State and settlers' illegal economic war against Palestinian olive farming

October 9, 2012
Sarah Benton

Two  reports on settlers’ destruction of olive trees follows the article about the planned route of the separation wall. The ICJ’s 2004 Opinion that the wall is illegal is last.

Photo of Wall cutting through Palestinian olive grove by Ahikam Seri, Panos

Wall threatens to cut through history
By JK D’Amours, IPS
October 01, 2012

BATTIR, Occupied West Bank– Dating back to the late 1890s, the historical Jaffa-Jerusalem railroad winds in a U-shape at the base of the valley. Olive groves adorn the bottom of one steep hill. Further up the slope, pine trees and an Israeli army patrol road lead westward towards Jerusalem.

On the adjacent hillside, a Roman-era irrigation system feeds picturesque agricultural terraces; olive trees, eggplant, peppers and other vegetables sit among the different levels, around a flowing spring. Dozens of stone houses are tightly squeezed onto the top of the hill, where a steep, winding road links this historical Palestinian village, Battir, to Bethlehem and the rest of the southern West Bank.

“It’s not an issue of land only. It’s more than that; there’s a cultural heritage that exists in the ground,” said 27-year-old Hassan Muammar, a civil engineer and Battir native who works at the Battir Landscape Eco-Museum. “The continuity of landscape and the nature will be affected very much by imposing the wall in this area.”

Israel plans to build a section of its West Bank separation wall through the lands of Battir. About 5,000 Palestinians currently live in the village, which sits just south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Over 75 percent of Battir is considered Area C, which under the Oslo Accords agreement is under full Israeli military and civil control.

According to village residents, the wall would cut them off from one-third of their farmland, or approximately 3,000 dunams. They are currently fighting Israel’s plan to build the wall through their lands in an Israeli court, and are awaiting a decision.

“This land is very important. It’s mainly olive groves and orchards, which people depend on as one of their resources for their life,” Muammar told IPS.

In mid-September, the Israeli media reported that for the first time, an Israeli state agency expressed opposition to the route of the separation wall. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) reportedly withdrew its support due to the damage the wall would cause to the landscape and local wildlife, and to Palestinian residents of Battir.

“No matter how narrow the route of the fence, it will be a foreign engineering element in the heart of the agricultural terraces, and separate the village from its lands among which are plots irrigated by spring water,” the INPA wrote in a letter to the Israeli Defence Ministry, according to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

“It must be protected because the Battir area possesses all the criteria to be a World Heritage site. It has also an urgency because that heritage is under threat,” said Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, culture programme specialist for the UNESCO office in Ramallah.

Palestine was admitted to UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, in November 2011. The Nativity Church – a Bethlehem church where Christians believe Jesus was born – was the first place to be recognised as a Palestinian heritage site, earlier this year.

According to Antonelli, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Ramallah is still deciding whether to submit Battir for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1 of next year.

“The next three months are critical,” Antonelli told IPS. “The wall will have an irreversible impact (on Battir). But it is possible to prevent this damage through negotiated action for the preservation of these heritage values. This landscape deserves more attention and has unexplored potential.”

Israel began constructing the wall in 2002. Still in construction, it is expected to span over 700 kilometres; 85 percent of its length will be built within the West Bank itself. According to Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, when completed, the wall will annex 530 square kilometres of Palestinian land, equivalent to the area of Chicago, the United States’ third largest city.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice found that the Separation Wall was illegal under international law and advised Israel to stop building it, to compensate Palestinians for damages, and dismantle its existing sections.

This provides little comfort for the residents of Battir, however, who are anxiously waiting to see whether the wall – which would irreversibly alter their traditional agricultural practices and the historical landscape – will indeed be built through their village.

“Ten percent of people depend entirely on agriculture; the rest of the people take agriculture as part-time work. You find a lot of people, in the afternoon after they finish work, coming to cultivate the land,” said resident Hassan Muammar.

“The wall will be something imposed on the landscape. It’s urgent. We have to think about the quality of life.”

Committee: Settlers destroy 250 olive trees near Ramallah
By Ma’an news
October 10, 2012

Settler attacks often increase around the time of the olive harvest season as settlers target olive trees and agricultural land.

RAMALLAH — Settlers destroyed over 250 olive trees in a Ramallah village on Wednesday, a local agricultural committee said.

Jewish extremists from nearby Shilo settlement entered the area and cut down the trees in al-Mughayyir village, the committee added.

Attacks increase around the time of the olive harvest season as settlers target olive trees and agricultural land.

On Tuesday, Jewish extremists cut down over 120 olive trees on private Palestinian land in Nablus, a Palestinian Authority official said.

On Sunday, a group of settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in the Ramallah town of Beitillu, burning dozens of olive trees, while settlers uprooted around 40 olive trees in the nearby Ramallah village of Ras Karkar.

On Friday, settlers destroyed 100 newly-planted olive saplings and at least 60 vine trees on private Palestinian land in Al-Khader village near Bethlehem.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs reported that over 2,500 olive trees were destroyed in September 2011, and 7,500 throughout 2011.

Settler attacks on Palestinian communities and their property are systematic and rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority threw its support behind the annual harvest. It called for “immediate protection for our people” and held the Israeli government fully responsible for the escalation of “settler terrorism against our people, their property, and sources of income.”

Zionist settlers chainsaw Palestinians olive trees

By Al Akhbar
October 09, 2012

Settlers armed with chainsaws cut down at least 120 olive trees belonging to Palestinian residents of a West Bank town, the International Middle East Media Center reported this morning.

Witnesses said Zionist settlers from the illegal settlement of Aliyea destroyed the trees belonging to 12 farmers in the village of Qaryout, just south of Nablus.

Settlers and soldiers routinely destroy Palestinian olive orchards, often using tractors to uproot this vital source of livelihood.

Attacks on olive orchards are most common in the early fall as harvest season begins. Today marks the first day of harvest season for Palestinians.

On Saturday, Israeli soldiers fired teargas at Palestinian farmers as they harvested their orchards, forcing them to abandon the land.

On Friday, settlers uprooted 100 newly-planted olive saplings and at least 60 vine trees on private Palestinian land in Al-Khader village near Bethlehem, according to Ma’an news agency.

Since 1967, 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli forces, resulting in a loss of around $55 million to the Palestinian economy, according to a report by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of National Economy and the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.

Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Advisory Opinion, International Court of Justice,
July 09, 2004

In its Opinion, the Court finds unanimously that it has jurisdiction to give the advisory opinion requested by the United Nations General Assembly and decides by fourteen votes to one to comply with that request.

The Court responds to the question as follows:

“A. By fourteen votes to one,
The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law”;

“B. By fourteen votes to one,
Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion”;

“C. By fourteen votes to one,
Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”;

“D. By thirteen votes to two,
All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention”;

“E. By fourteen votes to one,
The United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”

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