Israel forbids Palestinians picking olives

The Israeli army today issued a new directive forbidding Palestinians from picking olives in the West Bank. October and November are the main months for olive harvesting.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’eretz reported that the Israeli army issued the prohibition on gathering olive harvests, claiming that Israeli troops could not protect pickers from Jewish settlers. Yediot Ahronot, another Israeli newspaper, further noted that Israel’s army could not protect Palestinians because they were fortifying positions in Palestinian cities.

According to information gathered by LAW, Israeli forces were implementing this order from the early hours today. This morning Israeli forces prevented olive pickers from the ‘Ayoun al-Haramiyyeh area, west of Ramallah from picking olives. The forces took away the ID cards of 25 farmers for two hours, and ordered them to return home, threatening to shoot them if they returned.

In light of this new directive preventing Palestinians from gathering their harvests, LAW asserts the following:

This directive comes in a chain of punishing incidents undertaken, and continues to be undertaken by illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinians picking their olives. During this month, Israeli settlers have carried out a number of attacks on Palestinian farmers and their lands, this being Palestine’s olive season.

On Thursday, October 10, Settlers killed Hani Bani Murra (26), from ‘Aqraba village near Nablus. Due to continuous settler fire, his companions were only able to take him to the local health center after two hours. He died shortly before reaching the center after severe bleeding. It appears that the same settler group was responsible for killing Farid Nasasrah (28) on October 17, 2000, when they opened fire at a group of Palestinian harvesters.

On Saturday October 12, settlers opened fire on Palestinian olive pickers in Beit Forik, near Nablus. When Israeli troops arrived to the area they arrested 6 Palestinian farmers and prevented others from harvesting their olive trees. Settlers also carried out similar attacks on Palestinians farmers in Orif, Kfar Kalil, Deir al-Hatab, and Salem in the district of Nablus on the same day. Also on Saturday October 12, Israeli settlers set fire to olive groves in Silwad and al-Mizra’a al-Sharqiyya, east of Ramallah. The fire destroyed approximately 2000 olive trees belonging to Palestinian families.

It is clear to LAW that this directive serves to encourage illegal Israeli settlers to undertake more race-hate crimes against Palestinians and their lands. Moreover, this directive serves as a harsh blow to the Palestinian economy, particularly its agricultural economy, with olives and olive products, such as oil and soap, forming the main means of livelihood for many Palestinians. Already suffering for more than two years under severe economic depression and destruction. This directive serves as a new attack on the Palestinian economy.

Finally, this directive comes after days following Israeli forces at checkpoints distributing pamphlets against the Palestinian Authority, directly threatening Palestinian farmers, who they described as offering assistance to implement enemy operations against Israel, with preventing them from harvesting their olives.

LAW notes that if Israel and its military is thus concerned about protecting the lives of Palestinians against violent illegal Israeli settlers acting with virtually sheer impunity, it would do well to heed the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), and the Fourth Hague Convention (1907), relevant to the practice of settlement in an Occupied Territory.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.” Article 29 of the same Convention states that “The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons [i.e., civilian Palestinians] …is responsible for the treatment according to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility that may be incurred.”

Article 27 of the same Convention provides that, “Protected persons are entitled in all circumstances, to respect for their persons…and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….” This article also provides for the protection of property of protected persons.