For years, and especially since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, Palestinian residents of the West Bank have faced many obstacles to carrying out the olive harvest. Two of the most serious problems are the prevention of access to their lands by Israeli security forces through blockades, checkpoints or preventing residents from entering the area; and repeated harassment by Israeli civilians, including cases of assault, threats, theft of fruit and tools, and sabotage.
Yesh Din published a brief position paper ahead of the 2007 olive harvest season outlining the failure of Israeli law enforcement authorities to properly address violence perpetrated by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the West Bank. The position paper is based on Yesh Din’s monitoring of law authorities’ conduct during the 2006 harvest season. The position paper includes demands and recommendations on a number of issues for the the IDF OC Central Command and the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District Police are responsible.
In 2006, the High Court of Justice issued a ruling (HCJ 9593/04 Rashed Murad V Commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) clarifying Israeli security forces’ duties and restrictions regarding Palestinian residents’ access to their land, especially during the olive harvest season.
The ruling requires the military commander enable the harvest to take place both by refraining from applying disruptive measures and by taking actions deigned to prevent disruption by other parties. The ruling clarifies that restricting harvesters’ access to their land in order to protect Israeli civilians may take place based only on concrete necessity and with as little harm as possible to the olive harvest work. Yesh Din’s monitoring revealed a sequence of failures in this matter.
For example, in all the incidents documented by Yesh Din up until publication of this position paper, in which Israeli civilians used violence against Palestinian harvesters, IDF soldiers looked on and did nothing to prevent the assault or detain the attackers. Such conduct is part of a larger pattern of defective enforcement, which includes refraining from carrying out searches and arrests in “real time.” Yesh Din’s monitoring also reflects complete failure to conduct exhaustive criminal investigations after the incident. In not a single investigation opened as a result of Israelis’ assaults against Palestinian harvesters during the 2006 season was an indictment served.
Yesh Din’s recommendations include the following:
1. To strictly enforce the law on Israeli civilians who disrupt the harvest
2. IDF soldiers must intervene to stop such incidents, especially violent incidents, and arrest Israeli citizens who break the law
3. Police must investigate the offenses swiftly and effectively, so that the perpetrators may be prosecuted
4. IDF deployment must be planned in advance to allow maximum access to the areas where the harvest takes place, including lifting or opening internal checkpoints and obstacles as necessary
5. A detailed plan must be formulated for deploying Samaria and Judea (SJ) District Police, including real‐time response action, including conducting searches