(Arik Ascherman in a field of olive trees destroyed by illegal settlers.)
Think again. I could name dozens of organizations, like Women in Black, of which Aliza Olmert (yes married to him) is a member, and others. But this interesting piece came through Rabbis for Human Rights.
On November 23rd, 2007, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), responded to an investigation by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Although RHR’s best known rabbi is Arik Ascherman, other members of this organization like Rabbi Grenimann are also involved in Palestinian human rights activities.
On November 21, 2007, Haaretz published this article concerning complaints by settlers that Palestinians were destroying their crops. Since crop or tree destruction typically gives rise to the reverse complaint, that settlers were destroying Palestinian crops, this incident was interesting.
Settlers accuse Palestinians of vandalizing Jewish farms
By Nadav Shragai
West Bank settlers say there has been a recent spate of Palestinian vandalism on property belonging to Jewish farmers, and a Haaretz investigation has found evidence of arson, sabotage of equipment and destruction of crops.
The farmers claim that the police are not designating their complaints as high priority, because they do not fall under the rubric of “hostile terrorist activity.” Settlers put the damage from vandalism in the tens of millions of shekels for which they are not compensated, because state authorities recognize only damage sustained in “a hostile act against Israel.”
The police maintain that it treats equally Palestinians and Israelis who damage agricultural produce.
A new report by a settler civil rights group cites several examples of damage to Jewish farmers’ property. Under the heading, “Who will protect my olive tree?” the report describes the torching of 900 dunams of grazing ground, a stable, and 30 pomegranate trees belonging to Yehuda Cohen of Bat Ayin. Shamai Pozak at Ofra had young saplings chopped down, tons of grapevines destroyed before the harvest, and irrigation pipes torched. Moshe Kedem of Pnei Kedem had 500 olive tree saplings uprooted.
In response to the above article, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, the former chairperson of Rabbis for Human Rights, stated that,
“when we (Rabbis for Human Rights) call the police complaining that “settlers” have damaged trees and attacked Palestinians, they (the Police) are not in a rush to come, and often the settlers run away and there is no one to accuse. Six months ago “settlers” attacked Palestinian farmers that plowed their fields, and even hit “volunteers”, but we have yet to hear of progress in the Police investigation of the incident.”
In other words, Rabbi Greniman claimed that many of the places cited in the report are illegal outposts on private Palestinian land, and not on land that is privately owned by Jews. Also, he stated that the Organization for Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is not a professional human rights organization. This organization also accused Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of Shomrei Mishpat, and other activists with incitement in organizing the Arab “rioters” and even in the active participation in destructive actions. Rabbi Greniman responded that such statements were slander, had no basis, and bordered on libel”.
Here is the complete text of the response from Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann to Mr. Nadav Shragai of Haaretz.
Mr. Nadav Shragai
In continuation of our conversation this morning I am sending you a number of corrections in regard to the article published in your newspaper on 20 November, 2007, under the headline: “Settlers: A Rise in the Number of Palestinian Attacks on Property.”
We, as an organization carrying the banner of human rights, including the right of every farmer to defend himself in the face of “arson, the destruction of crops, and the damaging of equipment,” of course condemn acts of these kinds.
Nonetheless, in order to correct the erroneous impression, in our opinion, created by your article published on 20 November, 2007, in Ha’aretz, we have a number of points of disagreement that we believe should be publicized.
Many of the settlers mentioned in the article are in fact illegal land-holders dwelling on private Palestinian land, or lands expropriated from Palestinians for “the good of the public” and not for private Jewish use.
The organization mentioned in your article as the source of the information, “The Association for Citizen’s Rights in Judea and Samaria” is not, judging from its publications and actions, a professional human rights organization. The following are several examples of its attitude:
The organization accuses the director-general of Shomrei Mishpat, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and other activists, of inciting Arab “rioters” and even of participation in acts of sabotage. This slander is incorrect, not based in any fact, and borders on libel.
