Daily Israel Report

Jewish Town to Sue Foreign Media AFP for Libel

A Jewish town in Samaria plans to sue the French news Agency AFP for reporting it flooded an Arab olive grove with sewage.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 10/26/2010, 5:53 PM / Last Update: 10/26/2010, 6:15 PM

Israel news photo

A Jewish town in Samaria plans to sue the French news agency AFP for libel for reporting it flooded an Arab olive grove with its sewage. The latest AFP article on the olive harvest follows an increasingly long line of anti-Israeli reports based almost solely on reports from Arabs and left-wing activists, including anarchists.

AFP quoted an Arab farmer in a nearby village who went to harvest his olive crop and ”could hardly see the land – it was flooded with sewage and chemicals,” resulting in 2,000 trees dying.

However, Elon Moreh has an advanced water waste treatment facility that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, according to Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council. The water also is used for irrigation. It is doubtful the water, a scarce and expensive commodity in Israel due to four years of drought, would be wasted.

Mesika said he will file a libel suit against AFP.

He added that “those who are polluting the area actually are Arab villages, which despite our offer to connect to the sewage treatment facility avoid doing so because of threats from the Palestinian Authority."

Mesika's charge was verified by an official from a water treatment facility in central Israel, who told Israel National News, “We tried to get Hevron hooked up to our sewage treatment system, but the Palestinian Authority refused to allow it because it says it would represent a de facto recognition of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.”

Following Mesika's statement that it was"impossible" for Elon Moreh sewage to flood the groves, AFP added his denial but retained the claims by the Arab, although no visual evidence was mentioned.

The latest report of alleged damage of Arab olive groves by Jews followed charges of arson and vandalism that Jewish spokesman have said not only are false, but are the exact opposite of reality.

Two weeks ago, left-wing activists set fire to Jewish olive groves and then charged that Jews were the culprits. Similar incidents have been recorded over the past years, especially on the Sabbath when religious Jews generally are at home or in synagogue and not in the fields, where they could counter Arab claims.

A deluge of similar reports by foreign media have overwhelmed Jewish leaders, who seldom are contacted. An unsigned AFP article two weeks ago was based mostly on the left-wing Yesh Din organization, which alleged that Jews vandalize Arab olive trees but are not prosecuted.

 

A United Nations official, “Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, charged Tuesday that Jewish “settler extremists” are guilty of “violence and terror” by alleged destruction of mosques and olive groves. Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor sarcastically replied, "When he speaks of terror by Israelis, does he mean Israeli suicide bombers on Palestinian buses?"

The flood of “daily provocations by foreign ‘peace and aid’ organizations and international media” has become “theatrical, according to David Ha'Ivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office. 

He explained, “Each day, residents of Samaria are blamed for vandalism, arson and other destructive behavior to Arab property. So far, no evidence has been provided by either the aid organizations or media to substantiate these inflammatory accusations.

”The Associated Press, the most widely known wire service, which is used by thousands of newspapers, recently took a new angle – noting that the “the olive tree has long been a symbol of the Palestinians' attachment to their homeland.” The report continued that the olive’s “mystique" is  "enhanced by settlers' annual efforts to disrupt the harvest.”

However, no mention was made of Biblical passages that the olive is one of the fruits that are cited in the Bible as having special significance for Jews. Olive oil was used for sacrificial ceremonies in the Holy Temples by Jews, was prepared in a special manner and was considered holy in use by the High Priests (Kohenim).

Instead, the AP reported that Jews plant trees as part of a “land grab,” and its description of its being a cash crop was reserved for Arab farmers.

After stating that Israel has “grabbed” 240,000 acres the past two decades, the news agency also reported – relying on the left-wing Peace Now group – that most of the land was used for Jewish communities. The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, and government officials, have said that most of the land for Jewish communities was never owned by anyone and remained barren under the Jordanian occupation from 1949 to 1967.

The only Biblical references by AP were that “devout Jewish farmers draw inspiration from biblical verses that command them to work the land” and that one Jewish grove is near Shiloh, “mentioned in the Old Testament as a resting place for the Holy Tabernacle on its way to Jerusalem.”

The same report also quoted Arabs claiming that Jews have burned 1,500 of their trees, although the sturdy tree is very difficult to burn when alive, unless easily traceable gasoline is used to ignite a blaze.