Yesh DinVolunteers for Human Rights
Sharp rise in incidents of violence and vandalism during olive harvesting season in the West Bank
Cut down trees in al-Mughayir, October 2012. Photo: Firas Alami, Yesh Din
This year’s olive harvest season seems to be a particularly difficult and violent one for Palestinian agriculture in the West Bank. Over a period of two weeks since the harvest began, Yesh Din has documented 17 incidents involving the vandalizing of some 500 trees, attacks on harvesters, and the theft of crops by settlers. These incidents reflect the ongoing failure by the security forces to protect the Palestinian population and its property.
A long-term study undertaken by Yesh Din monitoring the investigation of agricultural violence against Palestinian communities shows that the Israeli law enforcement agencies have utterly failed to identify and prosecute offenders. Of 162 cases monitored by Yesh Din since 2005, only one investigation resulted in the prosecution of an individual for his part in vandalizing olive trees.
“The figures detailed above reflect the gross and ongoing failure by the security forces to protect the Palestinian population and its property against vandals and criminals who act in the West Bank, wreaking destruction and violence with impunity. Regrettably, it does not seem that the security forces prepared properly to fulfill their duty in this regard,” the letter notes. “It should be emphasized that these grave figures reflect the attacks on the ground at the beginning of the olive harvest; we can only surmise what the scope of the violence may be as the harvest continues. We should also note that all the above-mentioned incidents occurred at familiar and well-known points of friction. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the army bears an obligation to maintain a permanent presence in these areas.”
Yesh Din emphasizes that the security forces bear an obligation to protect civilians in the West Bank. “On the evidence of the results,” Sfard and Grayevsky note, “the army has failed in this respect over the past two weeks. Since these incidents were predictable, and, as noted, occurred at known points of friction, this reflects gross negligence on the part of the security bodies, which could and should have prevented these attacks.”
“If the violent actions of settlers who reside in the West Bank against Palestinians are not curbed, we will consider the authorities – including the army, which, as noted, is charged with protecting the well-being and security of the Palestinian population in the area – responsible on account of their negligence for any damage incurred, and we will advise communities that seek our advice to claim their damages from these authorities. Yesh Din warns that this negligence establishes grounds for claim by Palestinians against the Israeli authorities, including the army.”
The Full letter (PDF)
Datasheet and map of recent incidents