Field Reports, General, Occupied Territories

Field Report: 2016 Olive Harvest

0 Comments 14 November 2016

Please see below for a summary of this year’s olive harvest.

Rabbis for Human Rights

2016 Olive Harvest By Numbers

  • 130 RHR volunteers aided five Palestinian villages
  • Five incidences of reported attacks of Palestinian farmers by settlers during this time
  • Four incidences of expulsion or attempted expulsion of farmers by settlers
  • Two occurrences of theft of olives
  • Two unauthorized incidences of expulsion of Palestinian farmers by soldiers
  • One incident of attacks of farmers by soldiers and more
  • In seven of these incidences, RHR’s assistance either solved or mitigated the problem
RHR field worker Zakaria Sadah, Assistant director of OT work Yael Vurgan, and RHR volunteers (from left to right) at an olive oil processing factory

RHR field worker Zakaria Sadah, Assistant director of OT work Yael Vurgan, and RHR volunteers (from left to right) at an olive press

 

By Shay Davidovich, Director of Field Work in the Occupied Territories

This year’s olive harvest season started on the 9th of October and lasted a month. This year’s season was relatively short because of a poor harvest crop.

 

collage

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Rabbis for Human Rights’ activity during this period included assistance to farmers in coordinating their access to their fields with the Israeli authorities, and keeping a vigilant eye on the activity of the army and police in order to protect Palestinian farmers from violence by extremist settlers. Beyond our ongoing daily presence in the field during the month of harvesting, we went out to the field on sixteen days with a total of 130 volunteers.

The villages where we picked olives:

  • Jamain
  • Yassuf
  • Awarta
  • Dir el Hatib
  • Burin

Apart from these villages, we were involved in coordination and protection of farmers in the following villages:

  • Yatma
  • Krayiut
  • Jit
  • Beit Furik
  • Turmous Aya
  • El Jenia

Extremist settler obstruction and violence

IMG-20161026-WA0007 (1)

The harvest season was characterized by recurring attacks against Palestinian harvesters by extremist settlers. The detailed report below provides a factual account of events in which we were involved with or with which we dealt through contacting  army authorities and the police. It is important to point out that we know of other attacks during this period with which we did not deal directly; therefore those are not discussed here. 

1. September 21 – olive orchards of Yatma village next to the illegal outpost Rachelim: Before the Palestinians began their harvest, settlers were documented stealing olives. Apparently when the settlers became aware of the fact that they were being filmed they left the area. The police and army forces did not succeed in locating them.

2. October 9th –  fields of Jamain next to Tapuach:  On reaching the spot we were to harvest in, we were accosted by a settler armed with a baton who threatened to murder the Palestinians and the volunteers. We called the police who arrived after about half an hour. They detained the settler while we lodged an official complaint in the local police station. According to the police he was subsequently arrested.

3. October 1oth – the village of Krayiut:  A settler from the settlement Eli was reported to have attacked farmers and destroyed their car. The same assailant returned to attack again during the harvest period. (See number 11)

4. October 14th and October 29th – Burin:  The security officer of the Yitzhar settlement (“Ravshatz”) came down the hill and expelled harvesters from Burin village who were working in their fields on an army- coordinated day. After our intervention,  the army allowed the farmers to continue their harvest.

5. October 16th – the village of Jit: In the morning hours settlers from the illegal outpost Havat Gilad threw stones at famers while they were harvesting their olives [Hebrew news report]. The army arrived and made it possible for the harvesters to continue working, but a few hours latter settlers returned and again threw stones at them.

Army arrives to Jit after settlers throw stones at farmers

Army arrives to Jit after settlers throw stones at farmers

6. October 18th: Settlers from the settlement Itamar tried to prevent farmers from working in  a special security zone (“Shabam””) on the day that was coordinated for the harvest there. The army made it possible for the farmers to continue harvesting. The olive harvest in this spot was short since the olive crop was especially poor this year. This is due to the fact that access by farmers to their land is limited by the army, resulting in the inability of the farmers to appropriately care for their olive trees.

7. October 24th –  the fields of Burin, next to the settlement Yitzhar: Settlers came down to prevent the farmers from harvesting their olives. The army intervened and prevented the settlers from disturbing the harvesters.

