Volunteers and activists were accompanying Palestinian olive harvesters in the West Bank to help protect them from settler attacks.
A right-wing Jewish extremist threw stones at and attempted to stab president of Rabbis for Human Rights, Arik Asherman, following an olive harvest coordinated with the Israeli army on Friday. Nobody was significantly injured in the incident.
Rabbi Asherman and a group of Israeli and international activists arrived to accompany Palestinian farmers to their privately owned olive orchard, located near the illegal Israeli outpost of Gideonim, which is an offshoot of the Itamar settlement.
Following the harvest, the Palestinian farmers noticed suspected Israeli settlers stealing olives and another setting fire to the hillside. Rabbi Asherman said that because firefighters did not arrive quickly, he went to try and put out the fire himself.
At that point, the masked man who set the fire, ostensibly a settler from the nearby outpost, tried to prevent Rabbi Asherman from reaching the site of the blaze, threw stones at him and pulled out a knife and repeatedly swung it toward him. The man kicked and punched Asherman.
Rabbi Asherman and other activists remained at the scene in order to direct the army and police toward the attacker, he said in a statement, but it took police 30 minutes to arrive. At that point the attacker had already fled.
Rabbis for Human Rights often accompanies Palestinian farmers in order to help protect them from settler attacks.
The organization’s website explains: “Our presence in the groves with the farmers helps keep them safe, as extremists are far less likely to cause problems when they know Israelis and internationals are present.”
A police spokesperson responded to the attack on Friday by blaming the incident on a provocation by “left-wing activists and anarchists.” She said officers were searching the area for the suspect.
Between 2005 and 2014, according to human rights group Yesh Din, only four out of the 246 criminal complaints of damage to olive trees that it monitored resulted in indictments. In total, only 7.4 percent of West Bank Israeli police investigations into complaints from Palestinian victims of offenses committed against them or their property by Israeli civilians result in indictments, according to the organization.
“From the moment the olive harvest begins, we witness a series of serious incidents involving attacks on harvesters and damage to trees,” Noa Cohen of Yesh Din’s research department stated last year. “This recurring phenomenon is a result of failure to enforce the law.”
The incident on Friday was far from the first time Rabbis for Human Rights and the Palestinians they accompany have come under settler attack.
For an in-depth look at Israeli settler violence and the authorities’ inability to cope with it, I suggest reading Larry Derfner’s feature, “Settler violence: It comes with the territory.”