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Olive Trees


Whenever I read irrational, vituperative attacks on Zionism or Israel I always determine to resist writing articles that are in any way negative about Israel. Or when I read articles by Ilan Pappe, a man so distorted by hatred that he wants to see the end of a Jewish State, I bite my tongue. Or Norman Finkelstein, whose book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History is so bitter that it clouds those legitimate points he does make, such as his criticism of “Shoah business”.

But then I pick up The Jewish Press (Jewish Distress), that organ of American Orthodoxy that makes Kahane fascism look positively Marxist, and see such ill-conceived apologetics that I think, “To heck with our enemies; let’s just try some home truths.”

We have just celebrated the New Year for Trees. It is supposed to reinforce our reverence for and appreciation of nature, God’s gifts. The olive tree in particular is associated with peace ever since Noah sent the dove out of the ark and she came back with an olive branch. It is one of the seven “elevated” fruits and trees that are associated with the Land of Israel and require special blessings. But nowadays olive trees are bearing the brunt of hatred in the hills of Judea.

There are Torah laws against cutting down trees needlessly and very specifically those that produce fruit. In the Torah mankind is compared to the tree of the field. It grows slowly, produces, provides and nourishes and yet can be cut off in an instant. In the Talmud the famous story of Honi seeing a man plant a carob tree that will not bear fruit in his lifetime leads to the famous phrase, “I found a world with trees in it that my grandparents planted, so I must provide similarly for my grandchildren.”

For many years now vandals have been destroying Arab olive trees in Judea and Samaria. It’s part of a hidden war of attrition on both sides. Just as Muslims make it tough for Christians in the hope they will leave, so settlers try to deprive local Arabs of a living in the hope that they will leave. Of course each side always finds justification and provocation. But I had thought the army had it under control. So it was with some sadness that I read the following recent report in the Israeli press:

Over the past year there have been dozens of sabotage incidents of Palestinian-owned olive groves by settlers. As recently as last month more than 1,000 olive trees have been cut down on six different occasions. Judea and Samaria District police told Haaretz that 672 investigation files were opened in 2005 for “disruption of order by Israelis against Palestinian property”.

And in a second story:

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the cabinet on Sunday that 2,400 trees were axed in a recent wave of vandalism in the West Bank by militant settlers and Israel should give monetary compensation to Palestinians whose olive trees have been cut down.

“There’s a pervasive feeling of lawlessness,” Mazuz said, adding, “This phenomenon is part of a wider phenomenon of a lack of law enforcement against Israelis in the territories. The excuse that there is a lack of resources is unacceptable,” said Mazuz. “This is a matter of priority, it’s unacceptable that Israel is unable to allocate resources for this.”

[Israeli Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz noted. . .that he has ordered the establishment of a special team to investigate the destruction of over 2,000 olive trees belonging to Palestinians in the West Bank

Mofaz said in the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that, following the findings of an investigation into the matter, he ordered security forces to increase their presence in areas where trees have been destroyed, to carry out a policy of quick and effective arrests and to compensate the Palestinian tree owners. Mofaz did not refer to the identities of those responsible for destroying the trees, but they are widely assumed to be settlers.

The Jerusalem Post, not at all left wing, had the following report on January 13th:

While the army plans to launch special operations to catch the perpetrators, officials on Thursday slammed what they called the police’s constant failure to arrest the suspects. On Tuesday, head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yuval Diskin criticized the police’s failure to effectively prevent settlers from vandalizing Palestinian olive orchards.

Who are “settlers”? It’s a general term that is applied to anyone living beyond the old 1967 armistice borders. But this covers a range of people from religious to secular, economic settlers looking for a bigger house to ideological ones, aggressive Brooklynites, spiritual, pacifist mystics, criminals and ordinary law-abiding nature lovers. Some are right wing politically and some are Left. Sadly, within this generalization are to be found those who resist the democratic process in Israel and refuse to try to live amicably with anyone who disagrees with them, including no small number of “Hill Top Youth”–delinquents and petty criminals, dropouts from society who use the cover of “ideology” to indulge their own antisocial neuroses. The damage they do by breaking laws and using violence in pursuit of their goals sadly was the excuse given for the brutal reaction of police and soldiers in evacuating Amona.

