Vehicles were vandalized and graffiti was spray painted on the walls of kindergartens in the West Bank village of Jab’a 15 km. southwest of Bethlehem, in an apparent revenge hate-crime by settlers on Tuesday. The incident occurred hours after IDF troops demolished a temporary housing structure built on a hilltop near the settlement of Bat Ayin by local youth.
Several Jewish youths were arrested as they protested the soldiers dismantling the structures.
According to a report in Haaretz, the vandals were caught on security cameras spray-painting hateful slogans and a Star of David, and puncturing tires in the West Bank village, which has been identified as the biblical site of Gibeah mentioned in Joshua 15:57. Among the slogans was “revenge Bat Ayin,” according to photos published by Haaretz.
On Monday, in addition to the temporary housing structure, IDF plowed an olive grove planted by Jews and Christians together near the settlement of Bat Ayin, which is located roughly 10 minutes by car from Jab’a.
One of the demolished olive groves was managed by Amnon Sugbeker. He told The Jerusalem Post that the lands where the groves had been planted had been abandoned for the past 15 years, and that he and his neighbors planted the groves three years ago largely with the financial backing of Jews and Christian Zionists.
“A few months ago, the security forces declared the area a closed military zone, and we were told we had to leave,” he explained. “Early yesterday morning, without any warning, they closed the area and destroyed four olive groves, including mine. I saw them destroy the field that I worked on for three years right in front of my eyes.”
According to Sugbeker, the IDF ignores Palestinians who are planting on Israeli land but focuses on settlers.
“The Arabs next to us are planting on Israeli soil and the army doesn’t do anything,” he said. “We plant one tree and they uproot it. They are allowed to do everything and us nothing. The army protects them, not us. That’s the reality in the West Bank. No one talks about this.”
However, Tuesday’s incident comes amid an uptick of violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces by hard-line settler youths across the West Bank, according to the human right organization B’Tselem. The organization told the Post that there has been an increase in attacks against Palestinians by settlers over the past two years, specifically during the olive harvest season in the autumn and winter.
On Tuesday morning, for example, about 30 destroyed olive trees were discovered on lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Ayn as-Sawiyah near the West Bank settlement of Rehelim.
Over the weekend, 10 Palestinians, including an 18-month-old baby who was struck in the head by a rock, were wounded in Hebron by Jews, as some 50,000 pilgrims flocked to the ancient city for the annual remembrance of the Patriarch Abraham’s purchase of the site of a double cave there in which to bury his wife, Sarah.
In late October, two masked settlers spray-painted hate graffiti on house walls and slashed the tires of 30 cars in Ramallah’s twin city al-Birah.
In early November,, revenge slogans similar to those found in Jab’a were discovered in the town of Qabalan 19 km. southeast of Nablus. At least one car was damaged, as well. One week earlier, police and border security officers had stones thrown at them and their tires slashed by masked youths in Bat Ayin, a day after security forces demolished an illegally built structure on a nearby hilltop similar to the one destroyed this week.
Over the past two months alone, 13 price tag attacks have been recorded by B’Tselem.
The NGO Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights told the Post that while Palestinians are quickly arrested by security forces, law enforcement regarding West Bank settlers is much less thorough.
“As data shows, law enforcement on Israelis who commit offenses against Palestinians is very weak, and there is low motivation by the Israeli authorities to hold them accountable,” said Yesh Din. “Because of this bad infrastructure, it is challenging to investigate also in the case of an offense against the army. In the heart of all of this there is a lack of motivation and an atmosphere of looking the other way in regard to settler violence.”