400 Israeli activists plant olive trees near Palestinian West Bank village

Planting event in Burin comes 2 weeks after settler attack against activists; army keeps Jewish extremists away; Palestinian cars, homes vandalized near Nablus in separate incident

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Hundreds of left-wing Israeli activists arrive to help Palestinians plant trees near the village of Burin in the West Bank, February 4, 2022. (Hamutal Sadot, Rabbis for Human Rights/Courtesy)
Hundreds of left-wing Israeli activists arrive to help Palestinians plant trees near the village of Burin in the West Bank, February 4, 2022. (Hamutal Sadot, Rabbis for Human Rights/Courtesy)

Some 400 left-wing Israeli activists turned up Friday morning to assist Palestinian farmers plant olive trees near the West Bank village of Burin, two weeks after an attack by extremist settlers there left several people wounded.

“This picture of hundreds of Israelis, including those injured by Jewish terrorists, returning to the scene of the attack, two weeks after it occurred, represents a significant victory,” Avi Dabush, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, said in a statement.

“We declared that we will not give in to violence and that we would return to the field to stand in solidarity with Palestinian olive farmers against those who regularly attack them. And that is what we did,” he said.

According to the organization, several settlers from the illegal Givat Ronen outpost attempted to reach the area where the planting took place, but were rebuffed by the army, with which the event was coordinated.

The military said in a statement that there was “friction” between the activists and troops. “Security forces operated at the scene to maintain order, and to prevent incidents of violence,” the statement read.

The Israel Defense Forces said one activist was detained for allegedly assaulting a soldier, and was then taken to be arrested by police officers. “The IDF views any incident of violence against security forces seriously,” it added.

Troops had briefly blocked the convoy of cars and buses for unknown reasons.

Several lawmakers were present at Friday’s planting event, including the Joint List’s Ahmad Tibi and Meretz’s Gaby Lasky and Mossi Raz.

The lawmakers later visited the evacuated illegal outpost of Evyatar, after news broke Wednesday morning that former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit had approved a compromise deal between the government and settlers to legalize the outpost in his final hours in office.

The move, which is hotly controversial among the ideologically diverse government coalition, still requires the final approval of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

“We arrived at Evyatar to demand its immediate evacuation,” Raz said on Twitter.

Also on Friday, in the Palestinian West Bank town of as-Sawiya near Nablus, at least six cars had tires punctured, and graffiti was sprayed on homes that said, “Our land for our nation,” and “Revenge will come one day,” police said. An investigation has been opened.

Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming that they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

However, arrests of perpetrators are rare and rights groups say that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

On January 21, masked settlers from the outpost attacked Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists with clubs and stones, wounding at least six and burning a car, according to police, witnesses and footage from the scene.

No arrests have been reported. The Shin Bet is involved in the investigation, the security agency confirmed last week.

The violence drew denunciations from across the political spectrum, with several coalition lawmakers calling for the demolition of the outpost from where the assailants allegedly came.

Israeli security officials have warned that violence by Jewish extremists in the West Bank has spiked in recent months. Shin Bet officials told The Times of Israel in late December that Jewish extremist violence had increased by 50 percent over the past year.

Nonetheless, the internal political debate over the phenomenon has been divisive. Right-wing Israeli politicians have resisted referring to these attacks as “settler violence,” charging that such characterization is an attempt to besmirch all Jews living in the West Bank.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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