Ahead of the olive harvest season in 2011, Yesh Din published figures on the Samara and Judea (SJ) District Police’s failure rate in investigating incidents in which Palestinian-owned olive trees or other fruit trees in the West Bank were cut down, burned, destroyed or stolen. In the weeks before publication, many incidents of vandalism of trees were documented all over the West Bank.
The data sheet shows that between 2005 and 2011, only 127 of the cases monitored by Yesh Din led to indictments against those suspected of vandalizing Palestinian-owned trees. The indictment was issued more than four years after the incident took place. (It should be noted that the trial in this case ended in 2015 in a conviction for a much more minor offense as part of a plea bargain).
Yesh Din doesn’t purport to document all the offenses that Israeli citizens commit against Palestinians and their property however the investigation files it is monitoring constitute a broad sample of all the investigation files regarding ideologically motivated offenses that the SJ District Police handles.
Yesh Din’s monitoring work indicates that the number of incidents of vandalism of trees whose investigations led to indictments is negligible compared with the incidents whose investigations failed. The failure of the SJ District Police to investigate incidents of tree vandalism over the years is just one aspect of the failure of the law enforcement system and is part of a much wider phenomenon involving ideologically motivated offenses committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
As long as the Israeli government doesn’t act decisively to improve law enforcement on Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians and their property, the State is effectively continuing to violate its obligation to protect the civilian population under its military occupation.