Photo Credit: (Image: Flash 90, Issam)
Palestinian Arabs inspect piles of olive tree prunings. But was it vandalism?

Editor’s note: In response to an article which appeared in the ToI noted orchardist, Dale Baranowski. The following reply raises serious questions about the allegations in ToI

The response in full:


I’m an orchardist, a farmer that specialized in tree crops. I’m also an arborist who specializes in diagnosing tree diseases, insect infestations and nutritional issues. I’ve been involved with trees and tree crops for some 30 years. Now every time the Arabs claim that Jews vandalize or destroy olive trees it always happens every year in late October and early November. Funny, this is the pruning season for olive trees, and the ideal time to do a heavy pruning. The “damage” done to those olive trees is easily recoverable. In fact it’s not unusual to do such hard pruning in order to restructure the trees. The Arab farmer claims those trees have been destroyed but nothing is farther from the truth and he knows that.

Nowadays it’s the fashion for gardeners to perform a “cloud pruning” of olive trees, ordinarily gardeners hack off primary limbs down to stubs and develop the olive trees with clusters of leaves that resemble spheres, oblong pods or into shapes resembling stratus clouds. (Do a search for “olive tree cloud pruning”.) And the way to start this pruning method is to start with cutting back the tree just like in the picture above. Obviously Arabs who own an orchard don’t want a decorative pruning method. I know that, my point here is that the pruning done to those trees is NOT catastrophic in the least and is done routinely as the first step in creating decorative trees.

Of course if the Arabs wanted to promote lies about Jews this is the ideal time to blame Jews without seriously compromising the health of those trees. If someone really wanted to catastrophically damage olive trees they would do that kind of damage in June or July, not in November. But every single fall, and ONLY in fall, the Arabs claim (or imply) that Jews are to blame for damaging their olive trees, which is highly suspicious in itself.

Hey, why do Jews supposedly ONLY damage olive crops? The Arabs raise other orchard crops, like plums or grape vines. Plum orchards and vineyards are quite popular crops in the Arab sector. Why don’t we ever hear of Jews supposedly hacking back plum trees? If plum trees were given a pruning like those olive trees they would definitely suffer greatly. But oddly enough, only olive trees are ever the targets of supposed Jewish vandalism, and the vandalism is easily recoverable, if not beneficial to the tree; but the average person who has no background in agriculture or professional gardener would not know this so it makes for easily disseminated lies against Jews.

Mr. Baranowski forwarded several additional compelling points exclusively to The Jewish Press Online refuting the ToI article:

If the Jewish perpetrator(s) used chain(s) saw why didn’t they just cut off the trees near the ground? Why leave the primary limbs essentially intact?  It shows that whoever cut the tree did not want to destroy it. Anyway, I noticed that the trees in the distance of the first picture are not chopped back. So all we have is one or two trees that have been “destroyed.”

They claim that 7,000 trees have been destroyed but they show only one or two. Isn’t that odd? Judea and Samaria are hilly to mountainous.  Surely, if 7,000 trees were destroyed it shouldn’t be hard to take a picture of a whole field of destroyed trees and that would make a much more compelling picture for the Times.

Anyway, how long would it take to “destroy” 7,000 trees? And the perpetrators would have to do it in the middle of the day for weeks. And chain saws make a lot of noise. Do they mean that they’d never ever see the culprits? It would take a small army of people with chain saws to working constantly for weeks to destroy that many trees.  And they meant to tell us  that the Arabs never hear the racket from chain saws going at once? That’s odd in itself.

I’ll wager that the farmer wasn’t happy with the way that one solitary tree was growing and decided to restructure it. Considering that olive trees in Israel easily live a good 500 years – the oldest olive tree in the world is in Israel and is estimated to be well over 2,000 years old – restructuring the tree would only eliminate maybe 3 years of the crop of that tree. If we consider that olive trees can easily live a half millennium then the 3 years investment would be of no significance.