Many acres of land were burnt in the village of Burin on Thursday 30th October, in what appeared to be an arson attack by settlers from nearby Bracha settlement.
The attack came at approximately 2pm, when Palestinian farmers and international activists were harvesting olives nearby. The fire quickly spread along the edge of the road that leads to Bracha settlement – an Israeli-only road. Burin fire-fighters were quick to respond to the fire, but were held up when they were unable to enter the Israeli-only road without permission from Israeli authorities. Upon reaching the scene, firefighters were able to contain the blaze after approximately fifteen minutes, with assistance from farmers. Approximately 20 olive trees were damaged in the blaze, with many more trees saved only by the fact that the land was damp due recent rains.
Farmers suspect the arson was a direct response to their presence on their lands, with some suggesting it might have been an attempted scare-tactic. Several settler youth were visible on the scene as the fire was quenched, but denied any role in the blaze. Instead, Israeli authorities advised farmers that the youths had claimed it was the international activists who were assisting with the olive harvest who had started the fire. Clearly, these allegations were implausible even for Israeli authorities, who were seen afterwards questioning only the settler youth.
The lands around the illegal settlement of Bracha are scarred with black – testament to the countless fires previously torched. This tactic has been employed by settlers not just to deprive Palestinian farmers of their olives, almonds and other fruits – thus injuring them economically; but also to scare farmers from their lands, attempting to break the generational connections with the land, thus rendering the land easier to annex. For this reason many Palestinian farmers in Burin consider it vital to undertake the olive harvest each year; not just to collect whatever olives have not been burnt or stolen by settlers, but to also affirm their ownership of the lands.
This fire is but the most recent in attacks on the village of Burin from both Bracha and Yitzhar settlements. Ali Eid, the mayor of Burin, estimates that at least fifty percent of Burin’s olive trees have been burnt by rancourous settlers, with arson attacks occuring at least once a month.