A PLO official called on Sunday for international observers to protect
Palestinian olive farmers and their groves, after more than 450 trees were
vandalized last week as the harvest began.
“We urge every country with a
diplomatic mission to Palestine to dispatch observer teams to Palestinian olive
groves in order to discourage attacks by settlers and to document any abuse that
occurs,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said.
She made her
statement in a letter that she sent to diplomatic missions that service the
“Given Israel’s support for the settlers and its
refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to provide protection through the
occupied territory, the Palestinian people require international intervention to
ensure their security,” Ashrawi wrote.
The Samaria Citizens Committee, in
turn, has charged that Palestinians have harmed their groves. They have opened a
website in which they have encouraged Jewish farmers and observers to post
evidence of these attacks.
But the international community and Israeli
nongovernmental organizations have focused their energy on the harm done to
Palestinian trees, which they say is extensive.
They allege that settlers
and extreme rightwing activists carried out the vandalism.
the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on Sunday, “I
am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have
repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive
trees at the height of the harvest season. These acts are reprehensible and I
call on the government of Israel to bring those responsible to
“Israel must live up to its commitments under international law
to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the
olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the
Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace,” Serry
Four Israeli rights organizations — Rabbis for Human Rights, the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din – Volunteers for Civil Rights
and B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories – on Sunday wrote a letter to the defense minister, the
attorney-general and military and police commanders in the West Bank in which
they complained that not enough had been done to protect the Arabs’
They said that Israeli law mandated that security forces protect
the Israeli farmers.
“Israeli military and security forces currently
focus on securing harvests at prearranged times and places. The disruptions and
attacks, however, are taking place at other times, and in other
“Past experience shows that the military and police can act to
prevent these incidents, because most of the events occur in areas close to
settlements known by the authorities to be extremist,” the NGOs said in their
Police have said they are working around the clock to protect the
They have increased manpower in the area and have
undercover officers in the field.
Yesh Din has also charged separately
that not enough was being done to bring the vandals to justice.
published a report on the olive harvest over the weekend that documented 162
cases of vandalism against Palestinian olive trees since 2005. It charged that
only one indictment was filed out of the 162 police investigations into those
Another 147 files were closed, of which 124 were closed
because the perpetrator was unknown, 16 for insufficient evidence, two for the
absence of criminal culpability, and five for unknown reasons.
files are still under investigation, according to Yesh Din.
were lost and in one case the prosecutor is reviewing the investigatory
material, Yesh Din said.