A former soldier relates his experience with regard to the destruction of Palestinian olive trees while on patrol with the Israeli army.
testimony catalog number: 314970
rank: Sergeant First Class
unit: Reserves 455 Armored Corps
area: Hebron area
period: 2013

‘There’s this term called ‘price tag.’ (A settler strategy of committing violent acts against Palestinians – usually against property – whose stated objective is dissuading Israeli authorities from interfering with settlement expansion.)

There was one incident where already the night prior, they said a ‘price tag’ action was going to be carried out. It was known. And, the next morning, a whole grove of olive trees was discovered chopped down – 65 trees chopped down.

Now, chopping down a tree is an affair that takes a good half hour – it’s not as simple as it looks. Chopping down one tree costs approximately 5,000 shekels (around $1,300). You need equipment, special saws. The trees can collapse, so you chop them down in stages. To chop down 60 trees you’d need something like eight hours of work and three saws.

There were lots of people there, with lots of equipment, who’d need a supply of water – it’s not a simple operation. I don’t believe that the military, with all it’s observation points, on an olive grove located on the main road, didn’t see something like that taking place.

The observation posts are efficient to the degree where you can identify any vehicle that stops for a moment on some route – it’s impossible 60 trees were chopped down and no one noticed. No way. So, they brought over the military tracker to figure out where the footsteps had come from.

The tracker looks right and left for a bit. Now, a tracker, he can tell you based on just one footstep, which direction they came from, which way they left, where they paused, and where exactly they are now. So, he looked around and said, “I don’t know where they came from.”

Now, this was a no-brainer, it was right in front of the settlement – in front of Carmel. I saw the trails left by the vehicles and the quad bikes myself. So, he said to me, “I’d rather not know.”

It was taken to the deputy battalion commander, and he asked me, “Do you really want to start a fight with the entire sector now? I can’t do anything, it’s at the brigade level.” The next day, a protest tent was set up, a canopy with a few Bedouin women sitting under it in black dresses to mourn their olive trees that’d been chopped down.

We called in the Border Police straight away and dispersed them, arrested them, took apart their canopy. The next day, because of that, all the left-wingers came, and more busses and more Arabs and more settlers, and there was another little demonstration, which of course we also scattered.’

How did you scatter them?

‘Arrests. “Disperse, please,” a few Border Police guys, a few clubs – but there’s a directive not to shoot, and it’s very strict. A few days after that, the settlers chopped down one more tree, just to show [the Palestinians] that the fact that they’d set up a tent wasn’t scaring anybody.’

This testimony can also be read in Hebrew.