The headlines informed us that the IDF, Civil Administration, and Israel Police are preparing for the olive harvesting season in Judea and Samaria. “This mission is of the highest priority,” and hence, in the midst of a period replete with terror attacks, major manpower and great operational effort will be dedicated in order to allow the harvest to go “to the last olive.”
The media also prepares and places itself at the service of the “harvest coalition” – dozens of subsidiaries of the New Israel Fund and European Union that shall accompany the harvesters in order to turn a simple, popular agricultural effort into a raging, media-covered global event. We can assume that Mitchell, Clinton, and maybe even Obama shall make time in their busy schedules to ensure that each one of the farmers known as “Palestinians” will get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
On the other hand, in a sort of mirror image, Jewish farmers who work their land by law in the very same area suffer daily abuse at the hands of their Arab neighbors, who are backed and incited by the very same leftist human-farmer rights champions. The damages sustained by these Jewish farmers are estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels, and who could estimate the heartache of a farmer whose corps were damaged?
Yet the State of Israel’s law enforcement authorities do almost nothing to protect them, and the media barely covers them or their pain.
About three years ago, we undertook a comprehensive inquiry into the abuse against Jewish farmers. We reviewed dozens of police cases and interviewed dozens of farmers. We discovered a wide-ranging phenomenon of deliberate, frequent, and methodical attacks premised on nationalistic rather than criminal motives: Arson, trespassing, sabotaging equipment, and the deliberate damaging of corps.
We also discovered visible involvement of leftist organizations – the very same ones that preach to us about harming corps – in terms of incitement, organization, active participation, and legal backing given to the rioters and vandals. The olive trees of Jewish farmers prompt the exact opposite reaction, for some reason.
Part of terror war
We also discovered inaction and blatant indifference by the police, even in respect to issuing authorizations for property tax purposes. Many farmers were forced to sustain major damages after the police did not see fit to dispatch investigators. Apparently the police were left with no manpower after enlisting all of it to the cause of protecting the Arab farmers.
We reviewed dozens of police files and found them empty of any probe work. On the other hand, in the cases were an investigation was carried out and suspects were apprehended, they turned out to be Arabs with a wealth of nationalistic-terroristic experience.
Abusing Jewish farmers is part of the terror war, yet the police remain unimpressed. We found significant gaps in resources, modus operandi, and police motivation in respect to protecting Jewish farmers. The chance that suspects would be arrested is almost nil. In most cases, the police stay out of Arab villages, therefore turning them into safe havens for vandals.
Meanwhile, Arab farmers arrive at work accompanied by massive army and police protection. The forces include police officers skilled in carrying out arrests and are assisted by the police’s and even Shin Bet’s intelligence agents. And if this isn’t enough, the establishment would not hesitate to issue administrative orders against people it thinks may harm Arab olives – where did the holy principle of equality before the law disappear?
In the concluding chapter of our report we wrote: There is no need whatsoever to recommend ways to improve enforcement…it would be enough if authorities decided to adopt a policy of equal enforcement, and use all the means at their disposal when protecting Arab olive harvesters to also protect Jewish farmers. Three years have passed since. Had we enjoyed huge EU budgets, we would likely issue further reports on the matter, yet regrettably there is no need for that either: Nothing has changed.
About a month ago, we turned to the police again in the wake of five arson cases that caused grave damages and even threatened the lives of residents. In all these cases, despite evidence on the ground, nobody was arrested and police files remained empty. In one case, the police did not even issue a property tax authorization, forcing the farmer to sustain the damages.
In our letters, we demanded that police commanders’ preparations for the olive harvesting season also includes an effort to protect the Jewish farmers. The letters had not been answered yet.
Orit Struck manages the legal department in Hebron’s Jewish community and runs the human rights organization in Judea and Samaria
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