Daily Israel Report

Police Suspect Bil'in Protesters in Destruction of Vineyards

Video footage handed over to police of leftists and Arabs destroying Jewish vineyards in Samaria implicates Bil’in protesters in the vandalism.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 9/2/2007, 11:04 AM

Footage handed over to police of leftists and Arabs destroying Jewish vineyards in Samaria implicates the leftists who protest weekly at Bil’in in the vandalism.

Protests against the Partition Wall take place in the PA Arab village of Bil’in on a weekly basis, with radical Israeli leftists who team up with foreigners and local Arabs to face off against the IDF soldiers. There are injuries nearly every week, due to rocks and slingshots from the protesters and tear-gas, shock grenades and rubber bullets from security forces.

Last Friday, some of those far-left activists attacked Border Police officers, according to police, and were arrested and brought to the Binyamin Region Police Station. During the course of their investigation, it became apparent that one of those arrested had taken part in the destruction of vineyards near the community of Nerya last week.

About one hundred leftists and Arabs uprooted 5,000 grapevines belonging to Shlomi Cohen, a residents of nearby Dolev. The vandals also methodically set fire to expensive agricultural equipment and destroyed an extensive irrigation system.

Cohen filed a complaint with the Binyamin Police and handed over a video documenting the vandalism, in which, he says, “the perpetrators can be clearly identified.”

Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said that details of the investigation are not yet released for publication, but confirmed that, "one individual arrested in Bil'in is suspected of being involved in the destruction of plants in Judea and Samaria." Rosenfeld said he could not say whether the evidence handed in by Cohen is being used in the investigation, or whether the footage filmed by the Arab news crews who accompanied the vandals has been confiscated.

Regarding police pursuit of the other criminals seen in the videos, Rosenfeld said, "I can tell you that the investigation was launched last week and is ongoing."

Binyamin Region to Help Replant
Upon touring the destroyed areas, Deputy Mayor of the Binyamin region Avi Ro’eh declared that the vineyards will yet be replanted in all their glory.

The municipality has decided to increase security patrols in the area, which is rich with vineyard and has gained renown for the quality of its grapes. The local authority will also help Cohen replace the irrigation system and vines.

Ro’eh criticized the fact that the incident was allowed to pass “relatively quietly by the authorities.”