By Joan Mas Autonell
Jalud, West Bank, Nov 7 (EFE).- From assaults and stone-throwing to theft of crops and scorching trees, Israeli settlers every year go on a spree of violence targeting Palestinian farmers in the occupied West Bank during the olive harvest season.
“It is getting worse every year,” Mohamed Hajj, a farmer in the central West Bank town of Jalud, tells Efe.
The harvest season, which some 100,000 Palestinian families live off, begins in October and runs through November but this year came amid a spike in violence in the region this year and an increase in settler attacks.
Some 100 attacks against Palestinians by settlers were recorded over a period of 10 days at the beginning of October, Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited security forces as saying.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented at least 22 settler attacks that caused injuries and material damage between October 11 and 24 alone.
“One Palestinian farmer was injured by Israeli settlers, and over 800 olive trees were burnt, or otherwise damaged, and large amounts of produce were stolen by people known or believed to be settlers,” OCHA said in a report.
Hajj also had 120 of his olive trees destroyed by settlers this year.
Out of fear of getting attacked, Hajj and his relatives go to work accompanied by international activists and Israelis sometimes for protection.
“Sometimes they assault us and beat us, they steal our work material and machinery, and they stole part of my harvest in 2021,” says Hajj, while picking olives with a group of volunteers from the Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights which has been arranging teams to go to work with farmers in the West Bank.
Dani Brodsky, a member of the NGO seeking to help Palestinians access their land safely and collect the harvest, says there is an increase in violence every year but the rise is significant this year.
Like Hajj, many farmers in the West Bank cannot access parts of their farms, especially if they are close to settlements, and are required to get special permits from the Israeli military to be able to enter them.
Palestinians repeatedly complain that the army does not take action when settlers launch attacks every year.
Incidents in which Israelis hurl stones or attack Palestinians while soldiers do nothing or look the other way are common.
Witnesses and human rights activists accuse some troops of complicity or even joining in the attacks.
“Israel has never helped to protect the Palestinian farmer, on the contrary, the soldiers protect the settlers,” Samir Naam, who suffered a recent attack that went unpunished in a settlement nearby his farm in Nablus.
“The settlers come, they hit us and they don’t let me raise my hand to defend myself, because they are supported by the army,” Naam explains.
The Israeli military, meanwhile, tells Efe that they are working at “all times to maintain law and order” and “stop violent acts targeting Palestinians and their properties.”