Settlers harvest Palestinian olive trees
“They steal our land, they steal our harvest and kill our animals. And the authorities don’t do anything about it.” Ali Eid, mayor of Burin
Israeli settlers started to harvest Palestinian olives in Burin as though they were the owners. Clashes between local Palestinians and residents from the Yitzhar settlement broke out on Monday Sept. 20th. after the settlers entered an orchard with ladders and sheets and started picking the olives. Similar incidences happened in two other villages in the region of Nablus . (see: www.maannews.net)
One day later a small group of settlers came back to the same grove in Burin. While at the same time a group of villagers arrived with local and international press and tried to prevent them from picking the harvest. The two groups were separated by the Israeli military and policemen, trying to prevent an escalation like the day before. But instead of removing the intruders from the place. The Palestinian owners of the land were forced to leave.
“It is their tactic”, said Mohammad Najjah, owner of the olive trees the settlers picked from yesterday. “The settlers try to make it difficult for us to stay and in the end they want to dispel us from here (…) Even so we have the papers that prove: it is our land they are trying to take it from us.”
At the same time the army and Israeli police in the West Bank mainly acts for the protection of the settlers and is not providing appropriate protection and security for the Palestinian population. Even so after the Oslo Accords they are responsible for security related issues in about 60% of West Bank territory.
“We had hundrets of incidences like this one in this are”, stated the major of Burin, Ali Eid, pointing out the lack of justice. “They steal our land, they steal our harvest and kill our animals. But the authorities don’t do anything about it. They only defend the settlers, they never arrest them. It is like there is no law.”
Ali Eid himself lost more about 120 olive trees that were chopped down by settlers in 2005. Even so he filed a complain at the District Coordination Office and employed a lawyer no investigations were made by the authorities, no one got arrested let alone a compensation paid for his loss.
Only two and a half weeks ago settlers from Yitzhar chopped down about twenty olive trees of a local farmer. Since he already lost eighty trees due to similar attacks in the last ten month he lost olives with the value of about 15.000€ , basically the only income of his family. (see: www.oliveseeds.wordpress.com)
Palestinians entering an Israeli orchard can be charged for tresspassing and theft with a couple of month in prison. But neither yesterday nor today any arrest were made.The settlers were just turned away which leaves a high risk of having them comming back to try again to steal the olives.
At least the army confiscated the already harvested crops. They took them to the police station where the owner of the land can pick them up, when providing the papers proving his ownership. This means half a day of travel and some bureaucratic efforts for the victims of the crime while the perpretators go free.
Its a situation of lawlessness, like the major summarized it. Still they will fight for their rights and fight for staying here. But he also has no big hopes for any future peace deal. “We have lost everything with the Oslo accords”, he says, reffering to the division of the West Bank area, in which Israel still holds absolute controll to about 60% of the territorium. “After the United Nations an international law we have the right to live here. They steal our land with the settlements and the building of the wall and they do not want to give us anything. There can’t be any peace until they give us our right and follow the international law.”