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      'Olive Harvest' Activists Caught Destroying Jewish Vineyards

      Three left-wing activists who claimed to be protecting Arab olive-pickers were arrested after destroying a Jewish vineyard Friday.
      By Ezra HaLevi
      First Publish: 10/28/2007, 8:14 AM

      Jewish-owned vineyards in Samaria were once again destroyed by leftist “humanitarian groups” Friday. This time some were caught in the act and arrested.

      Shortly after residents of Dolev, located north of Jerusalem, discovered Friday that a local synagogue had been burned to the ground overnight, they saw that 3,000 plants in nearby vineyards had been destroyed. This is the third case of major agricultural vandalism in the region in recent months.

      Vines were torn from the ground, and expensive irrigation equipment was damaged. The Jewish locals saw a group of foreign activists and Arabs heading toward an additional Jewish agricultural plot and alerted the police and IDF. The group fled, but three female activists from the United Kingdom were slower and were caught by police.

      Destruction Under Guise of Humanitarian Assistance
      Residents say the vandalism occurred under cover of the much-publicized PA Arab olive harvest. Local Arabs, joined by leftists – many foreign nationals – focus their harvest activities on trees abutting Jewish communities. This year, the IDF has been tasked with ensuring that Jewish residents do not leave their communities while the harvest activities are going on, citing fears of clashes. Two administrative orders have distanced two Jewish residents from all of Judea and Samaria for the duration of the harvest.

      Adi Mintz, an area resident and member of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) who is running for mayor of the region, said that the Yesha's Jewish residents have now received “a clear warning sign. Today it is synagogues and vineyards that are destroyed - tomorrow it will be the lives of human beings. The army must send in more forces to defend the residents of this area,” he said.

      The owner of the destroyed vineyard, Shlomi Cohen, said the attack had caused NIS 60,000 of direct damage and would cost him an additional NIS 120,000 in lost produce.  The damage was particularly severe because the attack took place during the shemittah (sabbatical) year, when Jews are forbidden to work the land.

      British ‘Peace Activists’ Responsible
      The three British women who were apprehended by police are accused of responsibility for the destruction Friday. Police also have evidence, however, that the women were part of the group that destroyed farm equipment in the nearby town of Neria in an earlier incident as well. 

      The women are activists with the International Solidarity Movement, a militantly anti-Zionist group that seeks to enable provocative actions against the IDF and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, under the assumption that their foreign citizenship will raise the threshold on the response of security forces. The lines between ISM and local terrorist groups are quite blurry. In the past, British terrorists even carried out a suicide bombing after being embedded in an ISM cell.

      Most of the vandals also take part in clashes with the IDF near the Arab village of Bilin. The militants were recently handed a victory by the Supreme Court, which ordered the IDF to move the security fence in the area of the weekly protests.