Saturday, May 19, 2007

Take Your Olive Branch and Shove It! - Part 1

Today is Day 14,280 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Rabbi Akiva - “ ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18 - this is the major principle of the Torah.”


The olive tree is a universal symbol of peace and tranquility as in “holding out the olive branch.” Olive trees grow 1-2 feet a year, reach a height of 40 feet and live for over 400 years. The olive tree is a historical, cultural, religious and economic symbol for the Palestinians. Products of the olive tree include olives, olive wood, olive based soap and olive oil. Olive oil is the second major export product for Palestinians and has nutritional value since oleic acid is considered one of the good fats. For many Palestinian families their source of income is dependent on the olive trees and the harvest of the olives.

“Olive and the Olive Oil Sector in the Palestinian Territories” Pages 16-17

"How important are olives to the Palestinian economy? Today, there are approximately 900,000 dunums planted with 10 million olive trees, constituting 45 percent of cultivated land in Palestine and contributing as much as 15 – 19 percent of agriculture output. Moreover, there are about 100,000 families depend on olive harvest for their livelihoods. In 2006, olive oil production is estimated to reach 33,000 – 35,000 tons; of which around 12,000 tons are estimated to be consumed locally and the rest will be available for export or storage.
What are the main privileges of the Palestinian olive oil? First, The Palestinian climate and soil enable the production of some of the highest quality olive oil in the world. To illustrate, the unique taste and aroma of Palestinian olive oil has been recognized in taste tests conducted by certified testers in Europe. ….Moreover, the Palestinian olive oil has unique marketing options. It can be branded as oil from the “holy land”, and in some Arab and ethnic markets it will draw support to assist Palestinian labor.”


For a number of years, Jewish Israeli Squatters (“JIS”) have terrorized Palestinian farmers and their families. Based on their fundamentalist belief that Judea and Samaria were given to them by God (even though they have not been able to produce deeds or a chain of ownership from the Torah to Rabbi Moshe Levinger and other such squatters), they attack Palestinians, uproot olive trees and fence off Palestinian olive tree groves.

The IDF soldiers and Israeli civilian authorities, in general, support the actions of the JIS, protect them while arresting Palestinians and bring few criminal charges against the JIS.


For many many documented examples of such actions, you can go to the websites of B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights and in their search engines, insert “olive trees”.

Here is one example of JIS violence: “Settlers attack olive Pickers in front of soldiers, Tekoa, Bethlehem District, Oct. 2006”

“In 2003, at the start of the olive-picking season, we went to pick our olives with other families that have groves in the area and with foreign volunteers. With the Israeli soldiers standing there, the settlers attacked us, threw stones at us, and beat us with clubs. The soldiers threatened us with weapons. Some farmers and foreign volunteers were injured by the settlers. We did not manage to pick our olives. In 2004 and 2005, too, we did not manage to harvest our olives.”

For the full testimony go to


In January, 2006, the issue of the uprooting of 2400 olive trees by the JIS was brought to the attention of the Attorney General of the GOI as reported in a B’Tselem Newsletter

Thousands of Olive Trees Cut Down in the West Bank

At the Cabinet meeting held on 8 January 2006, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz reported that, over the past three years, 2,400 olive trees of Palestinians had been uprooted or cut down. Officials spoke out against the phenomenon. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the acts as "despicable" and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called them "scandalous."The phenomenon is not new. For years, violent settlers have, under security forces' protection, injured Palestinians and damaged Palestinian property in the Occupied Territories. The attacks and damage are well documented and have been brought to the attention of the authorities time and again. For example, in August, B'Tselem and other human rights organizations called on Mazuz to prevent settler violence against Palestinians. Israeli officials who have of late raised their voices against this phenomenon are those who have allowed the IDF to enable these violent acts to continue.Following recent reports of damage to olive trees by settlers, YESHA [Judea, Samaria, Gaza] Council contended that the cutting of the trees was in fact pruning by the Palestinian farmers as part of the agricultural process to improve yield. B'Tselem requested Prof. Shimon Lavie, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to give his opinion on the matter. Prof. Lavie stated that the council's contentions were baseless. The kind of damage and the age of the trees indicated that the act was one of destruction, and not pruning.The government must radically change its policy and provide Palestinian farmers with protection throughout the year, the same way that they protect the settlers. Also, it must enforce the law against violent settlers and compensate the Palestinians for their losses.


The following June, 2006, in response to a petition brought before the Supreme Court of Israel, as reported on-line by the courageous Rabbis for Human Rights which has been at the forefront of trying to protect Palestinians and their olive trees from the JIS and the IDF including raising money for an “Olive Tree Campaign” to replant uprooted trees.

“RHR Wins Court Victory: High Court Orders Security Forces to Protect Palestinian Farmers” by Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman on June 26, 2006

The Supreme Court orders the IDF and Israel Police to protect Palestinian farmers, and their property, from attacks by violent settlers, and to act immediately and decisively to permanently uproot this phenomenon. The verdict, that was issued today (June 26, 2006) in response to the petition submitted by ACRI and Rabbis for Human Rights, severely criticizes the lax approach displayed by the police and security personnel in their law enforcement work against violent settlers, and ruled that the closure of territory to Palestinians, to protect them from settlers, is akin to granting a prize for violence. … (T)he petition was submitted ……in the name of the heads of five village councils in the West Bank. The verdict, … states that the IDF and the Israel Police must take all the necessary measures at their disposal to protect Palestinian farmers who wish to work their land, and to protect their right to ownership. Ensuring the personal safety and the right to ownership of local residents, the court adds, is one of the most basic responsibilities of a military commander in the field. …(and) …that despite a certain improvement that has occurred in relation to this issue, the state of affairs is far from satisfactory, and that the results [on the ground] have not been successful in the area of law enforcement against criminal Jewish settlers."


Sadly, the decision of the Supreme Court of Israel did not end the violence of the JIS. In an article dated February 2, 2007, Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman said:

“This Friday we will return to Salem, where so many trees have been cut down and farmers beaten and terrorized, most likely by local settlers. Settlements are placed in the middle of Palestinian olive groves and, at least until we began to intervene, it was simply assumed that Palestinians should be kept away from the remaining trees because it was easier for the army to do so than to find other ways of protecting settlers from the danger they had placed themselves in. This Wednesday we received a phone call from residents of Samoa. On land which had been fenced in by the settlers of Sham’a but which the Palestinians farmers were continuing to cultivate after going to court, they were prevented from working for the sake of settlers who were digging holes in preparation for Tu B’Shvat planting. A DCO officer told us that this was OK because the holes were on “State Land.” As I write, we have not yet been able to sort out whether or not this is State Land or private Palestinian land. Even if it is State Land, the idea that State Land is land for Jewish only development is outrageous, even if one does not accept that this is occupied land according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and must be used for the good of the occupied population. "

Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

1 comment:

npro said...

good material!

thanks for sharing it.