Jewish settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in the West Bank on a number of occasions in recent weeks, destroying infrastructure directly sponsored by the Danish government, according to documents obtained by Haaretz.
The Danish foreign ministry and the humanitarian group Oxfam, which are behind the project “Integrated Market Development Program across the occupied Palestinian territories,” have confirmed that last month, settlers broke into the village of Deir Nidham, north of Ramallah, and destroyed some 2,000 newly planted almonds trees and 800 meters of metal fencing.
“I’m very concerned about those incidents, where Danish funded projects are vandalized, which is why I have raised the matter with the Israeli authorities. Any form of violent acts committed by settlers in the West Bank is unacceptable. Denmark regularly reminds Israel of its illegal settlements, both directly and indirectly through our partners in the EU,” Danish Development Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen said. Denmark supports Palestinian development projects in the West Bank, contributing some $1.5 million annually.
The Danish Red-Green Alliance coalition party told Haaretz that while it holds the perpetrators responsible for vandalizing the project, it demands that Israel compensate for damages and loss.
"It's not the first time settlers vandalize the projects we fund in the West Bank. We therefore asked Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod to raise the issue with Israel. The right way to do it would probably be to summon the Israeli ambassador to Denmark and pass on the government's demand," the party's Palestine spokesperson, Christian Juhl, said.
The attacks destroyed infrastructure valued at $23,000, according to Oxfam, which has gathered testimony from the 19 Palestinian families in Deir Nidham, whose fields have been destroyed and whose members have been violently attacked by settlers. This often happens with Israeli soldiers watching on the sidelines, and in some cases join the settlers by firing stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets at the farmers.
Videos obtained by Haaretz show one of those incidents in Deir Nidham last month, providing support for those allegations.
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“We started working our land and building fences from the financial fund that we got from Denmark. Then the settlers showed up and started claiming that this land is theirs, and throwing rocks at us. The soldiers would either stand on the side or start firing stun grenades at us. Whatever the settlers ask for, the soldiers will do,” 31-year-old farmer and Deir Nidham resident Sameh Tamimi told Haaretz.
The United Nations is now warning against increasing settler violence in the West Bank, saying its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) “documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles,” in 2020. Since 2021 began, there have been more than 210 incidents of settler violence in the West Bank, with one Palestinian killed.
Despite the increase in attacks, documented by the U.N. and Oxfam, some 91 percent of the investigations in cases filed by Palestinians for ideologically motivated crimes between 2005 to 2019, have been closed without indictments by the Israeli military, according to the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din.
“These Palestinian families now live in constant fear after their livelihoods were destroyed. The vandalism by the settlers left saplings uprooted and snapped like twigs. It was truly heartbreaking to see the wanton destruction of what was destined to provide much-needed income,” Shane Stevenson, Oxfam country director in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories told Haaretz.