Left-wing extremists and PA Arabs destroyed thousands of grape vines belonging to local Jews in Samaria Wednesday.
Some one hundred Arabs and leftists, along with dozens of Arab TV crews certified by various news agencies, marched to a Jewish vineyard near the town of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem, and proceed to systematically uproot and destroy thousands of young grapevines. The PA- appointed mayor of Ramallah took part in the march.
Though the police and army had been forewarned that the Arabs and leftists were planning a provocation, security forces arrived only after most of the vineyard had already been uprooted.
The vineyard’s owner, Shlomi Cohen told Arutz-7 that 5,000 vines were uprooted by the vandals, who arrived Wednesday at noon. “They also burned pipes, irrigation equipment and sprinklers – after fifteen minutes everything was charred.”
Cohen said that he was informed Tuesday evening that a group planned to destroy the vineyard. “We informed the army. I enlisted everyone I could, including the municipality and local security officers, but for some unclear reason the IDF did not arrive on time.”
When the IDF did arrive, Cohen said, more than half the vineyard was already destroyed. “The army chased the vandals away, but did not arrest any of them,” he said. “They didn’t do anything to them. They just said [the police] would come investigate and that I could file a complaint, but in the meantime there have been no arrests.”
Cohen has been growing grapes in Dolev for 12 years. The land on which the vineyards are planted is state land assigned to the community for agricultural purposes by the World Zionist Federation’s Settlement Division. Cohen and his family have already replanted the uprooted vines that were able to be reused.
Although the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av (July 30) was the last day that fruit trees and vineyards could be planted before the Shemittah (sabbatical) year, the Cohens were permitted to return the roots to the ground from where they were uprooted.
The IDF Civil Administration said it viewed the incident as “severe” and said it had “conveyed a strong message about the incident to the governor of Ramallah.” The Civil Administration noted that the governor took part in the march, but argued that he “also worked to calm the situation and involve police.”
Police Superintendent Danny Poleg told Arutz-7 that IDF and Civil Administration officials brought to the attention of the Binyamin Police Station "general information about an intention to perform a protest in the [area]," but "after a specific call by the Civil Administration" the police arrived. He conceded that by the time they arrived the protestors were gone. "They witnessed damage caused to the vineyard including the irrigation system," he added.
Poleg noted that though a formal complaint concerning the damage has not yet been received, Police have launched a preliminary investigation. Though there were many journalists and cameras present at the riot, the Superintendent said: "At this stage we do not have any data and information as to the identity of participants in this event.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union-NRP) has asked to convene the Knesset’s Internal Affairs committee to address the police’s failure to protect the farmer’s vineyard from the rioters.
“What happened to the swift response we get from the police every time they are called to act against the national camp,” asked Ariel. “Why is the same swiftness not used against left-wing lawbreakers?”
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) issued a statement on the incident, saying that given the prior warning of the expected riot, “[the council] views the security forces' inaction very severely…The culprits must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - whether they are Arabs, foreigners or left-wing extremists.”
The phenomenon of left-wing extremists, from both Israel, Europe and the United States, destroying Jewish vineyards and orchards in Judea and Samaria, though widespread, has rarely been covered by Israel’s state-run media and has never appeared in foreign news agency reports.
Click here for Arutz-7’s coverage of a recent destruction of vineyards in Gush Etzion and click here for another incident in which local Jewish activists from Yesha communities successfully prevented an uprooting.