Demick Leaves Out Key Context

The Nov. 7 Los Angeles Times news story by Barbara Demick about settler violence against Palestinians harvesting olives virtually ignores the fact that Palestinians have been using the olive groves as cover from which to launch violence against Israelis.

The lengthy (more than 2000 words) article, entitled “No Olive Branches in the Grove,” provides detailed descriptions of specific Israeli attacks against and harassment of Palestinians trying to harvest their orchards. Demick fails, however, to report the other aspect of this story — that Palestinian assailants have used the same groves to terrorize Israelis.

The correspondent writes: “The settlers also fear that Palestinians will use the olive trees as cover to creep up on their homes and attack.” Demick does not point out that the settlers are fearful of future attacks precisely because the groves have already been used as cover for violence.

Why does Demick fail to report with compelling detail (or at all) the May 20, 2001 murder of 22-year-old Yair Nebenstal, and the wounding of his mother, who were attacked by an Arab gunman hiding in an olive grove? Likewise, why does she ignore the attack a few weeks later in which an Israeli was shot and wounded by a terrorist hiding among the trees, despite the fact that Israeli troops were patrolling the area? Also, on May 7, 2002, Israeli border policemen spotted a Palestinian throwing a 12-kilogram bomb into a grove near the West Bank village of Zeita. More recently, on Oct. 31, 2002, Israel Radio reported that a terrorist disguised as an olive-picker hid among trees before firing at a passing army jeep, wounding one soldier before being killed by another.

In addition, according to a Sept. 20, 2002 Jerusalem Post article, Palestinian suicide bombers avoid roadblocks and identity checks and gain access to Israel by crossing through the olive groves in the northwest of the West Bank (“At Umm el-Fahm, illegal crossings continue”).

Demick further misrepresents the Israeli harassment of Palestinians in the olive groves by stating: “These ugly encounters represent some of the most in-your-face violence between Jew and Arab. . .” While it may be true that these encounters represent “some of the most in-your-face” Israeli-perpetrated violence, the same cannot also be said of Palestinian violence. Surely, the murder of Israeli civilians in their very own homes is the “most in-your-face” violence between Jew and Arab. Take for example, the Oct. 29, 2002 murder of 53-year-old Orna Eshel who was shot dead in her Hermesh home by a Palestinian terrorist. (Her husband was slightly wounded in the same incident.) The terrorist also managed to kill two 14-year-girls, Linoy Saroussi and Hadas Turgeman, who were walking outside in the community.

And, incidentally, Benzi Lieberman, head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, blamed these killings on neighboring Palestinian olive pickers, who, he alleges, provided intelligence to the terrorist who infiltrated by crawling under a gate (“Aksa Martyrs Brigades claims responsibility for Hermesh murders,” Jerusalem Post, Oct. 31, 2002).

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