Now if I had seen an article excusing the work as the result of sick minds amongst a minority of the settlers I would have accepted it as at least an explanation. But this is what was written in a prominent article in The Jewish Press by Steven Plaut from Haifa University (the Alma Mater of Ilan Pappe–clearly extremes breed extremes):

The simple answer is that the accusations are baseless. It would be hard to find another set of baseless rumors turned into ‘news.’ Not a single Israeli settler has been convicted of damaging Arab trees [That’s like saying no one in Europe has been convicted this year of anti-Semitic attacks and therefore there have been none. –JR] and several more plausible explanations for the cutting of the trees have been provided. A small number of trees have been cut down by the Israeli Army because they were being used by Palestinian snipers. The Israeli government has been paying compensation to Palestinians who claim their trees have been vandalized and that is why more and more complaints are being made!

As if tight-fisted Israeli exchequers under economic pressure are going to dole out compensation for no good reason!!!

We have had a field day these past weeks with Muslim fanatics and Anglican churchmen making complete idiots of themselves. Let us not forget we have our own. Once one unleashes violence in one area it inevitably spills over into others.

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6 thoughts on “Olive Trees

  1. From

    The United States is not the only part of the Diaspora plagued by dopey liberals. The UK also has its share.

    Some of them seem to be in charge at the “Jewish Telegraph”, which serves the Machester-Leeds area of the UK. Among its regular columnists is Uri Geller, so you know how serious a paper it is. It also does not consider Red Ken Livingston to be an anti-Semite.

    Another columnist is one Jeremy Rosen, a Rabbi in London with ordination from the Mir Yeshiva. Rosen’s column this week is an attack on my earlier column, run in the NY Jewish Press and in several internet web sites, about how the “reports” of Jewish settlers cutting down Palestinian olive trees appear to be lies motivated by a political agenda on the part of people seeking to libel the settlers. Earlier Rosen had referred to the Jewish Press as a “North American journal of Jewish juvenilia.” ( Talk about Lashon Ha-Ra!

    Rosen’s attack can be read at , Rosen also runs it on his personal blog at , with some extra segments.

    Let us note that the Jewish Telegraph saw fit to run his attack without having first bothered to run my own piece, which can be read at, thus avoiding the possibility for JT readers actually knowing what is going on or what the original article even said. In other words, a typical job of PC smear and censorship on the part of a Jewish liberal at the Jewish Telegraph. You can read the PAIR of articles, mine and his response, and make up your own mind, but the Jewish Telegraph’s readers cannot.

    Rosen takes 3 or 4 of my sentences out of context and runs them in an attempt to mock my claims that the “reports” of tree vandalization by settlers are fabrications. I stand by my article, which is fully documented. Indeed the vandalization stories themselves originate with Amira Hass, whom Rosen elsewhere dismisses as an anti-Israel nut.

    Rosen then escalates his Lashon Ha-Ra and compares me to Ilan Pappe as an “extremist from Haifa University,” smears the NY Jewish Press as “admittedly an extreme right-wing paper that makes Kahana (sic) sound a pussy cat.” I guess he has forgoteen that leprosy is the Torah’s penalty for Lashon Ha-Ra. He then dismisses my whole claim that Palestinians were chopping down their own trees and blaming it on the settlers because the Israeli government is paying out cash compensation to Palestinians claiming their trees were vandalized. Rosen writes: “As if tight-fisted Israeli exchequers under economic pressure are going to dole out compensation for no good reason.”

    Jewish liberals never let facts get in the way of their dogmas. The payout of cash compensation by the Israeli government to Palestinians claiming their trees were damaged is a fact, unbelievable perhaps but still true, and has been confirmed by all the liberal and leftist newspapers in Israel.

    So much for Rosen’s own credibility. I am a bit confused, however, as to how someone claiming to be a Rabbi allows himself to smear me and the Jewish Press baselessly while simply ignoring actual facts.

    Most of Rosen’s articles involve citing Jewish texts and sources to promot his own liberal ideas in politics. One of them talks about how wonderful it is when Jews marry non-Jews ( ). Rosen considers Noam Chomsky a “brilliant thinker” ( ). Here is his take on Zionism: “I agree with the Satmar point of view only in so far as it removes religion from Zionism.” ) Rosen has also expressed support for the campaign of PETA, the animal rights nuts, against kosher meat in the US.

