'Jewish farmers paying the price for political correctness'

Moshavim Movement CEO says authorities largely ignoring ongoing 'agricultural terrorism' by Arabs against Jewish farmers.

Shimon Cohen ,

Agricultural theft
Agricultural theft
Israel Police spokesman

At the Moshavim Movement's annual conference, Moshavim Movement CEO Meir Tzur discussed what some have termed the "agricultural terrorism" many Israeli farming communities have suffered from in recent years. In a conversation with Arutz Sheva, he explained the scope of the issue, and the inadequate way Israeli authorities are dealing with it.

According to Tzur, Arab vandals routinely burn produce or fields, destroy equipment, and steal both animals and agricultural produce from Israeli farmers.

"What's happened in the past several years is as awful as it gets. There are agricultural thefts and terror, in which Arabs enter farms belonging to moshavs and kibbutzes and steal. It's Arabs against Jews. Sometimes, Jews are threatened or killed. Arabs from the Palestinian Authority and who live in areas under Israeli control come to Jewish agricultural areas [and commit crimes]. The Israeli government must deal with this. And even more, the judicial system must change its policies, severely punishing those who commit these crimes in order to deter future thieves."

When asked if he believes the farmers are paying the price of political correctness and the government's refusal to admit this terror is nationalistically motivated, Tzur said he believes there are several reasons and responsible parties, but "at the end of the day, there is no doubt that these crimes are committed by Arabs, who steal from Jews and cause great damage."

However, he added that the main focus should not be on the fact that the thieves are Arabs. Instead, the government and enforcement agencies must take the necessary steps to stop the thefts, which cost hundreds of millions of shekels per year.

"Approximately 1,500 cases are reported to Israel Police," he said. "We estimate that two-thirds - approximately 3,000 - of the incidents are not reported, for a total of 3,000 cases. The farmers just don't believe police will catch the thieves, or that they will be punished if they are caught. We cannot deal with this issue unless the police step in and take responsibility."

"When the Israeli government makes a serious decision to deal with something, it does so. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) is working with us, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) is pushing for change. MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union) is working with us as well. No one is bothering them, but no real changes have been made. We need serious reinforcements, and we need to ensure perpetrators will be punished and future cases deterred."

Tzur also noted that the amount Israel's government would need to invest in deterrence is small compared to the amount of damage caused annually by agricultural terrorists.

"It's a small amount compared to the amount of damage," he said, adding that "it's hard to say exactly how much damage is caused, but it comes to several hundred million shekels worth."

"And hiring guards is prohibitively expensive."