Palestinian crops torched in latest suspected anti-Arab hate crime

Hebrew graffiti found alongside dozens of bales of hay that were set ablaze in West Bank village of Burin, amid uptick in agricultural attacks

'Stop the agricultural terror,' found graffitied in Hebrew in the Palestinian village of Burin, in the northern West Bank, on June 8, 2018. (Yesh Din, courtesy)
'Stop the agricultural terror,' found graffitied in Hebrew in the Palestinian village of Burin, in the northern West Bank, on June 8, 2018. (Yesh Din, courtesy)

Crops were destroyed and Hebrew-language graffiti was daubed in a Palestinian village overnight, in what appeared to be the latest incident in a recent spate of hate crimes blamed on extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank, activists said Friday.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said in a statement that 85 bales of hay belonging to a farmer in the northern West Bank village of Burin were set alight at around 1:00 a.m. The group said the hay was food for the farmer’s sheep, and was piled around 100 meters from his home. No injuries were reported.

The phrase “Enough with the agricultural terror” was found spray-painted in Hebrew on one bale that was not set on fire, referring to tit-for-tat property attacks between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent weeks.

Yesh Din said a group of nearby Israeli soldiers did not help the farmer extinguish the fire, blaming the blaze on local Palestinian residents.

The Haaretz daily said Friday that Israel Police’s West Bank division has opened an investigation into the incident, which they are treating as a hate crime.

The remains of the bales of hay in the Palestinian village of Burin, in the northern West Bank, that were burned in a suspected hate crime on June 8, 2018. (Yesh Din, courtesy)

Arson and vandalism attacks against Palestinians by Jewish ultra-nationalists in the West Bank are often referred to as “price tag attacks,” ostensibly carried out in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies perceived as hostile to the settler movement. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups, and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by the far-right vandals in recent years.

Last month, the Shin Bet said Jewish nationalist attacks on Palestinians have sharply increased in 2018 compared to the year before. The security agency said that in the first four months of 2018 it documented 13 “price tag” attacks, in contrast with eight such incidents in all of 2017.

Recent attacks against Palestinians have included the chopping down of olive groves, the torching of a mosque, stones thrown through car windows, the slashing of tires, and graffiti calling for the murder of Arabs.

Last week, Yesh Din released surveillance camera footage documenting unidentified vandals puncturing tires and spray-painting a number of buildings in the West Bank village of Husan, near the settlement of Beitar Illit. Local residents found the words “Jews do no keep silent” and “Husan breeds stone-throwers” painted on a warehouse and several homes Friday morning.

Days earlier, roughly 100 grapevines were destroyed in a Palestinian village near Ramallah, accompanied by the message, “Regards from Esh Kodesh” (a reference to the Esh Kodesh outpost). Meanwhile, Palestinian farmers from the village of Bani Naim near Hebron have complained to police of repeated damage to their vineyards.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank also suffered property damage in a number of recent incidents blamed on Palestinians. Earlier this month, 150 grapevines belonging to the Jordan Valley settlement of Tomer were chopped down, and the cherry orchards at the settlement of Kfar Etzion were torched. Residents of both communities said Palestinians in neighboring villages were responsible for the damage.

A cherry tree torched in an apparent hate crime attack in the settlement of Kfar Etzion on May 23, 2018. (Yaron Rosenthal/Kfar Etzion Field School)

Last month, Israeli farmers in the settlement of Shiloh accused Palestinians from the nearby village of Qusra of repeatedly vandalizing their vineyards. Residents said hundreds of vines were uprooted and destroyed.

Police said they have opened investigations into the various incidents, but only two arrests have been reported. On Friday, the Haaretz daily said that two Israeli minors have been in police custody for over a week for their involvement in incidents similar to Friday’s. The report said a court has gag-ordered the details connected to that case.

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