By Dr. Elias Akleh
Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank face waves after waves of Israeli terror campaigns throughout the year. These terror waves are committed by Israeli extremist settlers (colonizers) as well as the Israeli army. The most common attacks include violent trespassing on Palestinian properties during the night, stone throwing at civilians and their homes, physical assaults on farmers, children and women, destruction of all types of properties, burning civilian structures, crops and trees, shooting livestock, poisoning wells, and theft of crops and cutting fruit trees. The worst of these Israeli terror attacks are committed during harvest seasons, especially during olive season.
Olive trees are very important part of the Palestinian agricultural economy. They have been a major source of livelihood for Palestinians for thousands of years. Olive groves are spread all over the country and every Palestinian house has a couple of olive trees in its front or backyards. Many olive trees are thousands of years old.
As one of their key sources of income, the olive harvest season is a time of critical importance for Palestinians. Harvesting olives is a Palestinian communal activity that involves all classes of population. All family members; children as well as seniors, can be seen working in the fields. School students also volunteer to help farmers during the season. Olive mills and pressers open for business during this season to produce oil, to can pickled olives, and to export the products to other countries. The whole country becomes as busy as a bee hive. Over the last decades olive harvesting has become increasingly difficult due to Israeli settlers (colonizers) and army attacks.
Israeli governments as well as extremist settlers (colonizers) understand that Palestinians get more attached to their country during harvest season, especially during olive harvest. In order for the Zionist Israeli transfer/eviction plan of Palestinians to succeed, this Palestinian sacred attachment to the land must be broken. Thus the Palestinian economy and especially farm land is targeted by the Israeli government as well as the terrorist settlers (colonizers).
To destroy Palestinian farm land the Israeli government designates fields as closed military areas, surround it with barbed wires, and prevent entry to Palestinian farmers. The Israeli apartheid/separation wall had also isolated Palestinian farmers from their land. Although Palestinians resort to Israeli High Court requesting permissions to access their land during harvest seasons, yet no access has ever been granted. Neglected and unattended the fields and the trees become spoiled. After few years the Israeli government claims custodianship of the fields according to the Israeli law of “Absentees’ Property”. Israeli contractors, then, uproot all fruit trees and build colonies.
Israeli armed extremist terrorist settlers (colonizers) build their colonies on usurped Palestinian land and start terrorizing the adjacent Palestinian villages. Understanding the value and importance of the olive groves to the Palestinian farmers, those extremist Israeli terrorists target this major economic source in an attempt to drive Palestinians away. They invade olive groves with their tractors and bulldozers to harvest the olives for themselves, to uproot trees, to cut branches, to poison water wells, to set fire to crops, and to attack all Palestinians, who attempt to protect their fields. Many times, at the beginning of harvest season, they spray the fruit trees with chemicals to spoil the harvest and to kill the trees.
The terror attacks of settlers (colonizers) during harvest time has been gradually increasing every years until lately it had become a widespread phenomenon. The Israeli Haaretz noted that Israeli police reports have shown that settlers attacks against Palestinians during olive harvest season this year is the highest for the last ten years. I have counted in the media at least 35 terrorist attacks throughout the West Bank specifically related to olive harvest since the beginning of month of October. Many other attacks have not been reported due isolation and to media obstruction. Such number is a clear indication of a wide spread systematic plan of targeting Palestinian farmers during their olive harvest.
Other terrorist attacks such as setting fire to schools and mosques, shooting Palestinian civilians, intentional vehicular hit and run of Palestinian children, violent night raids against Palestinian homes, and eviction of Palestinian families and forceful occupation of their homes are still rampant although not counted in this article.
The majority of settlers’ terrorist attacks (90%) took place in areas where Israeli army has security jurisdiction under the Oslo Accord. The increasing frequencies of the attacks indicate at least an intentional failure of the Israeli security forces to protect Palestinians. Under international law an occupying power (Israel in this case) is responsible for the safety of the people under occupation (the Palestinians). The attacks keep on happening in the same areas over and over again. If willing, the Israeli government could send security forces to these areas to prevent clashes. In its complicity the Israeli government encourages terrorist settlers (colonizers) to continue their attacks.
Those terrorist settlers (colonizers) are not restricted to one certain segment of Israelis, rather they come from the whole social spectrum of Israelis; religious, orthodox, secular and mixed colonizers. Their terrorism reflects the true genocidal nature of the Zionist ethnic cleansing philosophy and plan for establishing Greater Israel in an Arab-free Middle East.
Pictures and videos all over the internet show the presence of Israeli soldiers watching settlers attacking Palestinians and don’t break up the clashes except to defend settlers, and to harass, beat, arrest Palestinians who dare to defend their groves, and to confiscate the whole harvested crops claiming it as evidence. In cases were arson is involved the Israeli soldiers usually obstruct access of Palestinian firefighters at nearby roadblocks.
Many Palestinian farmers had resorted to the Israeli police reporting the attacks and requesting protection. Since the job of the Israeli police is to protect settlers (colonizers) rather than Palestinians, they ignore such reports. The Israeli Yesh-Din organization (Volunteers for Human Rights) released a study showing that over 90% of police alleged investigations into settlers’ attacks against Palestinians fail to produce any indictment and were closed on the grounds of “unknown perpetrators” or insufficient evidence.
The phenomenon of terrorist attacks by Israeli settlers (colonizers) against Palestinian farmers have been noticed by international human rights organizations such as International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who have arranged to send international volunteers to help and to protect Palestinian farmers while harvesting olives. The presence of such international volunteers, with their cameras, had in some areas, deterred and prevented violent settlers (colonizers) and Israeli soldiers from attacking Palestinian farmers. In other areas ISM volunteers, themselves, were specifically targeted by extremist settlers (colonizers) and had sustained injuries even during the presence of Israeli soldiers, who just stood there watching the attacks.
Since attacking ISM volunteers have been captured on cameras and broadcasted throughout European countries the Israeli government had adopted strict and harsh measures to deny international volunteers entry at the airport. The Israeli army had also issued orders to Palestinian villages warning them that housing international activists is illegal and would result in arrests. It was also reported through Palestinian radio that large fines of 6000 NIS have been sentenced against farmers who had invited international activists to accompany them during the olive harvest.
After the harvest Palestinian farmers either sell their olives as is, or press them and sell them as olive oil. Another Israeli method of destroying Palestinian olive harvest is by imposing high fees and taxations against the export of Palestinian olive products. Since Israeli army controls all border terminals the Israeli government hinders and delays the export of olive. In many occasions the products would be stored in warehouses until they get spoiled while waiting for export permits. Meanwhile Palestinians are charged high fees and taxes for storing and exporting their olives. Farmers end up selling their products locally for very cheap prices. Israeli companies would also buy the products from the farmers then turn around and sell them abroad as Israeli products making a lot of profits.
Israeli government always put the responsibility on Hamas government or Lebanese government for any border violent incident against Israeli settlers. Yet it does not take any responsibility for their terrorist settlers attacking Palestinian farmers, stealing their crops, and burning their trees. On the contrary Palestinian farmers are taken to Israeli courts, charged with attacking settlers, and forced to pay large amounts of fines. Such actions send a clear encouraging message to settlers to continue their terrorist crimes.
Settlers’ (colonizers) attacks have become as a guaranteed phenomenon as the harvest season itself. Those terrorist settlers (colonizers) are funded by large segments of the American Jewish community and by American tax exempted Jewish organizations with the knowledge and protection of both the Justice Department and Department of Home Land Security. Such funding encourages more terrorism and counter-terrorism rather than peace the Obama administrations claims to pursue in the Middle East.
Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.