Sukkot, the Jewish holiday that marks the fall harvest festival and also commemorates 40 years of wandering by ancient Jews in the desert, commences at sundown on Wednesday. Jews throughout the world are building their local Sukkah, a temporary shelter that usually takes the form of a tent. So how are extremist Israeli Jewish settlers celebrating this holiday? By ruining the harvests of Palestinian farmers.
Here is an infuriating summary from News Nosh, (which is, btw, a great new source of news from Israel presented by Americans for Peace Now –get it for free by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Olive picking season has arrived, meaning extremist settlers have new targets. Sunday was already a big day…Farmers from Farata village, southwest of Nablus, found their olives stolen. Soldiers were meant to coordinate a safe passage from settler attacks for villagers to pick olives but canceled due to a shortage in numbers, an official said. Meanwhile in [the] Yanun village, southeast of Nablus near Itamar, dozens of settlers attacked farmers and blocked them from their lands to harvest olives. Israeli army coordination to protect farmers has been postponed until Oct. 21. To the east of Nablus, settlers from Elon Moreh cut down 45 olives trees in Deir al-Hatab village. South of Nablus, dozens of Itamar settlers threw rocks at farmers who were trying to pick olives near the village of Awarta and stole harvest equipment. These clashes were reported in the Israeli press because the land – which lies inside the fence of Itamar settlement belongs to the extended Awwad family, two of whose members murdered the Fogel family six months ago. At least three Palestinians were injured.
These attacks are not necessarily related to the “price tag” campaign that has been launched by extremist settlers trying to demonstrate that any attempts to dismantle settlements will be met with violence. The annual festival of harassing Palestinians during olive season–as well as other seasons–has been going on for years in the West Bank. Here is one documented by B’Tselem in 2002. Here is another in 2006.
To their credit, like Israeli officials, mainstream American Jewish leaders condemned the price tag vigilantes after the widely publicized defacement of a mosque in Israel proper last week. But I don’t recall anyone in the American Jewish establishment condemning the routine, vicious harassment of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. Doing so during this holiday week of Succot would be a powerful signal that the American Jewish community –my community–is not wandering around in a moral desert.