October 17, 2010


The force is with them: Olive season is upon the West Bank, and the IDF is deployed to protect Palestinian pickers. (Avi Issacharoff, 10/08/10, Ha'aretz)

It’s olive harvest season in the West Bank. A second lieutenant in uniform, wearing a knitted skullcap, approaches one of the Palestinians picking olives in a grove within the settlement of Karnei Shomron. “Why are you picking the olives like that?” he asks, and suggests a different method, which he thinks is more efficient. The Palestinian, who is from the nearby village of Lakif, explains to the officer that his own method is faster and better.

The second lieutenant was there with three soldiers, all reservists, to guard the Jaber family, from Lakif, who this week went out every morning to harvest the olives in their grove. The soldiers were there to protect the Palestinians from the settlers.

Tuesday, midday. The soldiers are eating their packed lunch, the Palestinians are busy harvesting. But the father of the family, Suleiman Jaber, is unhappy. He says he arrives at the settlement’s gate at 7 A.M. with his three children and another eight workers, along with a tractor and additional equipment. “The army won’t show up for an another hour,” he says.

The Palestinians cannot get to the grove alone. Soldiers escort them from the guard post to the olive grove. The land belongs to Jaber, but it is situated deep inside the settlement. “It has been our land for 80 years, 32.5 dunams” − just over eight acres − he says. “But this year I was able to get to the plot for only one day, on February 15. Since then they have not let me enter. On Sunday I came to the trees in the morning and found someone already had gotten to them. All the olives on the lower branches had been picked − my harvest was partly stolen. A settler arrived with bags and I quickly called the Civil Administration and spoke to an officer named Bahajeth. He told me he could see the man. But I don’t know if they did anything with the information.”

He points to a well that was ruined − by settlers, he says − and to a tree that has been cut down. “This is how we found the plot on Sunday morning. We wanted to bring in two tractors, but the security officer of the settlement said only one was allowed. Who is he to tell me what is allowed and what is not? This is my land. They did not arrive here until 1982, and now they give me orders.”

Jaber says the road leading to the settlement of Ginot Shomron, too, was built on his land.
“They have given me five days to harvest all the olives,” he says. “How I will do that, I don’t know.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2010 5:52 AM
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