Arab Today, arab today bitter olive harvest adds to animosity
Last Updated : GMT 09:42:46
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Bitter olive harvest adds to animosity

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Bitter olive harvest adds to animosity

Awarta - Ma'an

A potent symbol of peace and harmony, the olive has become a source of confrontation and violence in the decades-old conflict that pits Israel against Palestinians. Once a time of happy industry, the autumn harvest season in particular has degenerated into antagonism, with farmers accusing extremist Jewish settlers of destroying their crops and trying to seize their land. Nawaf Thawabteh said he had barely started picking his oil-rich fruit in early October on a rocky hilltop near the Elon Moreh settlement when three masked men brandishing clubs charged through his orchard and grabbed his half-filled sacks. "The army was meant to be here to protect us, but there was no one around. It is just getting worse and worse," said Thawabteh, sitting beneath one of his trees, with the West Bank city of Nablus shimmering in the distance. An estimated 10 million olive trees dot the Israeli-occupied West Bank, thriving in the arid climate and covering 45 percent of all agricultural land in the region. But settler attacks are taking their toll, says the United Nations, which has recorded a surge in general violence this year. Vandals have not only snatched harvested olives, but also destroyed thousands of trees. The UN body for humanitarian affairs, OCHA, says 7,500 trees were uprooted, burnt or chopped down in the first nine months of 2011. The Palestinian Authority says 800,000 trees have been destroyed since the 1967 war, when Israel seized the territory. The Israeli army, which controls security in most of the West Bank, says it takes farmer protection seriously and plans for the harvest as though it were a military operation. One of the top commanders in the territory agrees that settler violence poses a real problem, but says it is tough to eradicate what he believes to be random acts of criminality. "It is very hard to catch the vandals. We have 10 million trees here and can't defend all 10 million. It is not our only problem," said the commander, who declined to be named. "Ninety nine percent of settlers maintain law and order. ... Unfortunately one percent, or maybe less, support these people," he added, speaking from his West Bank headquarters. Palestinians question the army's commitment to defending their farmers, pointing to the fact that few vandals are ever caught. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din says that of 127 cases of tree destruction it has followed since 2005, only one ended in court. Some 350,000 Israeli settlers live in the territory, claiming a biblical birthright to the Palestinian land. Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict broke down last year following a dispute over Jewish settlement building and repeated attempts to revive the negotiations have failed. In the meantime, the construction work continues. OCHA says there are some 135 settlements. They are deemed illegal by the World Court, something Israel disputes, and often abut agricultural land farmed by Palestinians for generations. The communities are ringed with security fences and the army has set up wide buffer zones, giving farmers a limited time frame to enter the fields and take care of the crops under their supervision. Even within those set periods, violence can flare. When Nizam Qawarek, 37, was told by commanders that he could go and collect olives near the Itamar settlement, close to Nablus, he immediately rushed to his silvery green trees. He and his wife had barely begun work before they were confronted by dozens of angry residents from Itamar. "They were waving Israeli flags and shouting there shouldn't be any Arabs here. They threw stones at us. It was terrifying," he said. Itamar residents justified their actions, saying they didn't want Palestinians near their property following the murder in March of five members of one family, including two children and a baby, who were stabbed to death in their house. Two local Palestinian youths have admitted to the killings. "Only six months after the murder, while our blood is still boiling and the residents are still caring for their bleeding wounds, allowing anyone from the Awarta village, where the murderers ... came from, is outrageous and negligent," Itamar rabbi, Avichai Rozenki, said in a statement. The settlers say the killers used last year's harvest to spy on Itamar from up close and find a way to break in. Settler leaders say talk of widespread destruction is wildly exaggerated. "The announcements that are going out almost daily about damage caused to Arab land and olive groves is totally incredible. If true, it would be visible, everywhere. But it is not," said settler spokesman David Haivri. "Most of people here, Jews and non-Jews, are interested in living out their lives and raising their families peacefully," added Haivri, who has been in the West Bank for over 20 years. British charity Oxfam estimates that olive output accounts for 15-19 percent of agricultural production in the territory, generating revenues of $160-190 million and guaranteeing livelihoods for the families of some 100,000 farmers. The farmers maintain that the aggression is all part of a concerted effort to sweep them from the sun-soaked land. Maazoza Zaben says settlers torched 270 of her trees in Burin in September, leaving an ugly black smear across the hill. "They want us to leave the land. It will be easier to chase us away if we don't have our trees. But even if they kill me, I won't leave this place," said the 58-year-old widow. Farmers who have land near settlements and the West Bank separation wall say they have to count the cost not just of trashed trees, but also of restrictions on access rights. Outside the harvesting season, the army says it does not have the resources to oversee the pruning and plowing that is vital to keep the groves healthy and prevent thick thorn bushes from taking root between the gnarled, squat trees. The day he was chased from his land, Qawarek also lost 30 trees near the Itamar settlement fence in an unexplained blaze. Having been prevented from plowing, Qawarek stood helplessly by as the flames lept from tree to tree, roaring along the parched thorns like electricity surging through wires. The army says limited manpower also means it cannot provide security to everyone at the height of the autumn harvest. As a result, it opens the season early and offers villagers far less time than they would like to collect the green and black olives. "The trees would be perfect in two or three weeks time," said Mohamed Shamih, 47, who had been given the all-clear to go to his trees near Elon Moreh in early October. "I will get 50 percent less oil by harvesting now, but that is better than losing the lot," he added. Local children take time off school and much of the village turns out to help pluck the olives from the trees, some of which date back 2,000 years to the Roman era, but even the mass mobilization won't be enough to bring home all the fruit. "I will have to return to my own land like a thief to try and get the rest," Shamih said, sitting atop his tractor.

Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

Arab Today, arab today bitter olive harvest adds to animosity Arab Today, arab today bitter olive harvest adds to animosity


Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Nohan Seyam designs beautiful accessories

GMT 20:02 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

Nohan Seyam designs beautiful accessories
Arab Today, arab today Tourism shows signs of recovery

GMT 09:59 2017 Monday ,20 February

Tourism shows signs of recovery
Arab Today, arab today Sarah Belamesh designs antiques of "ceramic"

GMT 19:45 2017 Monday ,20 February

Sarah Belamesh designs antiques of "ceramic"
Arab Today, arab today 11 family members dead in rebel push

GMT 07:57 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

11 family members dead in rebel push
Arab Today, arab today To probe sexual harassment claims

GMT 10:08 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

To probe sexual harassment claims
View News in Arabic - Business: اقتصاد عربي
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today To hold social dialogue over secondary school

GMT 07:43 2017 Wednesday ,22 February

To hold social dialogue over secondary school
Arab Today, arab today 63-Year-Old Woman Delivers Baby

GMT 12:35 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

63-Year-Old Woman Delivers Baby
Arab Today, arab today Small ponds have outsized impact

GMT 15:53 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

Small ponds have outsized impact
Arab Today, arab today Pluto's unruly moons

GMT 06:31 2015 Thursday ,04 June

Pluto's unruly moons
Arab Today, arab today Nissan enhances sales in most markets

GMT 14:08 2017 Monday ,20 February

Nissan enhances sales in most markets
Arab Today, arab today Competes Sweden and Germans by S90

GMT 22:36 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Competes Sweden and Germans by S90
Arab Today, arab today Janat pleased for issuing 'Good Morning'

GMT 06:41 2017 Monday ,20 February

Janat pleased for issuing 'Good Morning'
Arab Today, arab today London to tax old cars

GMT 14:06 2017 Friday ,17 February

London to tax old cars

GMT 06:34 2017 Sunday ,19 February

Ahmed Fahmy stresses he did not ignore singing

GMT 06:50 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Tragic fluctuations of Bakhtiari's life revealed

GMT 12:22 2017 Monday ,20 February

Kanye West puts hijab-wearing model

GMT 20:41 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Teach monkeys to recognize themselves in mirror

GMT 23:29 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Home built on sand castles-style costs $8m

GMT 05:15 2017 Tuesday ,21 February

Omega 3 can reduce asthma cases

GMT 19:16 2017 Friday ,17 February

Aziz House ready to host the tourists

GMT 13:12 2015 Saturday ,09 May

Sheikh Sultan opens Sharjah Centre

GMT 12:39 2017 Monday ,20 February

newest smartphone another winner for Huawei

GMT 16:08 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Shawsh reveals her collection "Jewelry of dreams"
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
 Arab Today Facebook,arab today facebook  Arab Today Twitter,arab today twitter Arab Today Rss,arab today rss  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
arabstoday, Arabstoday, Arabstoday