The cut-down trees of the orchard of the village of Mayar north of Ramallah
Press Release: Reaction of Senior Army Officials to Damage to Over 450 Olive Trees Discovered in Less Than Two Weeks, Theft and Attacks Ranges from “We Think We Are Doing Better This Year,” To “There Have Been Several Regrettable Incidents, but We Don’t Have the Resources To Do Any More Than We Are Already Doing.”
For the Tenth Year, RHR Volunteers Help With The Olive Harvest, As Part of the “Harvest Coalition.” Harvest Tours and Interviews with Farmers Can be Arranged
In less than two weeks, Palestinian farmers have discovered over 450 that have been burned, chopped down or otherwise destroyed or seriously damaged. In other areas adjacent to settlements and outposts, they have discovered that their olives have been stolen from their trees before they arrived to pick them. There have also been numerous attacks by Israelis on Palestinian farmers, and in some cases the Israeli Army has used tear gas and stun grenades to keep farmers from their trees. These incidents occur every year, especially during the olive harvest season. However, we are witnessing a level of damage to olive trees not seen in the Occupied Territories for several years. The extent of the damage also prompted the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to call on Israeli authorities to take action during a U.N. Security Council discussion.
In a meeting this week with Israeli human rights organizations RHR, the Association For Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din and B’Tselem, senior officers from the Central Command, the Legal Advisor’s office, and the Civil Administration bluntly refused to commit to doing anything more than they are already doing. Reactions ranged from “We Think We Are Doing Better This Year,” To “There Have Been Several Regrettable Incidents, but We Don’t Have the Resources To Do Any More Than We Are Already Doing.” Israeli human rights organizations acknowledged that Israeli security forces are doing a relatively good job of protecting farmers on harvest days for which army protection has been scheduled I advance. However, they reminded the officers that the 2006 Israeli High Court decision which outlines the State’s obligations towards Palestinian farmers also requires them to ensure that trees are not destroyed in the middle of the night. In addition, while there has been some improvement this year, there are still incidents in which security forces block access to areas which do not require advance coordination with the army, or expel farmers.
Ten years ago the Olive Harvest Coalition began to send Israeli volunteers as human shields to protect Palestinian farmers from settlers and the army, and to provide helping hands when farmers received insufficient permits to allow them to complete the harvest on lands in the seam zone between the separation barrier and the Green Line. Today, as a result of discussions with security forces, international pressure, and the Israeli High Court decision, many farmers safely access lands they could not access for up to 15 years previously. They often are protected by Israeli security forces. However, there has been little or no improvement in the protection of Palestinian property, access to the seam zone or bringing to justice those who attack, destroy and steal.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, “As we read this week in the Torah the account of the dove with an olive branch in her mouth, we are saddened that all too often the cut olive branch lying on the ground has become a symbol of hatred, violence and occupation. We hope to again make the olive branch a symbol of peace by working to protect farmers and standing shoulder to shoulder in the olive groves.”
Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle Ease, Octobr 15, 2012, “In the West Bank, the recent and repeated destruction of Palestinian olive groves, a critical source of income for the local population, is deplorable. We look to Israeli authorities to act decisively to protect these resources and investigate such acts.”
For More information, to arrange a field tour or a day with RHR volunteers, to interview Palestinian farmers who have suffered losses, statistics, correspondence with the army, or to view archival pictures and video:
Yariv Mohar Spokesperson 050-8280015
Rabbi Arik Ascherman RHR Special Projects, 050-5607034
Co-Founder of Harvest
Coalition, Co-Author of
High Court Appeal
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann Director of RHR OT Field 050-2110639
Department, responsible for
Yaacov Manor Co-Founder of Harvest 050-5733276
Saturday harvest Activities
(As a rabbinical organization,
RHR sends volunteers Sunday-
Friday, but not on the Jewish
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