In less than three months, Jewish settlers have destroyed over 2,000 trees and grapevines in the occupied West Bank. Rights group B’Tselem has issued a detailed report on this destruction, including testimony from Palestinian farmers. Bales of hay and barley fields were also destroyed. The destruction wrought by Israel’s settler-colonists equates Palestinian agriculture to terrorism; slogans sprayed on Palestinian property following the destruction included “No to farmer terrorism”.
The personal testimonies show that Israel has once again refused to act in order to deter settler violence against Palestinians and their land. Ultimately, the aim is to displace Palestinians forcibly by terrorising those seeking access to their own land. “This process has erected invisible walls throughout the West Bank, which Palestinians know crossing will expose them to violence and even danger to their lives,” says B’Tselem.
Israel is using complementary forms of violence: direct destruction by targeting crops and using the same destruction to levy a psychological threat against the colonised population. In the documented cases, the destruction was so severe that new plants have to be cultivated, thus having a negative impact on the sliver of economic independence that Palestinians can gain from agriculture. There is an outcome of resilience mingled with imposed resignation; the farmers will still tend to their fields yet the threat of another round of settler violence fuelled by impunity is always imminent. No matter how well rights organisations document the violations, though, the Palestinians have no recourse other than awareness. This is partly because Israel has moved ahead in terms of normalising colonial expansion.
Hassan ‘Issa discovered that 168 out of 250 grapevines in his fields had been destroyed by settlers. “What happened to my vines feels like a terrible injustice, and I feel incredibly frustrated and sad.” It is painful to read this. Compare the vagueness of ‘Issa’s statement — made in the knowledge that there are no rights for the colonised in apartheid Israel — with the threat left by the settlers: “No to farmer terrorism.” The value of people and land is misplaced to set the accelerated pace for forced displacement and a re-enactment of the image of Palestine being barren, one of the false premises behind Palestine’s colonisation by Israel. The only difference is that Israel now prefers sustained acts of violence that are documented and discussed almost routinely.
“Farmer terrorism” is, of course, a complete falsehood, yet it is on such premises that expansion has been facilitated. The more that Israel utilises such absurd claims, the further it is removed from reprimand by the international community. This lends Israel ample time and space — and total immunity — to construct its variety of “terror” narratives to make such purported threats endemic to its settler-colonial presence. Why would anyone even seek to challenge the notion of “farmer terrorism”? At first glance, it is void of any logic; a second reading flaunts its depravity, embodied by state and settlers alike.
Palestinian resilience has always laid bare the Zionist myths. Having no other means to sustain itself, Israel is eager to create the conditions for myths to become a manifested reality, even if it means acknowledging Palestinian existence through accusations which serve to embellish its purported “security concerns”. Nothing, though, justifies the wanton destruction of crops by illegal Jewish settlers or anyone else.