Friday, October 30, 2020

Itís a new year and Palestinian olive groves are still under attack

By Ruairi Henchy - January 14, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Olive Trees] [settler violence]

A recent spate of attacks on new saplings and existing olive groves in the West Bank over the weekend has left Palestinian olive farmers devastated.

On Sunday 11 January, 170 olive trees were chopped down in the village of Yasuf, south of Nablus near the illegal Israeli settlement of Tappuah. The trees were described as “Roman,” a local Arabic term that means that they were at least 100 years old. Olive trees have been known to survive for 1000 years or more, so the trees destroyed in Yasuf may have been truly ancient. This attack came after two separate incidents on Friday south of Hebron, where 345 trees were cut down. The first attack came during the day near the village of Yatta, where 45 trees were cut down. Later that night, under the cover of darkness and the stormy conditions, 300 more trees were hacked down near the illegal Israeli settlement of Susiya. Separately, Palestinians have claimed that 50 olive trees were cut down in the Palestinian village of Kafr Yasif near Acre in present day Israel.

This all comes after approximately 5,000 olive saplings were uprooted in separate incidents on New Year’s Day. 80 one-year-old plants were uprooted in Al-Khader village on the Hebron-Jerusalem road, and 5,000 newly planted saplings were pulled up in Turmussaya village near Ramallah. These saplings had been planted in December in honour of the late Palestinian Government Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died during clashes with Israeli soldiers on 10 December during a demonstration in the area. The landowners filed a report with the Palestinian Military Liaison Office, and Israeli sources have indicated that an investigation is being carried out into the New Year’s Day incident.

Palestinian officials and local popular resistance committees have pointed the finger for these attacks squarely at the residents of nearby illegal Israeli settlements. The destruction of Palestinian olive groves has in the past been a key feature of Israeli colonialism in the West Bank, as local farmers can be bankrupted by the loss of their harvest, thus hastening their dispossession and paving the way for further land grabs and illegal settlement construction. Settlers rarely face prosecution and are often given armed protection by the Israeli army.

Olive farming and cultivation is a big part of life in Palestine and a major feature of the Palestinian economy, with an estimated 80,000 families in the West Bank relying on the annual harvest as part of their income. As with all aspects of life under occupation, olive cultivation is conducted at the mercy of the Israeli authorities. Palestinian farmers are under constant threat from settler violence and intimidation, and some 800,000 olive trees have been cut down in the occupied West Bank since 1967. Additionally, they also face having their olive groves designated as closed military zones with restricted or even completely forbidden access.

Since the end of the harvest, which took place around October and November, olive farmers will have switched their focus forward. Given that it takes some 5 to 8 years for newly planted olive saplings to bear fruit, olive farmers must be constantly looking to the future to ensure adequate preparation despite deleterious events the likes of which we witnessed last weekend.

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