The occupied West Bank produces one of the best kinds of olive oil in the world. According to Oxfam, there are around 9 million olive trees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian harvest of olive trees is confronted with the Israeli settlers’ theft, burn and vandalism of these trees.
These settlers also confiscate olive trees and assault the Palestinian farmers to prevent them from reaching their fields. Such Israeli practices aim to hide the Palestinian culture, represented by the deeply-rooted olive trees, especially as the Israeli occupation forces have uprooted around 1.5 million Palestinian olive trees since 1967.
Fares Al Jabi, Director of the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development, said, “The extracted olive oil last year was 21 thousand tons, while it was 26 thousand tons in 2014 and it is expected to reach 16 thousand tons this years.” The reason behind this decline is the rise of temperature, according to Al Jabi.
Furthermore, the even years generally have a better harvest than the odd years. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the olive trees and oil represent 15% of the value of agricultural production in Palestine, which is equal to a billion dollars a year.
Concerns As the harvest season approaches, Palestinian farmers are concerned about the increase of Israeli settlers’ attacks on the Palestinian farms and farmers. Nimr Zuhdi, a Palestinian farmer from Khirbat Yanun, south-east of Nablus, stated that that the Palestinian farmers are insistent on reaching their lands on harvest time despite all the jeopardy imposed by Israelis. Zuhdi pointed out that the Israeli settlers confront the Palestinians during the harvest season and let their trained dogs loose to attack them.
They also steal the olives after they are harvested under the protection of Israeli soldiers and police. Zuhdi called upon the official agencies to take responsibility to face the Israeli targeting of Palestinian lands that harm the Palestinian livelihoods. Voluntary campaigns Abu Omar, head of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief committees in Nablus, expressed his concern over the approach of the harvest season as Israeli forces and settlers are used to pursuing and abusing Palestinian farmers. He confirmed that the committee is gathering volunteers to make campaigns to protect the Palestinian farmers.
Abu Omar stated that the IOF prevent the Palestinian farmers from reaching their lands in the harvest seasons, pretexting that they are closed military areas. He added that the Israeli violations never end but they escalate in the olive harvest season.
He also called on the Palestinian schools, universities and institutions and on Arab and foreign activists to support and take the side of Palestinian farmers to face the Israeli unjust practices