8. October 26th – in the lands of Turmos Aya – Settlers from the Adei Ad outpost attacked farmers. As a result of of our quick intervention, the police were called and they detained the settlers.

9. October 30th – the fields of Burin: Settlers from Yitzhar came down the hill towards the area in which the farmers were harvesting olives. The farmers contacted the Palestinian D.C.O. (District Coordinating Officer) who called the army patrol which than arrived to prevent the settlers from interfering with the harvest.

10. November 5th –  village of El Jenia near Talmon|Neriya:  Settlers attacked farmers with iron bars. Four were injured, one of them very seriously. In addition to this it was reported that settlers stole olives. This event received both Palestinian and Israeli [Hebrew] media coverage and it is under police investigation.

11. November 6th-  village of Krayiut: A settler  from Eli prevented farmers from harvesting in their fields. Through our intervention with the police, a  patrol arrived and protected the farmers, making it possible for them to continue harvesting their olives.

We were witness to a number of repeated settler attacks by people known to the army and police, who — despite this— return  and continue to attempt to prevent the olive harvest. Puzzling in particular is the case of the Yitzhar security officer (employed by the State of Israel) who acts beyond his authority against the Palestinian farmers but nevertheless is not sanctioned by the authorities.

Military Obstruction

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In addition to occurrences in which settlers are involved, we were also confronted with a number of cases in which the military forces themselves prevented Palestinians from harvesting their olives. These incidents are listed below:

1. October 8th – agricultural land of Yatma Village:  Soldiers prevented famers from harvesting their olives even though there was no valid closed military zone order at hand. Our field coordinator turned to the DCO who arrived at the site and made it clear to the soldiers that they must allow the farmers to work there. However, as soon as the DCO officer left – the soldiers once again tried to evict the farmers from their land.

2. October 15th – agricultural fields of Beit Furik:  On a coordinated harvest day two soldiers arrived and attacked the farmers working at this location, kicking their buckets of olives over, and spilling the olives they had just picked onto the ground. After that, they expelled the farmers from that field. The occurrence is being investigated by army authorities.

3. October 20th –  agricultural lands of Dir El Hatib:  In the early morning hours, the army prevented the farmers from reaching their fields near the Alon Moreh settlement due to  a Sukkot (Jewish holiday) festival event at a nearby spring. Our intervention with the army made it possible for the farmers to harvest olives for a number of hours but around 11:00 a.m, a closed military area order was issued for that area and the army expelled the farmers. Through our negotiations with the army it became possible for the farmers and our volunteers to continue harvesting olives in a different field. The next day the farmers returned to their original field, with accompaniment from RHR volunteers, after coordination with the DCO.

4. October 25th –  fields of Dir El Hatib:  A female border guard demanded  body searches of farmers before they were permitted into their fields. She spoke to them in a rude and insulting fashion. Some of them refused to participate in the process and were denied entry to their land.

5. November 1 – lands of Kfar Safa:  Although coordination with the army was not required, Israeli army soldiers prevented farmers from harvesting olives. We handled this with the DCO and the army subsequently allowed the farmers to return to their fields and to continue the harvest.

Regarding the behaviour of the army during the olive harvest season: As we have seen in previous years,  the forces on the ground are all too often unaware of their court-mandated responsibility to enable farmers to harvest their olives. There appears to be gap between the official army commitment to make it possible for farmers to harvest “until the last olive” and the way the soldiers actually behave in the field.

Rabbis for Human Rights would like to extend a deep thank you to everyone who volunteered to join us in the fields. Your presence helped keep Palestinian farmers safe from violence and intimidation, and helped ensure that the Israeli authorities enforced their mandate guaranteeing Palestinians the right to harvest “to the last olive.” 

Director of field work in the OT, Shay Davidovich (far left), Zakaria Sadah, RHR's Palestinian field worker (far right) and Palestinian farmers enjoy early morning coffee together before getting to work

Director of Field Work in the OT, Shay Davidovich (far left), Zakaria Sadah, RHR’s Palestinian field worker (far right) and Palestinian farmers enjoy early morning coffee together before getting to work

Jerusalem Post: The Complicated Process of Picking Olives in the West Bank

Special thank you to Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann for translation

 

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