Stolen fruit, destroyed trees and harassment by the army and settlers wreak havoc with the yearly olive harvest, an essential source of subsistence for West Bank Palestinians.
By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din
“The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up” (Deuteronomy 28:33)
“I’ve been taking care of my trees for 31 years. These are my trees, I planted them, they’re like my children,” says Ali Taher Ali Salah. He is standing in his toy shop in the village of A-Sawiya, watching the children coming and going, buying toys that cost a shekel each. Not far away, near a military base, are his olive groves. We visited him at the height of the olive harvest season in early November. Palestinians rely greatly on the olives and the oil they make from it for their livelihood. Some two months ago, before the official beginning of the harvest, Salah saw children — not much older than the ones who frequent his store — stealing the fruit from his trees, filling one sack after another. “I see them harvesting the olives, putting a sack under the tree. Can you imagine how hard it is for me to see someone else harvesting my trees, and I can’t walk over to him and ask ‘what are you doing?'”
Salah’s grove is located next to another grove that had been looted two weeks earlier. In this case the police arrived on the scene, but made it too late. In Salah’s case, the cops caught the minors red-handed and returned his olives to him, but the case against the thieves was closed due to their young age.
As far as Salah is concerned, the legal side is less important. The impotence by which a person sees his labor stolen before his eyes and can do nothing about it repeats itself time and again. “This should be difficult for me, but also for the State of Israel,” he says.
The latest information sheet we published regarding the olive harvest shows that the State of Israel does not care all that much. The military authorities claim they will permit the Palestinians to harvest their groves “until the last olive” — a policy they are beholden to by a High Court of Justice ruling handed down in the Murad case (Read More