Palestinian allegedly attacks settler during land dispute near Shiloh

Palestinian allegedly at

A Palestinian man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a settler during a dispute over a stretch of land near the northern West Bank settlement of Shiloh on Wednesday. Judea and Samaria Police said the incident began when the Palestinian farmer arrived in the area with 20 left-wing activists and a tractor, and began working the land. "A Shiloh resident then appeared, and a verbal altercation followed," police said in a statement. "The Palestinian man attacked the man with his fists, lightly wounding him." The wounded settler, named as 60-year-old Ya'acov Sharvit, was taken to Jerusalem's Sha'are Zedek Hospital for treatment. Settlers and Palestinians have both claimed the area as their own, and the High Court is currently deliberating the case. The events that led up to the violence are in dispute. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, was on the scene during the incident and was one of the activists who accompanied the Palestinian man to the field. "There are two separate issues here. The first is a question of land ownership and the right of Palestinian farmers to get to their land. The second question is who attacked whom," Ascherman said. Ascherman said his organization had helped Palestinians plant trees in the area without disturbances over the years, until November 2008, when activists from Rabbis for Human Rights "were approached by a security officer from Shiloh who said the land belonged to a resident of Shiloh. Within a week, all the trees we planted were uprooted." On Wednesday, "we were sowing some form of grain and wanted to plant trees. After an hour and 15 minutes, a settler accompanied by two security guards came and said this was his land. He had no papers showing ownership. He claimed he [had] worked the land for 25 years, but as far as we can tell, that was patently untrue," Ascherman stated. "The settler tried to block our tractor, and suddenly turned on this Palestinian man who was approaching him with a video camera given to him by B'Tselem. He attacked the Palestinian with his fists and tried to take the camera from him. The Palestinian tried to get away and one of the soldiers tried to intervene," he said. Ascherman said he had not seen the alleged attack. "It's certainly not clear if the settler was hit or whether the camera bounced into his head or whether he hit himself, or if a soldier's gun knocked him on the head during the struggle. But what I can say definitely is that the settler from Shiloh initiated this attack," he asserted. But Avigdor Schatz, head of security for the Binyamin Regional Council, sharply disputed Ascherman's version of events. "This land has been worked for over 25 years by Shiloh farmers," he said. "Last year, Palestinians arrived and began working the land. When asked to prove ownership, they produced a land ownership certificate that related to a [piece of] land further north. So as far we know, there is no Palestinian ownership of this land," Schatz said. "Today, a group of extreme left-wing activists and Palestinians arrived from a nearby village and began plowing the field [despite its disputed status]. Three people from Shiloh - Ya'acov Sharvit, the farmer, and two security guards - arrived on the scene," Schatz continued. Sharvit "tried to stop the tractor. The Palestinian man came toward him, stopped filming, and hit him on the head. The soldiers who were there all saw it. The Palestinian did not act in self-defense - he hit him very hard on the head. There is no argument over this," Schatz stressed. "There is no proof this land belongs to [the Palestinian village of] Karyut. An agricultural fence surrounded the area for many years. It was stolen by the Palestinians. Then they trespassed into the area," he added. Schatz described Rabbis for Human Rights as "professional provocateurs. That's how they make their living. It's a shame, because the whole area is now inaccessible to farmers. Both Palestinians and Israelis are losing out. No one can work there."