Israeli police are “miserably failing” to protect Palestinian olive groves in the West Bank from vandalism, producing just a handful of indictments in over 200 documented cases of tree destruction over the past eight years, an Israeli NGO charged on Monday.
According to Yesh Din, a human rights watchdog active in the West Bank, out of 211 complaints filed with the Judea and Samaria District police for cases of alleged olive tree vandalism documented by the organization between 2005 and 2013, only four investigations ended in indictment. That, claimed Yesh Din, was a “failure rate” of 97.4 percent, given that the vast majority of cases were closed either due to police’s inability to locate the perpetrators or for “lack of evidence.”
On Sunday, two Palestinians and two Israeli volunteers working at the olive harvest in the Palestinian village of Burin, south of Nablus, were allegedly attacked and injured by masked men emerging from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar, Rabbis for Human Rights reported. According to the organization, nearly 2,000 olive trees owned by Palestinian farmers have been burned or otherwise damaged by Israelis over recent months across the West Bank, ahead of the olive harvest season.
In a press release issued Monday, Yesh Din claimed that the destruction of olive trees was particularly harmful to the Palestinian economy, as it directly affects the livelihood of some 100,000 citizens of the West Bank.
“As the data show and as was proven again just yesterday, the areas of friction are well known. Yet the IDF abandons the Palestinian civilians in these areas to recurrent violent attacks,” Noa Cohen of Yesh Din’s research department stated. “The failure of the Judea and Samaria District police to investigate and prosecute the vandals has clear repercussions: renouncement of responsibility and the abandonment of these ares to the control of radical and violent elements.”
During his speech at the UN General Assembly September 26, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cited the attacks on olive trees among 708 “terrorist attacks” he said settlers had perpetrated against Palestinian property and holy sites since the start of 2013.
No comment was available from the Israel Police at the time of publication.