A girl from the West Bank town of Awarta watches as Israeli military jeeps approach her family’s olive grove, October 13, 2012 | Photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org
On October 15th , circles among the settlers spread claims that Palestinians had staged the cutting down of olive trees near Eilon Moreh, attaching a film “Proof” to their claims of staging. These are weighty assertions, but with little proof. It is possible that a Palestinian might think that cutting down olive trees is so newsworthy that it is worth damaging trees for. But it is extremely unlikely. Therefore, the film presented by these circles raises a number of questions:
1. In the settlers’ film, soldiers can be seen arriving in the area, and so we should expect Palestinians to be arrested for the crime of faking a “Tag Mehir.” If no information has been received about such an arrest, it is reasonable to suppose that the soldiers did not see anything unusual in the Palestinians’ actions. The Palestinians in the film are also not seen running away as the soldiers approach, as one would expect if they had done something wrong.
2. Palestinians do remove small and medium sizes branches from the olive trees to prune the tree for agricultural reasons. One must distinguish between such cutting and the harmful lopping off of large, central branches.
3. The Palestinians have today complained about the cutting down of trees in the area, but in a totally different place from that in the film [according to B’Tselem’s first investigation – see more below].
- The film was shot in daylight, and – according to the noise – close to the road. If the Palestinians had wanted to “stage” an incident of destroying trees, they would have probably done it in darkness in an area far from the road.
We are continuing to investigate what exactly happened, and if we are dealing with another lie on the part of extremist circles among the settlers.
Following is the conclusion of the preliminary investigation of B’Tselem into the matter:
We have been informed that a spokesman and witness from the settlers inSamariatoday distributed a film which shows, according to them, Palestinians destroying their own olive trees. From an investigation into the “spin,” it has become clear – as expected – that it is groundless.
This morning, a group of olive harvesters from the village of Diral-Hatav went to their land, very close to where the settlement of Eilon Moreh has been established. Ismail Ismail, one of the owners of the land, told B’Tselem that, after a preliminary tour accompanied by soldiers yesterday, he worked with members of his family on their plot. His cousin who was working on a nearby plot, took care of the trees, a treatment which included pruning branches. The Palestinians were working with an escort of three soldiers. As their work progressed, they came to another piece of land where they discovered eleven trees had been destroyed and they called the soldiers. The soldiers reported to the olive harvesters that the settlement guard had complained that it was the Palestinians who had caused the damage. In the argument that followed, the owners of the land told the soldiers that they were invited to watch the footage of the army security video facing the area, and that the pruning had been carried out in a different place. The soldiers said that the camera was not working and asked the landowners to come to the Hawara District Coordination Office on Thursday in order to issue a complaint.
Mr Ismail vehemently rejects the claims that he staged the damage to his property, and clarifies that he is prepared to go to the area and point out the two plots of land: the one where the pruning took place and the one where the trees were destroyed.
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