Hi, Everyone this is my new blog. Here you will find the things I wanted to but could not say on Twitter because of the 140 letters limit.  So for today’s post, lets start with something I heard on the BBC Today programme yesterday (1.12.09). The BBC reporter Bethany Bell (in picture above), did a piece on the willful destruction of Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank. This is old news it has been going on for years, thousands of Palestinian farmers have lost their livelihood due to Israeli stellar vandalism. Just when I began to think that the BBC had finally got it’s together and was paying highly overdue attention to the daily plight of the Palestinians as opposed to being ambivalent to it, suddenly the report took a turn for the worst case of implausible reporting I have ever heard. An Israeli settle (who are usually armed to the teeth and protected by the IDF with tanks) claiming that Palestinians have destroyed his crops with a tractor. If this happened I would bet my bottom dollar that that tractor and it’s Palestinian driver would have been bombed to smithereens before he had a chance to step out of the tractor. I think Ms Bell is spending too much time in Israel. She seems to have lost the basics of journalistic impartiality required of BBC reporter.  Reporting a story that is so fanciful does her credibility no favour and it brings that BBC in to further disrepute.  If fact, it lends support to those who claim that the BBC is growing increasingly biased towards Israel.

The truth about the spiteful destruction of olives groves in Palestine was published in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago and I have reproduced it below. Perhaps this report is what Ms Bell and the BBC were attempting to undermine with their faciful story:

Jewish settlers wreck fruit of centuries of toil to force out Palestinian villagers

Abdula Yusuf is too afraid to climb the rocky terraces beyond his village and see the damage for himself. “They’ll kill me,” he said, waving a hand at the container homes on the top of a neighbouring hill. “If they can do that thing to trees as old as the Roman times, they will not hesitate to do it to me.”The annual olive harvest in the occupied territories has once again been rocked by Jewish settlers and their now routine assaults on Palestinian pickers to plunder their crop. This year, the settlers have gone to new lengths which have brought unusual denunciations from the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and even criticism from the settlers’ own leaders.

Armed Israelis are systematically wrecking trees that have stood for hundreds of years and frequently provide the only livelihood for Palestinian families.

Rights groups estimate that more than 1,000 trees have been damaged or destroyed in recent weeks, some planted in the Roman era. Among the victims are Mr Yusuf and his neighbours in Sawiya village, south of Nablus. “We used to think they just wanted our olives, but it’s about land,” he said. “They want to expand their settlement: by cutting the trees, they can say the land is neglected and no one is taking care of it. And it’s their excuse for getting their hands on it.”

The assault on Mr Yusuf’s trees came from an outpost of the Jewish settlement of Eli. “It was the first day of picking and we worked for three or four hours,” said Mr Yusuf, the head of Sawiya’s council. “I myself had picked five sacks when the settlers came down the hill with knives and guns. They slashed open our sacks and emptied the olives on to the ground. They put guns against our heads and made us stand there while they did it.

“The settlers have built a road near the bottom of the hill. They told us that we are not allowed to cross the road any more and that all the land the other side, all our olive trees up the hill, are now theirs.”

The people of Sawiya met that night. The village had already lost large chunks of land snatched to build the settlements, and people were reluctant to surrender more. But they knew from bitter experience that, if there was violence, it would not matter who was responsible; it would be the Palestinians who would be punished with curfews or worse.

They sought protection in numbers, and returned next day with a larger group of pickers from surrounding villages. The settlers stayed away, but came down that night. Over two hillsides, they sawed and hacked trees, tearing off branches and slicing through trunks with power saws. Some larger branches were tossed to the ground still bristling with fruits. The higher the hill rose toward the settlement, the greater the destruction – mostly of the fertile branches which will take a decade to grow back and start producing again.

“Next morning we stopped an Israeli police patrol,” Mr Yusuf said. “The jeep went up to the settlement and told them not to do it again. Next night they were back, and the police didn’t do anything.”

The people of Sawiya estimate that 250 trees, the livelihood for 10 extended families, were badly damaged or destroyed. But, as it is too dangerous to climb near the settlement, they cannot count precisely.

Settlers at Eli declined to be interviewed, but other Jewish communities in the area have justified driving Palestinians from their land by saying they threaten security. The settlers’ fears are often real. Eli and nearby Yitzhar have been attacked over the past three years, and families have been murdered in attacks on other small settlements close by.

But, as Yitzhar’s spokesman, Yossi Peli, readily admits, the settlers’ intent goes beyond security. “The trees grow back and ultimately we hope to harvest them in the place of the unwanted inhabitants of the area,” he said. Yitzhar and its outposts have been responsible for some of the worst destruction of recent weeks, with attacks on the groves of the village of Einabus, five miles north of Sawiya.

Men from Yitzhar, a religiously militant settlement with a history of violence against Palestinians, have terrorised olive pickers from their land with guns and clubs, and destroyed hundreds of trees. In one incident, the settlers beat a 70-year-old man, stripped him, and forced him to walk back to his village naked.

The destruction of trees has drawn fire from Mr Sharon and the settlers’ council. But the Yesha council qualified its criticism by saying that, while wrecking trees is wrong, it is acceptable for settlers to loot the olive crop – because Jews are entitled to harvest the produce of non-Jews in what the council defines as the “Land of Israel”, which includes the West Bank.

One leftwing Israeli member of parliament, Ephraim Sneh, visited the scene, and blamed the government. “Who did this? The residents of Hilltop 725,” he said. “That is a settlement outpost the government of Israel undertook to remove, but didn’t; now the army is forced to guard it. We’re talking about a group who live at the state’s expense, with the state’s protection, and do things no Jew can accept.”

Other Israeli critics warn that lawless attacks on Palestinians and their property will backfire. “The conclusion is that the fight against terror should not only be aimed at the Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” said a respected military analyst, Ze’ev Schiff. “Just as the Tanzim [armed wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah] gangs must be fought, so should the gangs of olive-tree cutters. They are dangerous because they and their kind will never allow any calm with the Palestinians – and that makes them another terrorist infrastructure.”


Here are some videos that the BBC and Ms Bell should watch: