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WATCH: Settler attacks during olive harvest not random

Notes and Stories from the Olive Harvest: Palestinian farmers tell stories of intimidation, vandalism and violence from settler neighbors, as they attempt to harvest their olives.

By Moriel Rothman

Israeli settler violence against Palestinian farmers during the olive season is not an exception. It is the norm. It is the norm encouraged by the settler leadership, which, in turn is supported by the government. This violence ranges from the blows delivered from masked, rod-wielding youth accompanied by an armed guard in Jalud last week, to the violent mob outside of Anatot last month, to scores of instances of tree burning or uprooting. For Palestinian farmers, settler violence against them or their property is a practically a daily occurrence.

And yet, much of Israeli society is either unaware of the extent of the violence, or unwilling to call it anything other than “the random actions of a few fanatics.”

But it is much deeper and more disturbing than simply “the random actions of a few fanatics.”

It is policy.

Yes, the acts of violence themselves are generally carried out by a “few fanatics.” But the actions of these few fanatics correspond directly to settler policy, which, while not explicitly declared, is certainly normatively inscribed. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira’s Torat HaMelekh was not an aberration. It was simply a codification of the “religiously” framed devaluation of all non-Jewish life that is rampant throughout the settlements. Moreover, Rabbi Shapira’s Yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar has received substantial government funding.

Just as the actions of the “few fanatics” correspond to settler policy aimed at terrorizing Palestinians and stealing more of their land, so settler policy corresponds to the policy of the current Greater-Israel government, whose long-term goal appears to be the annexation of as much of the West Bank as possible, while granting limited rights to the Palestinians.

Yes, this olive season the army has made a moderate effort to prevent the “few fanatics” from executing their violence, the army itself having been the target of a handful of attacks. But prevention is not the same as active opposition, and the fact that the army has been somewhat willing to fulfill its legal obligation – established explicitly following a 2006 Supreme Court ruling – to protect Palestinian farmers during the olive season speaks more to successful pressure from media and civil society than it does to any change in policy. According to a report recently published by the Israeli legal organization Yesh Din, out of the 127 cases Yesh Din has followed since 2005 against settlers guilty of destroying of Palestinian trees, only one has led to an indictment.

The government’s lack of interest in prosecuting “price tag” attacks in the West Bank is not surprising. Indeed, the government seems to be in the midst of planning what Ir Amim’s Sarah Kreimer writes might be its own sort of “price tag” against the Palestinian people: Givat HaMatos, a new settlement in East Jerusalem, which will permanently seal off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Over the past two and half weeks, I have helped Rabbis for Human Rights organize and lead groups of Israeli and international volunteers to help Palestinian farmers with the harvest, and to stand in solidarity with the farmers in the face of settler intimidation.

The stories we have heard and the damage we have seen are heart-wrenching, especially when coupled with the knowledge that virtually all perpetrators have acted and continue to act with the complete confidence of those who know they will not face any serious punishment for their crimes.

Here are the stories of three of the farmers. While these stories are only a few examples, virtually every Palestinian farmer we have spoken to has had a similar story to tell.

The first story is that of Jamal from Awarta. Jamal shows his neighbor’s trees burning, and tells of being attacked by a group of around 15 settlers from Itamar while working in his field with his son.

The third is the story of Abu Makram from Kufr Kadum. According to Abu Makram, settlers from Kedumim recently sprayed his olive trees with a poison that dried and damaged the trees and their olives.

The third story is that of man who goes by “Bruce Lee” from Burin. A few months ago, Bruce Lee was shot in the arm, hip and foot by a group of settlers from the settlement of Givat Ronen.

None of these farmers expect to receive compensation or justice. They understand that this is just policy.

Moriel Rothman is an American-Israeli activist and writer. He is currently active with Rabbis for Human Rights, where he is helping organize groups to assist with the olive harvest in the occupied West Bank. Contact him here.

