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In just over two months, from the beginning of May to 7 July 2018, B’Tselem documented 10 instances in which settlers destroyed a total of more than 2,000 trees and grapevines and burned down a barley field and bales of hay. In some places, the settlers left behind them graffiti slogans in Hebrew, reading “No to farmer terrorism” and “”There’s not place we won’t reach”. Some of the farmers had already suffered settler violence in recent years.
While this high incidence of the assaults is unusual, the phenomenon itself has long since become routine in the West Bank. Settler violence and vandalism takes place with full backing by the Israeli authorities. Sometimes soldiers take part in the assault; at other times, they stand idly by. The police makes no substantial effort to investigate the incidents, nor takes measures to prevent them or stop them in real time.
Israel benefits from the repercussions, as settler violence has gradually dispossessed Palestinians of more and more areas in the West Bank, paving the way for a state takeover of land and resources. This occurs because Palestinians avoid entering areas in which they have been attacked, usually close to settlements. As a result, extensive Palestinian farmland near settlements has been vandalized and neglected to such an extent that it yields poor crops, making it not worthwhile for the owners to risk their safety to get there. This process has essentially erected invisible walls throughout the West Bank, which Palestinians know crossing will expose them to violence and even danger to their lives.
Some of the testimonies given to B’Tselem field researchers from the landowners whose property was vandalized follow.
Vines whose trunks were sawed off in the abu rajab brothers’ vineyard in the south hebron hills. Photo by Muhammad Abu Rajab, 27
South Hebron Hills, 26 May 2018, approx. 700 grapevines cut down:
Muhammad Abu Rajab, 63, a resident of Hebron, is married and has three children. Along with his three siblings, he owns two vineyards with a total of about 700 grapevines in the area of al-Ballutah, south of the town of Yatta.