Sowing evil

People who cultivate the land and produce food for their fellow men share a special bond with all other “sons of the soil” who practice the same life’s work.  In all cultures and traditions, the farmer enjoys is a unique place in society, accorded a particular kind of dignity and considered worthy of a special degree of respect.  By the same token, any farmer who would steal the fruit of his neighbor’s fields, or, worse still, who would ruin or poison his neighbor’s crops, is universally condemned as guilty of a grave sin against humanity.  The two articles below confirm the increasingly disturbing reality that an ugly culture has developed among many of the most aggressive members of Israel’s “settler” class that is mean, racist and deeply inhumane.


From: Ilene Cohen
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 9:18 AM
Subject: occupation update, October 13, 2010: stealing the olives, poisoning the olive trees, gettting away with it

October 13, 2010

As always, the settlers do what they can to sow evil.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Abu Aliya, who has lost about half of his 300 olive trees, made a promise. “The moment the settlers leave,” he said, “I’ll make a big celebration. I’ll slaughter a buffalo.”

The departure of the settlers from occupied Palestine (when that blessed day comes) should set off celebration, not only among Palestinians who will reclaim their stolen land, but also worldwide. What horrors they have wrought in the name of Judaism—and with the support of the all Israeli governments and their friends abroad. Shame.

The second article tells the Haaretz version of the story. My quibble: the notion that settlers need to “circumvent” the IDF in committing their crimes against Palestinians is misleading. The settlers and the IDF have perfected a decades-long pas de deux by which settlers attack Palestinians and Palestinian property with impunity. This is the same IDF, by the way, that knows the names and whereabouts of every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza. Don’t believe this tale of settlers needing to circumvent anything. There is full complicity and collaboration with the IDF.


In West Bank, Peace Symbol Now Signifies Struggle

By Isabel Kershner, October 12, 2010 (Turmus Aya Journal)

TURMUS AYA, West Bank — Palestinians from villages like this one in the West Bank governorate of Ramallah still remember when the olive harvest was a joyous occasion, with whole families out for days in the fall sunshine, gathering the year’s crop and picnicking under the trees.

“We considered it like a wedding,” said Hussein Said Hussein Abu Aliya, 68.

But when Mr. Abu Aliya and his family from the neighboring village of Al-Mughayer — 36 of them in all, including grandchildren — drove out to their land this week in a snaking convoy of cars and pickup trucks with others from Turmus Aya, they found scores of their trees on the rocky slopes in various stages of decay, recently poisoned, they said, by Jewish settlers from an illegal Israeli outpost on top of the hill.

Branches drooped, the once lush, silver-green leaves were turning brown and the few olives still clinging on, which should have been plump and green or purple by harvest time, were shriveled and black. Dozens of trees nearby that Mr. Abu Aliya contended were similarly poisoned with chemicals last year stood like spindly skeletons, gray and completely bare.

Religious Jewish settlers consider the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, as their biblical birthright. For the 2.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank, it constitutes the heartland of a future independent state. While the Americans and Palestinians wrangle with the Israeli government over continued Israeli construction in the West Bank settlements — an issue that has stalled the embryonic peace talks — the competition for control of each acre of land here is being played out day by day.

And the olive tree, an ancient symbol of peace and plenty that has also long been a Palestinian emblem of steadfastness and commitment to the land, has increasingly become a symbol of local, almost intimate, struggle and strife.

Husniya al-Araj, 60, said she was born in a cave nearby, in an orchard of olive and almond trees. But when she reached her family lands this week, she cried out in shock. She pointed to a newly plowed field in front of her that she said was part of her family property, but that seemed to have been taken over by the settlers. It was now surrounded by a shiny new barbed-wire fence and planted with young vines.

Mahmud Ahmad Hazama, a relative who takes care of the Araj family property, said the barbed-wire fence went up in July. Folded in his wallet was a handwritten record of every change and every complaint Mr. Hazama had made to the Israeli Army and police since 1995.

“They ask me for documents,” he said. “We have all of them. The last thing they asked for was a topographic map.” He said he had received no answers so far.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the police were aware of the problems. Every complaint is investigated, he says, but sometimes the culprits turn out not to be settlers, and sometimes there is not enough evidence to know. In some cases, the complaints do lead to arrests of settlers, he says.

Tamar Asraf, spokeswoman for the Binyamin Council, which represents the settlers in this region, said that for the most part the olive harvest passes peacefully, but that there were Palestinians and settlers who cause damage to one another. “We condemn them both,” she said.

Mr. Hazama’s relatives, like many other families, found their olive trees intact but empty of fruit. They argued that the olives must have been stolen by settlers, though they had no proof.

In other villages to the north, like Yanoun, Jit and Imatin, olives were stolen from hundreds of trees in the past few days, according to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli organization that helps Palestinians farm lands in trouble spots year-round.

