Qaryut, Nablus District: Settler harvests olives and cuts down five trees in the Hazem family’s plot. Police refuse to investigate the claims
On 22 October 2020, at around 8:00 A.M., Shaher (52) and Rihab (45) Hazem, parents of seven, arrived at their olive grove. Their son Ahmad (13) joined them to harvest olives on one of the last harvest days the Israeli DCO had coordinated for them. The family’s plot, which stretches over eight dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], lies about two kilometers west of the village homes and about 500 meters away from the settlement of Eli.
Eli was established in 1984 on land belonging to the villages of Qaryut and a-Sawiyah.
When the family arrived at the grove, Hazem drove around in his tractor and discovered that settlers had already harvested most of the trees and cut down five of them. During the drive, the tractor went over some long screws which the settlers had apparently left in the field. Three of its tires were punctured.
At that point, a settler arrived from the direction of Eli and told Hazem that he had harvested the trees and had left the family 15 trees to harvest.
Hazem called the village council and reported the incident. Council representatives contacted the Israel Police, and at around 12:30 P.M., officers arrived at the grove. The settler, who had been roaming around the grove while the family collected fallen olives lying around the trees, disappeared. Hazem told the officers what the settler had said, but they replied that they could not do anything without evidence and left the area.
As the officers moved away, the settler returned to the plot and implicitly threatened to burn Hazem’s tractor if he left it in the grove and went to get help to fix it. A few minutes later, the family left in the flat-tired tractor, taking with them the 12 kg of olives they had managed to collect.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Shaher Hazem described the encounter with the settler and the indifference of the police:
I drove around the grove with my tractor to check it out. There weren’t many olives, and on some trees, there weren’t any at all, so I understood that someone must’ve harvested them. About five olive trees had been cut down. While driving, the tractor went over some sharp metal pieces, causing a flat tire. I was really worried because we were far from the village. I turned around and then the tractor went over two more metal pieces, and two more tires went flat. I was furious and didn’t know what to do. I’m sure someone put them there on purpose. There’s no way this happened by chance.
Meanwhile, a settler suddenly arrived from the direction of Eli. He was all smiles. We know him because he’s been wandering around residents’ land for years, reaching the village homes and causing problems. He wants to take over our land. When he came near, he told me in Hebrew that he’d harvested the trees and only left me 15. I got mad and asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and harvest everything. I told him I’d call the police and report the theft, the chopped up trees and the metal pieces left on the ground. He laughed and didn’t answer.
I called the village council and told them what had happened, and they said they’d call the Israel Police. I thought the police would collect a statement and punish the offender. Meanwhile, we collected what was left of the olives under the trees. We only collected about 10 to 12 kg. These are large trees that yield a lot of fruit, but the settler barely left anything. He kept wandering around the area and following me.
The officers arrived, and the first thing they asked was if I had any documentation or proof. I said that I didn’t and that I can only come to my land on coordinated days. The officer replied that they couldn’t do anything. I told him, “The settler himself told me that he’d harvested the trees. So how come you can’t?” The officer said that was just talk and that they couldn’t do anything without evidence. Then they left.
The settler, who disappeared when the officers arrived, came back after they left. I told him I was going to get someone to help me fix the tires, and then he asked, “You’re leaving the tractor here?” I answered that I was, and then he said, “If someone burns it, that would be bad for you!” I realized he was threatening to burn it and understood that I had no choice but to drive it with the punctured tires.
When we came back to the village, it turned out that the tractor’s rims had been damaged from driving on the punctured tires, and I need to change them, too, but I don’t have the money to do that.