Overnight, Palestinian’s Livelihood Destroyed by Israeli Settlers

23 June 2009

Palestinian Grapevine cut in half in Saffa

In the early hours of Monday, June 22, 2009, settlers from the Bat ‘Ain settlement set fire and cut down more than 125 grapevines and fruit trees belonging to Hamad Soleiby. Israeli soldiers said they saw a fire in the Palestinian agricultural fields some time during the night and went to put it out, though they did nothing to collect the evidence; kerosene canisters and matches were still there the next morning when activists from the Palestine Solidarity Project accompanied the farmer’s family to survey the damage.

One week before, Israeli solidarity activists caught on tape settlers from Bat ‘Ain saying the activists should “come back next week and see”, that they would set fire to the entire area. What was not burned was systematically cut with an electric saw. The 125 trees represented a huge proportion of Hamad’s income; in one night settlers nearly destroyed his and his family’s livelihood.

When activists joined Hamad’s brother to document the destruction on Monday, Israeli soldiers and police soon turned out in force, bringing three jeeps and an armored personnel carrier full of soldiers. Hamad’s brother, Abu Jabber, approached the commander, pleading with him to come down and see for himself what the settlers had done. Instead, the soldiers informed the group that it was a closed military zone, and everyone except Abu Jabber and one Israeli activist had to leave. Abu Jabber and the Israeli activist, from the joint organization Ta’ayush, were escorted to the police station inside the settlement to make a formal complaint. However, considering the past two weeks when settlers were allowed into the area with impunity while Israeli and international solidarity activists were attacked and arrested, there is very little faith that the Israeli soldiers and police, based inside the settlement, can be relied on to protect the Palestinians’ rights and land.

Also overnight, ironically, while settlers went unimpeded into Palestinian lands and destroyed a huge tract of agricultural area without any intervention by Israeli police or military, Israeli soldiers invaded several homes in Saffa and arrested 8 people, as well as one person in Beit Ommar. The reasons are unknown.