This was the first time the villagers of Turmus Aya and Al-Mughayer had been able to have access to their lands in six months. To do so, they need permission and protection from the Israeli Army, for a few days for plowing in springtime and a few days for picking in the fall. In the past, unprotected visits to the land ended with many stories of attacks by extremist settlers and burned cars.

This time, soldiers were guarding the villagers from the hilltop where the outpost, Adei Ad, sits. Three soldiers in khaki uniforms were sitting under one of Mr. Abu Aliya’s trees, almost camouflaged among its iridescent leaves while mountain gazelles sprang across the hills.

Adei Ad was established in the late 1990s on state and private Palestinian land, according to Israeli records. Though it was established without any official authorization, the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction provided financing for some of the infrastructure.

About 30 families live in trailers at Adei Ad, which has been scheduled for removal for seven years. The settlers have now put up an “eruv,” an elevated string on poles that encircles a community and allows observant Jews to carry objects within the proscribed area on the Sabbath. Mr. Abu Aliya has no idea what the string is for, but he says it runs right through his land.

This year, the harvest was less of a celebration, and more a show of perseverance. The Palestinian Authority governor of the Ramallah district, Laila Ghannam, joined the olive pickers and ate breakfast with the mayor of Turmus Aya under a tree.

“Our presence here is proof that this is our land and we will never give it up,” she said.

Members of a new unit from the authority’s Ministry of Agriculture were also out in the fields with notebooks, documenting the villagers’ complaints and counting the poisoned trees. They took samples of wilting branches to send to an Israeli laboratory for testing in the hope that the results could be used as future evidence in an Israeli court.

Mr. Abu Aliya, who has lost about half of his 300 olive trees, made a promise. “The moment the settlers leave,” he said, “I’ll make a big celebration. I’ll slaughter a buffalo.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 13, 2010, on page A6 of the New York edition.

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Settlers learn how to circumvent IDF to strike at Palestinian olive harvest

Settlers are believed to be entering Palestinian olive groves before IDF can send troops to protect the harvesters.

By Avi Issacharoff and Anshel Pfeffer, 02:35 13.10.10 (

Settlers from the northern West Bank have reportedly been circumventing attempts by the Israel Defense Forces to protect Palestinian farmers as they harvest their olives. The settlers are believed to be entering Palestinian olive groves before the army can send troops to protect the harvesters – and taking the olives or destroying the trees.

The residents of the village of Burin near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West bank said a group of settlers had tried to keep them away from their land and had thrown stones at them. Afterward, the security forces intervened, and there were no injuries.

However, there are apparently far fewer violent clashes between settlers and Palestinian farmers than in years past.

As of last year’s harvest, the Civil Administration contacted Palestinian farmers with lands near settlements with which there had been friction to offer them protection during the harvest. Companies of Border Police and IDF officers are moving gradually from north to south and providing protection to farmers so they can harvest their crops unhindered by settlers.

The number of clashes between settlers and Palestinians dropped off sharply as a result.

This year, the harvest began about 10 days ago, and according to IDF officers, there have been cases where settlers knew ahead of time which days the army was going to be guarding which orchards. It is believed that the settlers arrived before guards could be posted, and under cover of darkness harvested most of the olives themselves.

In the orchards near the outpost of Havat Gilad in the central northern West Bank, an officer said an IDF patrol had seen two settlers coming with two sacks of olives to one of the houses in the outpost.

In two cases, Civil Administration personnel found the thieves, confiscated the stolen olives and returned them to their rightful owners.

However, security sources say it is very difficult to prevent theft and the district police do not treat thieves harshly when they are caught.

According to Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for B’Tselem, which is monitoring the olive harvest, said the settlers are believed to have a “new strategy” and that rather than resorting to physical violence, they were taking advantage of the fact that everyone knows the times when the guards are to be posted.

“In a number of places where the Palestinians are not allowed for the rest of the year, when they come on the days allocated to them, they find the olives have disappeared,” Michaeli said. About 100 trees had been bored into and ruined near the village of Turmus Aya north of Ramallah, Michaeli said. “In the village of Deir al-Hatab, south of Eilon Moreh, a B’Tselem field worker found a group of young Jewish men with their teacher, harvesting olives on privately owned Palestinian land” she said.

Also near Turmus Aya, Palestinian farmers found that some 400 trees had been harvested before they could get there.

Itai Zer, the leader of Havat Gilad, denies that anyone at the outpost had been involved in the theft of olives. “One of our guys was harvesting olives on our land,” he said. “Then the Civil Administration came and said it was not sure that was our land. But its a disputed area now before the court,” he said.

The Civil Administration has distributed written instructions to soldiers involved in guarding the orchards, ordering them to act decisively against harassment of Palestinians harvesting their olives. “Soldiers are not permitted to stand idly by and must act within the framework of their function to prevent the offense and to restore order. Soldiers on the scene must also prevent offenders from fleeing and preserve the evidence, if possible,” the instructions say.

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