Israeli settler attacks rabbi protecting Palestinian farmers

Video shows Israeli settler assaulting peace activist Rabbi Arik Asherman with stones and a knife

A knife-wielding Israeli settler on Friday attacked a peace activist in the West Bank, where the activist was volunteering to protect Palestinian farmers from such assaults during the ongoing olive harvest season. The attack, captured on video, underscores longtime complaints by Palestinians of harassment and assaults by Israeli settlers.

Rabbi Arik Asherman, president of Rabbis for Human Rights, was returning from helping farmers in the Palestinian village of Awarta, near the Israeli settlement of Itamar, when he spotted settlers stealing olives and burning groves that belong to local villagers. After he confronted the settlers, one of them assaulted him with stones and a knife.

Asherman was not stabbed and only suffered minor injuries.

Yariv Mohar, a representative of Rabbis for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that the attack was only the “tip of the iceberg of what Palestinians are going through.”

“If [Asherman] wasn’t a Jew, then the attack might have been much more severe,” Mohar said. “But for Palestinians, this is daily or weekly way of life especially.”

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Mohar said that members of his organization, as well as other Israeli and international peace activists, regularly volunteer to accompany Palestinian farmers as they work on their lands. The activists’ presence often serves as a deterrent to would-be Israeli attackers who are wary of being captured on film. The activists are also able to access Palestinian-owned lands that the Israeli military has designated as off-limits to Palestinians, which helps the farmers fully harvest their crops.

More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. All settlements are illegal under international law.

Human rights organizations, including Israeli group B’Tselem, have long complained that Israeli settlers harass and assault Palestinians with impunity.

Israeli settlers were spotted on Oct. 18 in the Palestinian village of Al Janeena stealing olives, according Rabbi for Human Rights. “The theft was reported to police as it was occurring in real time yet no arrests were made,” the group said in a news release. Police were called on Friday when Ascherman was attacked, but arrived 30 minutes later, giving the assailant ample time to escape.

Both the Israeli military and police force told Al Jazeera that they were unaware of the attack on Asherman.

B’Tselem documented numerous attacks by settlers in October. One of the incidents caught on video shows Israeli forces standing idle at the scene of settlers assaulting Palestinians.

From 2005 to 2014, Palestinians filed 246 complaints against settlers for damaging trees and farmland in the West Bank, according to human rights group Yesh Din. Only four of those cases led to indictments, the group said. Most were closed due to “investigative failures.”

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