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    1. Ben Israel

      Were the settlers who supposedly shot “Bruce Lee” arrested? If not, why not? How was the tree supposedly poisoned? If no proof of these allegations are presented this could be nothing more than anti-Israel propaganda. The poor man’s tree died. Trees die all the time. Show us the poison.
      Anyone can put someone on camera and he can tell a sob story. That’s all I see here.

      Again regarding Bruce Lee, the SHABAK has all the extremists settler groups infiltrated. They are NOT going to let guys go around and shoot up Palestinian villages. The heads of the SHABAK have been vetted by the Left for political reliability and they are NOT going to let “crazed racist settlers” shoot up the place. They will arrest people. If there are no arrests, that tells me there was no crime.

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      Ben Israel wins the logic-twisting contest of the day.

      It’s obvious that the IDF is indeed going to let guys go around shooting up Palestinian villages. It’s obvious because they do it. They do it with impunity. There are no arrests, or if by mistake someone is arrested, he is released immediately because of “lack of evidence.” This doesn’t mean there is lack of evidence, but that the courts are as corrupt as the police and the IDF, as thoroughly infiltrated by the criminals.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      @Ben Israel, I’m trying to imagine being you. I’m someone who goes to online news sources whose politics offend me–this is how I choose them. There, I spend hours a day, commenting on every thread. I’m religious, yet the minute shabbat ends, I’m there. My people burn a mosque? So what, they do more bad things to us, and I will list them. Plus who’s to say it wasn’t left-wingers who did it. My people use propaganda? Let me tell you about propaganda. And the latest, “If there are no arrests, that tells me there was no crime.” Wow–that’s a lot of faith in Israel’s judicial system you’ve got, there. What I want to know is how you ARE making a living, given all the time you have to spend, here? Also, fyi, there’s tons of evidence out there to support this writer’s claims, and she includes some of it in her editorial.
      @M. Rothman–thank you for this important piece. Nothing sends home the message about our internal corruption like these stories do (and I haven’t even watched the videos yet; like many, I’ve been following these stories for a while). The whole system must change, beginning with the Chief Rabbinates’ control in the government. So many injustices fall under that umbrella. There is so much corruption in our police force, especially in the West Bank. I’ll share it tomorrow, when it won’t get lost in my excessive facebook activity of today. thanks again.

      Reply to Comment
    4. AYLA

      p.s.@ Moriel–Rabbis for Human Rights is one of our most important and brave organizations. I was there with you, learning, on Shavuot. Thank you for all you do.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Thanks for the article. The fact that the Israeli society is unaware of this annual tension during the olive season is a very true and very sad reality.

      I’ve myself actually been working on the olive trees attacks last year. And made a documentary out of it.

      If ever interested, you can watch the first part here :


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    6. Ben Israel

      The heads of the State Prosecutor’s office, the IDF, SHABAK, the Police are all political appointees who must past muster with the Leftist Establishment in Israel. No “right-winger” could ever be appointed to these positions. Look at those who have gone into politics….Dichter and Ezra from the SHABAK, Barak, Mofaz, Vilnay, all in politics, all in Leftists Parties (I count KADIMAH because they support dividing Jerusalem and withdrawal pretty much to the pre-67 lines). All hostile to the interests of the settlers. All the same can be said about the current people in these positions. These people would NOT allow crimes like those described here occur with impunity. They have to face Knesset Committees with MERETZ and HADASH members. So why aren’t there a wave of arrests to go along with the supposed crime wave we hear about? There is no way IDF officers or police people are just going to ignore crimes where people go around shooting up the place. There are many police officers and IDF officers who strongly oppose everything the settlers stand for. SO you explain why there aren’t any arrests….

      Reply to Comment
    7. aristeides

      There are no arrests because you are totally wrong about the influence of the “Leftist Establishment.”

      If this were so, why are there so many arrests of Palestinians? Surely the Leftist Establishment in which you believe would not allow the persecution of the Palestinians, which we all see taking place daily.

      Sometimes, Ben I, you actually make sense, but this isn’t one of those times. Your belief in some imaginary Leftist Cabal discredits everything else you say as the ravings of a conspiracy nut.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      Directrob – Ben I will just blame that report on the Leftists in the UN.

