Zionist Settlers burn Palestinian Olives
By Philippe Agret (AFP) – 7 hours ago
FARATA'A, Palestinian Territories — Thick black smoke billows from the
olive grove under the gaze of Israeli soldiers as Palestinian farmers
use branches to try to beat out the fires lit by Jewish settlers.
It's olive harvest time in the occupied West Bank.
The firebombers swooped down from Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish
settlement unauthorised even by the Israeli government.
Encircled by barbed wire, the makeshift dwellings glower down on the
surrounding Palestinian olive plantations from a hilltop in the
northern West Bank.
"We were gathering the olives when the settlers arrived. One of them
started a fire," says olive grower Shaher Tawil.
He points to a bearded man wearing a T-shirt and a Jewish kippa or
skullcap, now safely behind an Israeli military barrier.
"When we saw the flames, we called the fire service but the soldiers
wouldn't let them come any closer to prevent clashes with the
settlers," the old man says.
The young Israeli conscripts, visibly embarrassed and restricted by
their uniforms in the oppressive midday heat, finally let the
fire-truck through after about an hour, by which time the flames have
already been well-fanned by the wind.
At last the fires are put out, as again the soldiers look on.
Tawil says that last week settlers from Havat Gilad harvested the
fruit of 800 trees belonging to his family.
"Every year they steal our olives and burn our trees," he says.
The Havat Gilad settlers are among the most hardline in the West Bank
and believe they have a God-given right to land they know by its
Biblical name of Samaria.
For them, the villagers in whose midst they have set up home are not
"Palestinians" with a right to a state alongside Israel but "Arabs"
who are interlopers on Biblical Jewish land.
The settlers are wont to quote a saying by one of their spiritual and
ideological gurus, the late rabbi Mordechai Elyahu.
"This land is the birthright of the people of Israel. If a gentile
plants a tree on my land, the tree and its fruit are mine."
A few hours earlier, in the village of Azmut near the northern West
Bank city of Nablus, a group of youths from the settlement of Elon
Moreh, four kilometres (two and a half miles) away, dispersed
Palestinian olive harvesters with shots in the air, witnesses said.
The settlers said they had come under attack first.
"We began the harvest at 7 am. At 9 am while we were having breakfast,
they turned up with these automatic weapons," said Pauline Marechal, a
"They began firing in the air. The children were screaming and crying.
The settlers were chanting: 'Out. Out'," said Marechal, an activist
with the Palestinian solidarity group, Darna, which helps villagers
with the olive harvest each October.
"Every year, it's the same thing," she said. "They come with their
ladders and their tea urns and they steal the olives."
A report released by aid organisation Oxfam on Friday said attacks and
other acts of harassment by Jewish settlers against Palestinian olive
farmers "are common and often increase during the time of the
The group said that the olive sector, "which contributes up to 100
million dollars (71.4 million euros) in yearly income for some of the
poorest Palestinian communities, could bring a brighter future for the
Palestinian economy, provided its full potential is realised."
It said that about 45 percent of farmland in the West Bank and Gaza is
given over to olive cultivation, with approximately 10 million trees.
The Israeli army says it does all it can to protect Palestinian olive
growers. So far this year there have been no casualties at least. But
neither have the police made any arrests.