farmers are too frightened of violence and intimidation to pick their own
crops of olives. International
volunteers went to Palestine to try and ensure that they could pick in
safety and to demonstrate to the Palestinians that, even if the world’s
politicians ignored their suffering, there were still people in the world
if you don’t read all of this report back from the olive picking, please
read and think about these points:-
clearly intends to annex the ‘occupied territories’ of Palestine
permanently. Why else would they bankrupt their economy to build
settlements and roads throughout the occupied territories?
In addition they take 25% of their essential water from
Palestine. Israel has
flouted more UN resolutions than any other state.|
Israelis are deliberately terrorising a population of 3 million people
to achieve their objective. Every
day they use heavy military equipment to kill innocent civilians; more
than three times as many Palestinians are killed than Israelis! They impose curfews that are random and can last weeks,
they tear-gas regularly and they have erected roadblocks that prevent
freedom of movement. In
every home we visited someone had been imprisoned without charge and
tortured (sometimes horrifically).
Israel is in contravention of many of the provisions of the
Israelis are destroying what is left of the Palestinian economy,
through destroying factories and businesses, destroying the
Palestinian administration’s premises, blocking transport and
communication with roadblocks and denying access to water and
Settlement Map West Bank
settlements/control is blue
control is brown
click on it for a big version
believe what politicians say; look at what they do!
Israel has continued to invest heavily in settlements (colonies) to
make occupation a permanent fact on the ground.
America supplies the military equipment and especially the tear gas
so widely used. Britain and
most of the rest of the world is all wind, supporting UN resolutions but
not doing anything to enforce them (except where America wants to).
of the above condones the attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, but I would
have hoped the British would still be fighting for their freedom if the
Germans were still in occupation of Britain so long after the last war
(Israel’s first war was 1948 and the occupied territories were seized in
met some wonderful, brave and sensitive Israelis who oppose what their
government does in their name. One
key point they make is that most Israelis are unaware what is going on,
fed by a media presenting the Israeli propaganda only.
is a very hot and dry climate. The
one thing that does seem to grow is olive trees and they are a vital part
of the agricultural economy and a symbol of their lifestyle. Cultivating the olive trees has become increasingly difficult
with intimidation and violence from the army and especially from the
settlers (really a small faction of settlers).
Their intentions are primarily just to intimidate the Palestinians
through violence, but also, if land is not tended for three years Israel
automatically seizes the land, so if the Palestinians can be driven away,
even more land is expropriated by Israel.
premise of all International Voluntary activities is that Israel is trying
to hide what is going on from the rest of the world so that in general it
will be restrained when Internationals are witnesses.
Also where Palestinians can be arrested and detained without any
recourse, Internationals have to be treated within the law and have the
fallback of diplomatic pressure. In
theory Internationals are ‘safe’!
group of around 12 Internationals picked in an area called Salfeet
district (the main town), an area of roughly 10 miles radius.
Another organisation IWPS (International Women’s Palestinian
Solidarity) had been in the area a few months and had worked with the
villages and the local farmers Union to identify the trouble spots and
arrange hospitality. We were
briefed on how to bring in support from the army or police (but in
practice used IWPS to organise this) and IWPS had established relations
with the key administration personnel.
the trouble spots were close to settlements or roads and involved good
walks across really magnificent limestone mountain scenery and terracing.
We picked with families most of the time and if one ignored the
threats it was a wonderful, relaxing holiday, out in the fresh air and
sunshine doing quite gentle physical labour from around 6.30am to 3.30pm.
Lunch was typically a superb spread of middle-eastern dishes and
pitta bread, which would have cost a small fortune at restaurants back in
the UK. Evenings were usually
with the same family for dinner, usually chicken and rice with chopped
salad and yoghurt.
Girl in Yitma driven off by settlers
Threats and Intimidation
the Salfeet region the main threats were from settlers –probably a small
faction- whose basic position was that all this land had been given to the
Jews by God and that the Palestinians were just animals to be driven off
their land. There are a range
of Jewish sects that take this position and indeed claim that all the land
from the Nile to the Euphrates belongs to the Jews (so they may not stop
at the occupied territories of Palestine).
In the absence of Internationals they will either simply abuse or
threaten verbally (typical of land adjacent to roads where they just drive
by and stop) or they will start stoning (the land has a superabundance of
jagged stones!) or shooting at Palestinians to drive them off the land.
Almost all these settlers carry guns permanently.
can effectively do whatever they like without any redress from army or
police who are there to protect settlers.
Except for a few token trials no settler will be prosecuted
whatever they do and so they act with impunity.
Should they injure or kill a Palestinian then, without compelling
evidence, it would be assumed the Palestinian had behaved aggressively,
justifying the reaction.
the army gets involves, they (at least in Salfeet region) simply try to
stop the violence, usually by forcing the Palestinians off their land.
They never force the settlers to go away nor do they restrict them
physically. Only the police
can arrest a settler. With
the right negotiations, which can take days, the army will provide
protection for Palestinians under the army’s terms of when and where.
violence in the olive groves was limited to tear-gassing groves near their
perimeters. Because of
international pressure they did eventually say this was a mistake and the
olives were picked.
the villages the army is a much greater threat.