      Ben I has Leftists on the brain.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Ben Israel

      Then please explain to me why the HADASH and MERETZ Knesset members are not screaming to high heaven about these incidents which are supposedly happening all the time? Why aren’t they going out to the field to meet with the supposed victims and taking on their cases as advocates?

      Reply to Comment
    10. larry waseerman

      The “Palestinians” need to leave. They waged a half dozen wars against the state of Israel and lost them. The Jews lost Judea to the Romans and were forced to leave their land– for 2,000 years. This is the price of war.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AYLA

      Larry–that’s so deeply offensive and ignorant on so many levels, it’s not worth my while to respond, other than to say so.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Moriel Rothman

      @Ayla- you’re great. Can you be involved in the comment section of every piece I write?

      Reply to Comment
    13. AYLA

      @Moriel–oh no! you’re feeding into my commenting addiction! :). Thanks. I do have to think of my time here as a form of activism in order to justify it. You should talk to Ami Kaufman about your super powers as The Remover. :).

      Reply to Comment
    14. Ben Israel

      Glad to see you comment here. Can you answer my question regarding the political echelon’s response to these reports?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Moriel Rothman

      Ben Israel- Good question. I have no idea how Meretz and Hadash decide what to focus on.

      Here’s my suggestion, though– if you have a hard time believing Palestinian video testimonies, Haaretz reports, UN reports (I know, I know! So much Lying Left in one list!), then how about this: Come with us one day this week to Harvest. You can talk to the farmers themselves. You could come along to Dir Istiya, where we’ve been over the past few days, working in fields soaked with sewage released from the neighboring settlement of Revava. You in?

      (The invitation is extended to everyone. We do need volunteers, and it is always more powerful to see the results of settler violence with your own eyes than to read about it)

      Reply to Comment
    16. Oskar

      Awarta is the settlement from which those bestial killers came to Itamar and murdered the Fogel family, correct?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Ben Israel

      Regarding the claim that Revava’s sewage is pouring into their neighbor’s fields…to claim that is an intentional act to harass the Palestinians makes no sense. First, I would imagine that it is against the law. Secondly, I am not familiar with that yishuv but I don’t believe that the residents are all fanatics who only think about harrassing their Palestinian neighbors. Thirdly, doing that may damage the environment also of their own yishuv.

      It is possible that there are extremist Jews in some of these yishuvim. But it is a fact that Arab harrass the Jewish yishuvim and damage their property and steal from them. Acts of the sort you describe may very well be intended to create deterrence.
      Anyway the only way to deal with this is by way of law enforecemnt, which I have pointed out is NOT biased in favor of the settlers, I would think the police don’t like them (you know, “troublemakers”). You know what the police did at Amona to settlers they don’t like. So if there is no case, there is no case.

      Reply to Comment
    18. AYLA

      Moriel–thank you for the invitation. One of these days, I will join you. I know how to find you all :). Thank you for all you do. Anything we do as Israelis and Palestinians together, in solidarity, and in person, can change the landscape in which we’re living.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Watcher465

      @ Moriel, I’m sorry but Ben Israel cannot come with you to see for himself because the other settlers might think he is some kind of double agent and a Palestinian sympathiser. As a typical braindead hasbarat he has ignored you and continued his deranged diatribe. As usual the hasbarat jumps in first to deny and deflect any opposition claims. Usually the hope is to get people off the topic. In this case he stayed on topic but peddling his line of vacant lying, uninformed, nonsensical bullshit. This delaying tactic is meant to see people off because they will want to move on. And when people reply to him the hasbarat derides their comments and insults their intelligence. Ben Israel you are the dumbest of the dumb and the lowest of the low but don’t worry you are surrounded by other hasbarats so you won’t be lonely. I look forward to you brilliant reply.

      Reply to Comment
    20. directrob

      Why try to attack the person and not concentrate on the ideas. There is no need to call people “dumb” and “low”. I am almost certain BI is not “dumb” and apart from some ideas he has that I do really not understand I have no indication he is “low”.

      Reply to Comment
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