The Israeli right-wing likes to claim that Palestinians fabricate the destruction of their olive trees. The police disagrees. Not that they are any good at catching the terrorists

When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?

Deuteronomy, 20:19

One of the most common phenomena of the quiet kind of settler terrorism, carried on an almost daily basis in the West Bank, is that of vandalizing trees. We dedicated our new data sheet to this phenomenon.

Destroying crops is an ancient tool of agrarian terror. Its purpose is generally disinheriting farmers of their land for the benefit of others. Aside from the economic damage – and in societies still making much of their living off agriculture such damage is immense – there is the crippling fear that even if you give your all to your crops, even if you wake up at unreasonable hours, even if you work in the blazing sun and the freezing rain, all your work will be in vain, for some human scum will creep up at night and set the fruit of your labor ablaze.

The Bible is quite familiar with this situation: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof; thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shall not eat thereof; thine ass shall be violently taken from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee; thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shall have none to rescue them; the fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed always. One assumes that the people who skulk about to set fire to and cut down the Palestinians’ trees are as familiar with these verses as I. Most of them, after all, are allegedly Bible-readers.

And no: contrary to the common claim among the right-wing – often followed by the so-called smoking gun of the claim that a left-winger was seen moving around with a chainsaw – these incidents are not a fantasy, nor are they Palestinian fabrications. Yesh Din has followed 211 complaints of damage to trees and other crops submitted to the Judea and Samaria Police District (JSPD) between 2005 and 2013; out of these cases, 191 were closed.

Only in two cases, i.e. less than one percent of all of the complaints, did the JSPD close the case due to “absence of criminal culpability,” that is a claim that no crime took place. 99% of the incidents of tree-cutting and crop destruction are recognized by the JSPD as actual incidents in which a crime took place. It should further be noted that we appealed one of the two cases closed for “absence of criminal culpability.” Jewish right-wingers take note: your hands have despoiled these trees. The number of cases in which the JSPD claims there was “absence of criminal culpability” is the same – two – as the number of case files it managed to lose. It is that insignificant.

That does not mean, perish the thought, that the JSPD has actually cracked the cases; this is the JSPD we’re talking about. It fails in galvanizing itself to crack cases dealing with violence against Palestinians; can you seriously expect it to deal properly with attacks on Palestinian property?

The JSPD has a failure record of 97.4% in such cases, an impressive rate even given its general failure rate of investigation in against Palestinians committed by Israelis, which is 84%. The undisputed champion is, of course, the “unknown perpetrator” clause; the JSPD used it to close 166 of these cases. That means that the police failed to find a suspect. In the far second place came the “insufficient evidence” clause, which means that the police identified a suspect but failed to gather sufficiently strong evidence for an indictment. The reason for closing three cases was not reported – and in four cases, only four cases, the JSPD surprisingly presented enough evidence for an indictment.

Four cases out of 211. Less than one in 50. Now think of the message the JSPD sends to the victims and the perpetrators. To the latter it says: there is no point in clinging to the land. This terrorism will go on and there is nothing you can do about it. Do us a favor and stop wasting our time with your complaints; we’ll do nothing about them, anyway. Haven’t you realized yet how the system works?

With the criminals the JPSD hardly speaks a word; it just indulgently pats their heads.