Farmer examines damaged crop - B'Tselem
Every autumn, Palestinian farmers harvest olives from the trees in their groves, many of which go back decades. In recent years, these farmers have faced settler violence and intimidation in order to pick their olives, a crop that brought $100 million into the Palestinian economy in 2010 and sustains many families in the West Bank.
According to Rabbis for Human Rights: "Every year at this time Palestinian farmers from a number of villages across the West Bank receive threats to their safety, are denied access to their land or have their olives stolen, their trees poisoned, or even cut down altogether."
Last year, The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that over 2,500 olive trees were destroyed in September 2011, and 7,500 throughout 2011.
There were several attacks believed to be carried out by settlers during the first days of the harvest last week. Human rights groups are monitoring olive groves near Israeli settlements and documenting attacks by settlers. Between 7 - 10 October 2012, with the start of the West Bank's annual olive harvest, B'Tselem has documented five cases of injury to Palestinian farmers and their olive trees in the Ramallah and Nablus regions. In two incidents, settlers attacked farmers picking olives and damaged their yields. In three other cases, olive trees were discovered damaged or with the olives stolen, apparently by settlers.
In one incident B'Tselem documented, 220 trees were already harvested when farmers arrived to their grove and many of them were damaged. The perpetrators are unknown but B'Tselem points out that the owners of the land cannot reach it without prior coordination with the army because it is so close to an outpost. In al-Mughayir, northeast of Ramallah, a farmer discovered 100 of his trees were damaged, most were cut down at the trunk.
The groups are concerned about the inaction of security forces in the areas when these events occur. In B'Tselem's roundup of the events, they note: "The direct attacks documented by B'Tselem occurred while members of the security forces were present. All the locations where damage to trees was discovered are familiar to the security forces as areas where Palestinians are subject to repeated harassment by settlers."
Not only are the attacks not stopped but the criminal investigations rarely find the perpetrator. Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group focusing on legal action looked at the cases of tree vandalism over the past seven years and only found one instance of an indictment. In the report they conclude that: "The police's failure to enforce the law encourages such acts of vandalism, since the perpetrators are not punished."
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there is an increased police presence in the West Bank and they are using more technology to stop these crimes.
See also: http://rhr.org.il/eng/index.php/2012/10/press-release-the-olive-harvest-will-begin-soon-in-the-shadow-of-a-wave-of-tag-mechir-incidents/
Source: Rabbis For Human Rights. B'Tselem