed in Halhul in May.
Mazen Shehadeh, the mayor of the West Bank Palestinian village of Urif, said there have been four or five attacks affecting five different farmers in his village, where several dozen trees were destroyed.
“They’ve caused damage like this four or five times,” he said. “Once they destroyed 34 trees, and later they destroyed another 17 trees – big ones, 75 or 80 years old. “Another time they torched cars,” he continued. “That was the last time. In total, five farmers have been hurt by this, five people. There are no suspects or anything like that.”
Much of the vandalism has targeted olive trees, which are easier to cut down than other trees. In Turmus Ayya, 130 olives trees were destroyed on June 9, and in Burin, a fire damaged 150 trees on June 23. In that case, however, there were no slogans in Hebrew to support the claim that this was an attack by Israelis.