On the backdrop of the 2013 harvest season, in which many instances of tree vandalism were documented throughout the West Bank, Yesh Din published figures on the failure rate of the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District Police regarding investigation into incidents in which Palestinian-owned olive and other fruit trees were cut down, burned, destroyed and stolen in the West Bank.
The figures, which relate to the years 2005-2013, indicate that the Israel Police overwhelmingly failed to investigate and prosecute offenders whose acts of vandalism have become one of the symbols of occupation: damage and destruction of olive trees and other kinds of trees. The figures were presented on a map, revealing areas of friction in which a particularly high number of trees were damaged. The police and army were well aware of these areas, which constituted centers of criminal activity by Israeli citizens against Palestinians and their property most days of the year.
The Palestinian village that suffered the highest number of attacks on trees at the time was Burin. Among other things, there is footage of a brutal assault on harvesters and volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights by a group of masked men armed with batons. Two Israelis and two Palestinians were injured in the assault.
From 2005 through June 2013, Yesh Din documented 211 incidents of deliberate damage to fruit trees in the West Bank, which led to police investigations. Out of 211 investigation files opened by the SJ District Police during that period, only four ended in indictments. One hundred and eighty three files closed under circumstances that suggest investigative failure, which is 97.4 percent of the investigation files whose processing was completed and whose outcome Yesh Din is aware of.
The SJ District Police failure rate regarding the investigation of tree vandalism is especially striking, and is higher than the general failure rate for its investigations into offenses committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank. The significance of these figures is that when it comes to vandalism of Palestinian-owned trees, the SJ District Police’s ability to locate offenders and prosecute them is so low that it is practically non-existent.
The vandalizing of olive trees and other trees owned by Palestinians constitutes serious damage to their property and directly impacts their well-being, since many Palestinians residents of the West Bank rely on agricultural work as a primary source of their income – first and foremost, the olive industry, which provides income and employment to 100,000 Palestinian households.