Palestinians, members of the Fatafta family, pick olives in their orchard during harvest season in West Bank village of Idna, near Hebron October 14, 2012..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A study released by the the human rights NGO Yesh Din on Monday claims that when it comes to cases of destruction to Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank, Israel's police forces almost never locate suspects and bring them to justice.
Yesh Din followed the investigation of 246 police files involving the uprooting, burning or damaging of trees in the West Bank between the years 2005 and 2014, and found that these files resulted in only four indictments. 96.6% of the files were closed without an indictment, mainly for the reasons that the suspect was not located or that their was a lack of sufficient evidence to proceed.
The NGO published its findings as the 2014 olive harvest season begins, and stressed that the olive sector provides income to around 100,000 Palestinian households in the West Bank.
Noah Cohen, who is part of Yesh Din's investigation unit, said that the study points to deficiencies in Israeli law enforcement in protecting Palestinian farmers.
"The fact that only four indictments were lodged over a nine year period, out of hundreds of investigations, results in there being an absence of deterrence with regard to the damaging of olive trees," Cohen said.
The group said that despite assurances given by the army that it would protect Palestinian farmers during this year's harvest season, there have already been three acts of vandalism in recent days. Yesh Atid cited two incidents in the village of Burin in which ten trees were severely damaged and the harvested olives of hundreds of trees were stolen. In the third incident, a number of settlers from the West Bank settlement of Tapuah attacked Palestinian olive-harvesters this past Saturday at Kfar Yasuf.
In the Kfar Yasuf incident, IDF forces arrested two minors at the scene who refused to identify themselves.