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Pro-Arab PR Machine Feeds Media with Libel on Olive Harvest

A wave of media reports accusing Jews of cutting and burning and destroying Arab olive trees is outright libel, a media spokesman in Samaria says.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 10/20/2010, 3:38 PM / Last Update: 10/20/2010, 3:51 PM

Flash 90

A new wave of media reports, based largely on left-wing groups, accuses Jews of damaging, burning and destroying Arab olive trees is in effect outright libel, a media spokesman in Samaria says.

Reports by foreign and Israeli media have quoted  the pro-Arab Yesh Din and Oxfam groups without serious further investigation. The latest report was filed Tuesday by the French news agency AFP, under the headline, “Settlers damage Palestinian trees 'with impunity': study.”

The unsigned article is based on Yesh Din charges that police investigations of 100 complaints by Arab farmers against Jews over the past five years did not result in any indictments. AFP also cited an article in the left-wing Ha'aretz newspaper that this year’s harvest has witnessed more vandalism than in previous years. However the vandalism in the article was described differently in the headline, which read, “Current West Bank Olive Harvest Most Violent in Years.”

David Ha’Ivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office in Samaria, has often taken foreign reporters on tours in Samaria to show them facts on the ground unknown to them. However, he said he is up against an obstacle when articles are unsigned, leaving him without a direct contact.

Ha’Ivri also pointed out that pro-Arab groups, including Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR)  have ”well-oiled” public relations machines” and are in competition with each other to grind out information, often false, as each organization tries to prove it does the most to help Arabs. RHR activist Arik Asherman was caught this week by journalists who saw him trying to provoke Arabs into claiming they actually owned Jewish-owned farms. A subsequent arrival of Israeli authorities concluded with a clear statement that Jews owned the grove.

Ha’Ivri also said that the pro-Arab Oxfam website indicates it has 15 full-time PR people on the staff. Last weekend, Oxfam activists burned and damaged Jewish-owned olive trees and then reported to media that the Jewish residents were the perpetrators of damage to Arab trees. Oxfam also distributed a video showing the alleged damage to Arab trees.

Concerning media reports of damage so far this year to 500 Arab-owned olive trees and 100 belonging to Jewish farmers, Ha’Ivri said the numbers are suspect, particularly when they include charges of arson.

“Burning down an olive tree is not such an easy operation.” Ha’Ivri said. He added that if gasoline was poured on the trees, the police easily could identify the source of the fire. While Yesh Din charges that the lack of indictments is "tantamount to an admission of failure" by the authorities, Ha’Ivri responded that many of the accusations simply are not true.

He added it is difficult to halt the media onslaught because the pro-Arab groups "have the general media on their side.”