    In previous columns Rosen wrote, “Some would say that Israel has brutalized the Palestinians, turning them into crude killers,” and generally praised the “Munich” movie. Here is Rosen on the Hamas victory: “(The Hamas) has declared it will continue its Hudnah if Israel does. I would rather have Hamas abiding by its Hudnah while calling for Israel.s destruction than Fatah declaring it supports Israel.s right to exist while doing whatever it can, in whatever way possible, to destroy it. At least if Hamas says something it tends to stick to it…. It was actually Israel that helped establish Hamas because its Divide and Rule policy led it to believe that establishing a counterbalance to Fatah would weaken Palestinian political power.”

    Speaking of urban legends being passed off as fact by liberuhs….

  2. Of course this Rabbi Jeremy Rosen is a brother to Rabbi David Rosen of
    dialogue” fame, as well as Rabbi Micky Rosen, head of Yakar in Jerusalem,
    a strong backer of Rabbis for “Human Rights”who hosted Amira Hass a few
    weeks ago at their “Yakar” institute…

  3. I’m very outrageous about how easy it takes to blame Jews for cutting those trees. No Jew have found to be the one to do so, and at the same time there were at least two cases that Palestinian Arabs did it for their own wish.

    It is very sad to hear Israeli interested political agenda trying to blame the settlers for that with out any clear fact evidence to back their statements. But in pre vote politics every thing is possible. I think that Rabbi Rosen is malfunctioning in this case and he should first check his facts.

    Avner bird

  4. The piece is based on articles written in both left-wing and right-wing Israeli newspapers, and the opinions expressed by the Israeli Chief of Staff and the Head of the Supreme Court. I think that’s at least as reliable as your opinion!

  5. Rosen writes “when I read articles by Ilan Pappe, a man so distorted by hatred that he wants to see the end of a Jewish State, I bite my tongue”

    Youch. Read Pappe’s “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” published on the 1st Nov 2006 in the UK. It is carefully researched. Ben-Gurion’s diaries are often referred to.

    When you have finished reading it you will have a much better idea of the how and why of the creation of the modern State of Israel. Really.

    Are you interested in what really happened? Or are you more interested in “Gods chosen people” having their own state?

    The whole Jewish question is profoundly interesting. If it were not for the Book it is very doubtful if there would be a Jewish people today. The Book has patterned a group of people’s brain’s with a complex belief system, which has led them to isolate themselves from others over the centuries, believing that they were “Gods chosen people” A bizarre, unfriendly racist belief. That itself caused the unspeakably horrible pogroms.

    This wish to segregate persists. It is why “Israel” exists. To claim that a piece of land is yours after 1900 years of history has passed is completely potty. If not, a great chunk of France belongs to me and other descendants of the Hugenots who were murdered or expelled 200 or more years ago.

    The Jewish tradition is very special, and should be preserved. But aspects of the 3000 year old belief system need to be modernised – in particular the “Chosen People” bit.

    It does not matter that the Arabs have 99% of the land in that part of the world – dispossessing nearly a million peaceful people is not on – unless you believe that racism is OK. If you think racism is OK you have just justified people hating Jews for being Jewish.

    Well done.

    Read Ilan Pappe’s book, produced in spite of hateful stuff like that produced by Jeremy Rosen. Unclouded by racism. An important work that should help the Jewish people understand their predicament a whole lot better.

  6. Yes, I have read Pappe’s sick diatribe which totally distorts and lies and exaggerates. Ilan Pappe not racist? You gotta be joking. Just read Benny Morris’s replies. And Morris, of course, was the first major historian to uncover conversations that Ben Gurion had about the desirablity of Arabs moving out, but he too agrees that Pappe has been blinded by hatred.

    All wars are terrible and innocents suffer on both sides and both sides copmmit ‘atrocities’. This goies for the Allies in World War 2 but they still fought a just war against Hitler. But it is the pathological opposition of anti-Semites and most Muslims to ANY Jewish presence that is the root of the conflict denying to one what is acceptable for any other.

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