Not even the coronavirus pandemic, which has derailed the entire world, managed to stop the seasonal outbreak of settler violence during the olive harvest, or the odor of collaboration by Israeli law enforcement agencies that always accompanies it.
On the contrary, according to one of the leaders of the Palestinian activist organization Faz3a, which sends volunteers to the orchards to help Palestinian farmers, this year has seen a rise in the number of violent incidents and in the level of settler aggression. The Israeli organization Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights has documented 25 incidents related to the harvest since the harvest season began. These range from stealing olives to burning or chopping down trees to violent assaults on the harvesters. To date, more than 400 trees have been cut down and around 50 have been torched.
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The economic fallout from the pandemic has not spared the occupied territories. As a result, the olive harvest has become a primary source of income for many families. The lawless settlers who steal the olives and uproot the trees aren’t only vandalizing Palestinian property; they are also sabotaging the livelihoods of entire families at a very difficult time.
Ohad Hemo of Channel 12 Television News reported on settler violence during the harvest last week. A moment before he and his crew were attacked by criminals from the settlements, he filmed a masked settler telling a landowner from the Palestinian village of Burqa, “God gave us this land. I’m the son of Allah and you are his slave.” This ugly arrogance captures perfectly the sick mood that has been spreading through the settlements. The Jews are the lords of the land and the Palestinians are slaves, even when the Palestinians are the legal owners of that land.
- Israeli police investigating uprooting of olive trees in West Bank village
- Palestinian farmers lose hundreds of olive, fig trees to West Bank vandals
- Hundreds of trees destroyed in West Bank Palestinian villages, Israeli rights groups report
But the settlers would not be so successful in their oppression and theft were it not for the inaction of Israeli law enforcement agencies, which do almost nothing to bring criminals from the hilltop outposts to justice. According to Yesh Din’s figures, only nine percent of investigations into cases in which Israelis assaulted Palestinians or damaged their property in the West Bank from 2005 to 2019 ended in charges being filed against the suspects. Fully 82 percent of these cases were closed for reasons that attest to the police’s failure to investigate. And when it comes to investigations into vandalizing trees, the percentage of cases in which anyone is indicted is even lower.
These pogroms are taking place in the name of Israel as a whole, and Israel as a whole bears responsibility for them. The law enforcement agencies, and especially the Judea and Samaria District police, treat Palestinian complainants with abysmal contempt and fail to prosecute violent settlers even when their actions and their identities have been fully documented. In effect, the state is telling the lawbreakers that they can continue to commit crimes without let or hindrance. Israel has thereby revealed its great and hidden goal – pushing the Palestinians out of the occupied territories.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.