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Palestinian vineyard near Ramallah targeted in apparent hate crime

100 vines chopped down in Kafr Milek; farmer finds rock spray-painted with Hebrew phrase at scene

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

A Palestinian vineyard near Ramallah targeted in an apparent hate crime attack on May 29, 2018. (Iyad Haddad/B'Tselem)
A Palestinian vineyard near Ramallah targeted in an apparent hate crime attack on May 29, 2018. (Iyad Haddad/B'Tselem)

Roughly 100 grapevines were destroyed in a Palestinian village near Ramallah Tuesday morning amid an apparent ongoing exchange of agricultural hate crimes between Israelis and Palestinians.

Spray-painted on a rock adjacent to the vineyard in Kafr Milek, farmers found the Hebrew phrase “Regards from Esh Kodesh,” an illegal Israeli outpost near the central West Bank settlement of Shiloh.

Police said they were aware of the incident and were on their way to the scene to open an investigation.

Residents of outposts near Shiloh as well as the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar have lamented over-policing in their communities over the past week, pointing to ID checks at the entrance to their towns, which had never before been the norm.

A stone near a Palestinian vineyard near Ramallah targeted in an apparent hate crime attack on May 29, 2018 spray-painted with the Hebrew phrase “regards from Esh Kodesh.” (Iyad Haddad/B’Tselem)

A defense official told The Times of Israel that the security establishment is concerned that a “price tag” attack perpetrated by settlers in one of those communities during the month of Ramadan could spark a broader conflict in the West Bank.

But Tzvi Succot, a Yitzhar resident who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit group, warned that the over-policing is what could spark violence.

“The next time someone slashes a tire or God forbid throws a stone at them [Palestinians], remember that there was someone forcefully pushing for that to happen,” Succot said, apparently blaming law enforcement for a potential attack perpetrated by a Jewish extremist against Palestinians.

Tuesday’s incident in Kafr Milek followed similar ones throughout the West Bank over the past two months.

On Sunday, residents of the Palestinian village of Bani Naim near Hebron filed a police complaint regarding massive destruction to their vineyards over the weekend, with hundreds of vines uprooted or destroyed. The attack took place at “a field not far from two other fields that were vandalized in the past two weeks,” according to the advocacy group Yesh Din.

On a nearby building, investigators found Hebrew graffiti reading “Stop the agricultural terror, we will reach every place.”

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)

Within hours, a similar report came from an Israeli vineyard near the settlement of Shiloh north of Jerusalem. Hundreds of vines were uprooted or cut down, according to the vineyard owner, a local resident.

Israeli residents of the area say that property attacks are a recurring phenomenon, and accuse the Palestinian residents of the nearby town of Qusra of destroying their vineyards.

On Friday, a cherry orchard in the Kfar Etzion settlement was targeted in an apparent arson attack. Yaron Rosenthal, the director of Kfar Etzion’s field school, said the blaze damaged hundreds of trees in a nearby grove. He accused Palestinians from the nearby village of Beit Ummar of starting the fires.

Recent months have seen many attacks primarily against Palestinians, including the chopping down of dozens of olive trees, the torching of a mosque, stones thrown through car windows, the slashing of tires, and graffiti calling for the murder of Arabs. Police are investigating the various crimes, but no arrests have been reported.

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