Palestine olive harvest: Campaign begins to protect farmers


A 10-day initiative has been launched to help and protect farmers in ‘high-risk’ areas close to Israeli settlers.

Qassem al-Haj Mohammad, works on his land in the village of Jalud, in the northern occupied West Bank, on 13 October 2021

Zena Al Tahhan reports in Al-Jazeera:

As olive harvest season sets in Palestine, a 10-day campaign to aid and protect farmers has been launched in areas considered to be at high risk of Israeli settler attacks.

Dozens of Palestinian volunteers, young and old, arrived on Wednesday morning to the village of Jalud, on the southern outskirts of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, to help landowners harvest their olive trees – as quickly as possible.

Another group of volunteers worked simultaneously with landowners in the next-door village of Qaryout.

The campaign, organised by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), will cover 12 villages, mainly across southern Nablus, but also in the Ramallah and Bethlehem areas. It will bring together more than 250 volunteers including university students, farming committees, local councils, and residents of the villages.

Muayyad Bsharat, head of advocacy at the UAWC, told Al Jazeera the main aim of the campaign is to “strengthen control over our natural resources, by getting Palestinian farmers to their lands in Area C, and to other areas under threat by the Israeli occupation”.

At least 60 percent of the occupied West Bank is classified as Area C, under the direct control of the Israeli occupation army, and where all Israeli settlements are located.

“The idea was to launch the campaign in one of the ‘hotspots’ in southern Nablus,” said Bsharat. “The presence of large numbers of people on the land scares the settlers and makes them unable to carry out their attacks. When we bring 50 to 60 volunteers every day, this is a banner that keeps the settlers away.”  Other campaigns have also been launched by youth groups and popular committees for the season, which extends through November.

“The farmers will feel that they got help particularly in the most sensitive areas, where they have to pick the olives quickly,” said Bsharat.

Southern Nablus
Palestinian villages in southern Nablus face some of the most systematic attacks by Israeli settlers across the occupied West Bank, including Qusra, Burin, and ‘Urif. Attacks include physical assault and beatings with stones and clubs, damage of property including homes, schools, and cars, and theft and destruction of crops and fields.

In 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded 40 attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians during olive harvest season, 17 of which were in the Nablus governorate, followed by 10 in the Ramallah area.

Jalud and the next-door village of Qaryout are surrounded by three large settlements and a string of outposts lining the edges of what remains of their lands. The two small villages are subject to frequent attacks by settlers, who often do so with Israeli army protection.

Settlers in the nearby outposts of Adei Ad, Esh Kodesh, and Ahiya are some of the most violent in the occupied West Bank. In 2019, settlers burned some 1,000 olive trees in Jalud. Most recently in May, settlers set fire to an olive grove and cut down an electricity utility pole serving Jalud, for the third time.

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