Part III: The Abandonment of Jewish Farmers in Judea and Samaria
Human rights week in Israel heralds the publication of a plethora of reports by groups funded by the European Union and the New Israel Fund, on the alleged mistreatment of Arabs in Israel. In response, the Yesha Human Rights Organization published its own report on the status of human rights among the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Yesha Human Rights Organization Chairperson Orit Strook prefaces the report, writing that the public residing in Yesha (the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) has “suffered public and blatant trampling of its basic rights, but has received almost no defense from the human rights organizations.”
Strook explains why the Yesha Human Rights Organization was founded: “Over the years, it became clear that there was a need for a human rights organization ‘of our own,’ which would relate to the Yesha settlers as human beings possessing rights, and not as second, third or fourth class citizens. The Yesha Human Rights Organization tries to provide for the various needs resulting from the trampling of the rights of these residents by government authorities.”
The report deals with eight areas of particularly blatant discrimination: “To our great sorrow, in each of these areas, residents of Yesha did not receive any support from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which often took a stance negating the residents’ most basic rights. We are prepared to provide individuals and lawyers involved in each one of these realms with evidence which further illustrates the phenomenon.”
During these days, the early days of winter, the spotlights are always shined upon the Arab “olive harvesters.” The IDF and police coordinate to enable them to carry out the harvest up to the last olive. The media deploy to photograph and document the harvest and any conflict that may accompany it. The leftist groups deploy to accompany the harvesters and to turn a simple agricultural event into an international incident filled with tension and violence. The focus is placed on the right of the Arab farmer in Judea and Samaria to benefit from the fruits of his labor and the inextricable connection he has with the land and its bounty.
The Yesha Human Rights Organization has published a report entitled “Who Will Defend my Olive?” The report, which examined the cases of more than 50 Jewish farmers in Judea and Samaria, reveals the mirror image of the Arab olive pickers: the continuing suffering of the Jewish farmers in the very same region. These farmers, all of whom work the land according to the law, daily suffer serious incidents at the hands of their Arab neighbors, backed, and even incited, by the same left-wing activists - champions of the rights of the citizen and farmer.
The damages inflicted upon the farmers stand in the hundreds of thousands of shekels and the heartache of a farmer whose crop is destroyed intentionally and with malice is impossible to estimate. The arms of the law of the State of Israel, harassed and overburdened with defending the Arab olive-pickers, do next to nothing to protect the Jewish ones, and the media provides almost no coverage of their plight and pain.
The facts presented by the report indicate that the phenomenon of systematic targeting of Jewish farmers in Judea and Samaria is widespread to the point of being a national problem, but the law enforcement agencies of the State of Israel are doing nothing to combat it. At the same time, huge amounts of energy and resources are spent protecting Arab farmers, at times even at the expense of others’ civil rights (example: administrative detention and retraining orders against Jewish residents) and security (example: authorizing Arab farming immediately adjacent to Jewish towns which present desirable targets to Arab terrorists).
The report exposes the absurd situation created in Judea and Samaria whereby on the same piece of land there is blatant discrimination in the enforcement of law with regard to two different populations: heightened enforcement aimed at protecting the Arab farmer and insufficient enforcement that abandons the Jewish farmer and his fields.
The conclusion of the report stresses that there is no need to recommend new ways of improving the enforcement against the rioters and vandals. It would be enough if the State Prosecution, Police, Shabak (GSS) and IDF decided to enact a policy of equal enforcement, to use all the same tools and take all the steps to protect Jewish farmers as are currently used against those who try to attack or harm Arab olive-pickers.
In any event, it is clear that the current situation is untenable; it is unacceptable from the basic value of equality before the law. It is crucial that the old policies be ended and that fair and equal treatment be granted to Jewish farmers in Judea and Samaria as well.