Events raise suspicion that Security forces not prepared to protect Palestinian olive harvesters and their property from settler violence
Between October 7th and 10th, 2012, with the start of the West Bank's annual olive harvest, B'Tselem has documented five cases of injury to Palestinian farmers and their olive trees in the Ramallah and Nablus regions. In two incidents, settlers attacked farmers picking olives and damaged their yields. In three other cases, olive trees were discovered damaged or with the olives stolen, apparently by settlers. The direct attacks documented by B'Tselem occurred while members of the security forces were present. All the locations where damage to trees was discovered are familiar to the security forces as areas where Palestinians are subject to repeated harassment by settlers.
The accumulation of incidents since the start of the olive harvest suggests that security forces were not adequately deployed to fulfill their duty to protect Palestinian olive harvesters and their property from settler violence. In the two settler attacks on olive pickers, forces in the field apparently did not abide by clear instructions from the army and the High Court of Justice, which prohibit closing off areas to Palestinian farmers and removing Palestinian farmers attacked by settlers. The police and the army must investigate each of these incidents and examine complaints that soldiers stood idly by during the attacks by settlers.
Following is a list of the incidents in chronological order:
Juma'ah Abu Fahaida examines the damage to his olive trees. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem.
7 October 2012, al-Janiya (west of Ramallah)
Twenty-five very old olive trees were destroyed on land belonging to the Abu Fahaida family. The Zayit Ra'anan outpost was built about 500 meters to the north of the site. Family members discovered the damage when they came to harvest the trees on their land. A day earlier, on 6 October 2012, the family was also working at the site, where the army does not require prior coordination of their arrival. A group of settlers who approached began confronting the family. After about an hour, soldiers arrived and the settlers left. The soldiers instructed the Palestinians to leave the site and the family agreed, but asked that the army protect them when they returned the next day to harvest again. It is clear therefore that the presence of the army at the site on 6 October 2012 did not prevent the destruction of the trees, which apparently was perpetrated later that same day. The family submitted a complaint to the police, demanding an investigation of the damage to the trees. B'Tselem will monitor the progress of the investigation.
Soldiers next to the trees set on fire, Beitillu, 7 Oct. 2012. Photo: Muhammah Radwan, B'Tselem
7 October 2012, Beitillu (west of Ramallah)
Farmers from the village of Beitillu, who had come to harvest their olive trees, were attacked with stones by about ten masked settlers who arrived from the direction of the outpost established outside the gate of the Nahliel settlement. Clashes developed at the site between the settlers and the Palestinians. The settlers are also suspected of having set fire to the field. Soldiers who arrived at the scene had a hard time controlling the settlers and removed the Palestinian harvesters while firing in the air. The Palestinians who were attacked intend to submit a complaint to the police about the incident.
For video documentation of the end of the incident, filmed by a B'Tselem volunteer:
9.10.2012, Farata (west of Nablus)
On 9 October 2012, Palestinian farmers from Farata and Amatin arrived to harvest olives on their land south and west of the area where the Havat Gilad outpost was established. Rabbis for Human Rights helped coordinate the harvest with the Israeli army and the Civil Administration. On arriving at their land, the Palestinians discovered that unknown persons had already harvested the trees and stolen the olives. The harvesting included breaking branches and damaging the trees. The thieves had taken the olives from about 220 trees belonging to two residents of Farata and one resident of Amatin. Most of the trees, about 130, belong to Ibrahim Salah from Farata, who submitted a complaint at the Kedumim police station with assistance from Yesh Din. It should be noted that Salah cannot reach his land at all without prior coordination with the army due to the proximity of the Havat Gilad outpost.
Kheir Jaber, next to one of his destroyed olive trees, Qaryut,10 Oct. 2012. Photo: Salam a-Deb'i, B'Tselem
9 October 2012, Qaryut (south of Nablus)
On 9 October 2012, residents of the village of Qaryut discovered that more than 80 olive trees on land owned by ten families from the village had been severely damaged. The land lies southwest of the village, about two km from an area where the Eli settlement was established. The village residents were present at the site the previous day, so clearly the destruction was perpetrated during the night. The area is one where the army does not require Palestinians to coordinate their arrival in advance, but the landowners reported to B'Tselem that they prefer to harvest in groups due to concerns about settler violence. The residents intend to submit a complaint to the police about the damage to the trees. Rabbis for Human Rights first reported this incident.
Ratib Na'asan, owner of one of the damaged olive groves in al-Mughayir, next to a settlement outpost. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem.
10.10.2012, al-Mughayir (northeast of Ramallah)
On the morning of 10 October 2012, a representative of the Palestinian DCL contacted Ratib Na'asan, a resident of al-Mughayir, and told him that the Israeli DCL had reported olive trees damaged in that area. The report apparently originated with a soldier. Na'asan arrived at the site to check on his olive trees and discovered that, on a plot he owns with about 100 olive trees, all had been damaged and most had been denuded down to the trunk. In an adjacent plot belonging to his brother Jamil, another approximately 40 trees were vandalized. When Na'asan arrived, there were already representatives of the police present who documented the damage to the trees and asked him to submit a complaint to the Binyamin police station, as he plans to do.
B'Tselem has documented three prior incidents (January 2008, October 2009, and November 2010) of damage to olive trees and theft of olives from trees on land owned by Ratib Na'asan. The only case in which an indictment was brought, insofar as B'Tselem knows, was when B'Tselem provided the police with a video filmed by one of its volunteers: In the film, settlers are seen stealing olives they harvested at the site. In the two other cases, the files were closed without an indictment. B'Tselem and Yesh Din submitted appeals against the closing of those cases.