They impose curfews and then use tear gas before people can clear
the streets and in Salfeet they tear-gassed the Palestinians coming out of
the Mosque after prayers on the first night of Ramadan.
Army chatting to settlers Yasuf
Frightened in 4 days
took just 4 days to get me scared, so how the Palestinians cope is beyond
me. After all we as
Internationals are in little danger.
Even settlers would be in trouble if they kill us.
the second day in the fields we were called to run quickly as the settlers
were stoning and shooting at the Palestinians already out picking (typical
Westerners up late)! We got
there, formed a line between the settlers and the Palestinians and tried
to negotiate and calm things down. The
settlers were about 40 feet above and away from us throwing big stones
which gathered pace as they fell down.
Because there were only 4 of them it wasn’t too difficult to
watch each stone and move aside if it was near you, but sometimes when
they landed on a rock and shattered the bits went everywhere.
Eventually the army came and the settlers couldn’t throw stones
because the Palestinians had been forced back, so they started shooting,
not to hit anyone, just scare the hell out of them (this isn’t shooting
in the air, it’s shooting to miss by a few feet).
The army did stop that and called the police to arrest the
settlers, but they were released of course immediately.
army forced the Palestinians of their land that day although the
internationals stayed put –then it rained and it was a damp squib!
day with prior arrangement with the army, the whole village turned out to
pick in a difficult (large) region. At
least 200 villagers with just 12 internationals and perhaps 8 Israeli
activists. The army had a
token presence and couldn’t stop an attack by the settlers, which was
limited to stoning and kicking at close quarters.
Intimidating, but no serious injuries, but it demonstrated that we
simply hadn’t enough resources to cover so many farmers.
The setters smashed a TV camera with an iron bar.
Eventually the army brought in more support, the settlers were
moved away and a couple of hours later picking got underway, but still
restricted from picking near the settlement.
Farmers, mass pick Yasuf
Lovely family Yitma driven off by settlers (see baby in
day four, a small group of us went to help at a nearby village –Yitma
(the army wouldn’t permit more picking at Yasuf that day).
This time the settlers actually came with the army to drive the
Palestinians off their land. All
the army tried to do was limit the violence.
The settlers all had guns and were trying to kick the Palestinians;
I found I had to jump in between one settler kicking a woman and then run
to rescue a child scared stiff of them.
Then the settlers started upending the sheets to tip the picked
olives onto the ground and overturn the sacks, all in front of the army!
We did try and open a discussion with these settlers (naive still
at this stage), which elicited the usual bigoted response.
But the significant theme was that the settlers saw the
Palestinians as animals, to be treated s animals and, since they were
violent animals, justifying the settlers carrying guns to kill them.
day we were picking just a few hundred meters from the day before, all
seemed peaceful although we heard a bursts of gunfire from just over the
hill, perhaps 10 minutes walk away. That
night we were told 5 Palestinians had been injured by settlers who had
driven along the road and shot. Then
we heard that in a village called Yanoon, about 15km away, the settlers
had driven 20 families out of their homes and burnt them to the ground.
next day we were to pick close to the road where trouble was expected from
the settlers who had shot the day before.
By now I was seriously frightened.
Not enough to run away, but enough to start to understand what it
must be like for Palestinians living with this day in day out; who have to
survive when the Internationals go home
I went I simply condemned all Israelis; after all they voted for this
brutal government. Of course
it wasn’t like that. No
more than a few thugs in a football crowd mean that all fans are thugs.
actions were helped at their most critical stages by the support of
Israeli activists mainly under the group Rabbis for Human Rights. Travelling with them gave me time to get to know them and in
every case they reflected the most socially conscious, compassionate and
intelligent people one is ever likely to meet.
one incident has to be recorded. During
the big co-ordinated olive picking at Yasuf, with some dozen settlers, all
armed with guns causing all sorts of violence I was watching and filming
from the opposite side of the valley.
Through my Binoculars I watched one white haired, older man
tracking with a group of three settlers and engaging them in negotiations
against violence. They had
moved well away from any army surveillance.
I watched horrified as one settler thrust his gun into the old mans
chest and pushed him away, expecting at any moment to see an accident.
Of course he just kept his cool and continued talking.
Later I caught up with him and expressed my admiration for his
courage. “Oh, that was
nothing, he had the safety catch on and was just showing off” he said.
He seemed to be at every confrontation after that, always at the
forefront de-escalating the aggression.
"If in the
first act you introduce a gun, by the third act you have to use it."
-- Anton Chekov
is the Israeli preferred strategy.
The state of Israel was born out of terror, driving the British
out, then massacring Arab villagers to drive them out too.
Then the war of 1948 to secure more territory than the UN
allocated and then the big 1967 war to annex Palestine and the Golan
heights. They invaded
Egypt and then Lebanon. .|
know that International pressure evaporates.
They have escalated the violence progressively.
I remember how the world objected to the first use of F16s on
civilians. Now it happens
almost daily and doesn’t receive any condemnation.|
who stands back and does nothing to oppose the Israeli terror is
implicitly condoning it and carries a moral responsibility for it
continuing. There’s an
old quote about doing nothing when they came for the Jews, ending with
there was no one left when they came for me!|
with a moral conscience should be prepared to make their views know
politically and to lobby for a political solution.
Do please contact me by email to
support the Palestinian cause.
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