The organization writes about “farmers working their lands according to the law” even though many of the land-holders mentioned in the report are in fact illegal. For example: S’deh Calev, Pnei Kedem, Havat Talya, Havat Har Sinai, and Havat Gilad-which was established on private Palestinian land.
Similarly, the organization wrote that “in no case was the movement of Arabs restricted in areas adjacent to the crops of Jewish farmers,” a statement whose patent untruth can be easily verified. On the contrary, the High Court of Justice ruled in June 2006 that security forces were not doing enough to enable Palestinian farmers to reach their lands.
We would be happy to provide you with examples of this-unfortunately they are numerous.
It is very problematic to rely on the reports of settlers, who are connected to the issue, without checking the facts. For example, with regard to the incident of 17 October when it was claimed that a leftist and a Palestinian were apprehended while setting fire to a number of pyres around Havat Gilad, the reference was to our organization, “Rabbis for Human Rights”, and it is already known that the claim was false. Settlers from Havat Gilad in an automobile chased after the “leftist” (an inaccurate term in and of itself as human rights activists are not necessarily leftists) and the Palestinian, and nearly caused a traffic accident. We summoned the police, and only then was the “arson” claim raised and the leftist and the Palestinian imprisoned for several days. Even though police investigators came to the scene of the “arson” on the day of the event, it was only after a number of days and the uncooperativeness of the plaintiffs from Havat Gilad that the Palestinian and the volunteer were released from their imprisonment. It is superfluous to add that no writ of accusation against them has been submitted since, and the police should come to the conclusion that this is a matter of false accusation (?). The scandal is that our people were held in custody and to this day the police have not investigated the complaint that the settlers of Havat Gilad placed their lives in danger. This is not the first time that the people of Havat Gilad have leveled false accusations against volunteer human rights workers. Three years ago, they complained that they had been assaulted by a man of our group, but police investigators proved that the event never was and had never been. Nonetheless, the settlers against whom the Palestinian and the volunteer made their complaints were not arrest, and were not investigated at all.
A day before the incident of 17 October, settlers from Havat Gilad assaulted Palestinian farmers engaged in the olive harvest and wounded one of them. The journalist Avi Isskarof was present at this incident. At the same time, stones were thrown at Palestinian olive-harvesters.
According to the Association for Citizen’s Rights in Judea and Samaria, there is an over-enforcement of the law intended to protect the Arab farmer. This claim comes despite the truth, in our experience, that when we call the police to complain about settlers destroying trees and assaulting Palestinian farmers, they do not come very quickly and many times we are forced to call more than once until the police arrive, and even then, all too often, the settlers have fled and there is no one to accuse. When there are no volunteers in the area, security forces, in many cases, do not defend the Palestinian farmers against settler assaults and sometimes even help the settlers to chase the Palestinians from the area. The Palestinians are afraid to go out to their lands without volunteers.
For example, about six months ago in Susia, to the south of Mt. Hebron, settlers assaulted Palestinian farmers who were plowing their lands, and even struck the volunteers. A complaint was filed with the police. To this day we have not heard of an investigation into the matter being launched.
On 29 October, in Havara, volunteers met two olive-harvesters who had been driven off their land by settlers, and an additional pair who had been driven off by soldiers.
These are just a few examples from among the many cases that we encounter almost every day.
We join in the call for equal enforcement of the law, but in our experience it is not enforced against settlers. The discrimination is certainly against the Palestinians.
We would be happy to invite you to accompany us on a tour that will be organized during one of the days of the olive harvest (weather permitting), and to provide you with additional information on every one of the points that we mentioned above.
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann
It has been widely reported that settler-IDF teams in the West Bank work to harass Palestinian families off their land. By destroying their crops and olive groves, or even bulldozing their homes, they make it impossible for families to subsist. Many eventually leave, and by this account, it is still going on, i.e., the ethnic cleansing. The purpose is obvious. It is really the execution of Sharon’s “dunam by dunam” plan to confiscate the West Bank by wresting the land from its rightful owners. How else did Israel come to control 46% of the West Bank.
Thanks to Rabbis for Human Rights for defending at least some of these Palestinian families.