Ancient olive trees, stolen from Palestinian lands, now decorate Israeli settlement

olive tree
Olive tree, said to be several hundred years old, transplanted to Israeli settlement 

A week or so back I toured the sprawling Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim with Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. And he pointed out several ancient olive trees that he said had been taken by Israelis from Palestinian lands and transplanted to this new “Israeli” city inside occupied Palestine.

In this video below, Halper points out several olive trees, some over 400 years, that he believes were stolen from Palestinians. The trees would never grow here ordinarily. And he says that in other cases Israeli soldiers who have removed the trees from Palestinian villages have sold the trees to the nouveau riche in north Tel Aviv. 

These trees were in Palestinian families for 400 years, Halper says, and provided generations with sustenance. Their removal and transplanting are part of the “banal” humiliation of Palestinians.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 44 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. When is a crime not a crime?

    • Erasmus says:

      Re atime forpeace-Question: When is a crime not a crime?

      Answer: When a Givati Brigade IDF soldier kills 2 women waiving a white flag during the Gaza War –
      that is not a war crime according to Israeli court, but only “illegal use of a weapon”.
      The anonymous soldier in question has been given a 45 days sentence !!!

      Please see: link to haaretz.com

      • Woody Tanaka says:

        Don’t worry, I’m sure that Fredo will be along shortly to defend this injustice and explain how 45 days for two murders is actually too harsh (when a Jew does it to an Arab, but not the over way around, of course!)

  2. eljay says:

    Trees that massive you don’t just pluck out of the ground, toss into your pick-up truck and drive off with. I imagine that digging them up and relocating them would be a fairly substantial and costly undertaking.

    Does the oppressive, colonialist and supremacist “Jewish State” not have better things to do with its money within its 1948 1967 borders lands – such as, say, look after ["Remember the] Holocaust[!"] survivors?

    • Henry Norr says:

      >Trees that massive you don’t just pluck out of the ground, toss into your pick-up
      >truck and drive off with. I imagine that digging them up and relocating them
      >would be a fairly substantial and costly undertaking.

      You are absolutely right on that score, Eljay – it is a substantial and costly undertaking. That’s why they need contractors with huge cranes, Caterpillar earth movers, and heavy trucks – plus armed settler guards. Don’t believe it? Look at the pictures here of the clearing in 2004 of olive grows that belonged to the people of Jayyous, in the Qalqilya district, to make room for expansion of the Zufim settlement. The contractors bulldozed the smaller, scraggly trees, but the ones they thought would fetch a good price – ones that were straight and full – they carefully picked up with their scoops and cranes, preserving lot of roots and the earth around them, and placed them in the big trucks for transport to settlements or Israeli towns. The guard on the project, seeing that the guy who took those pictures (from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program) was so interested in the trees, even offered to sell him a few!

      If you were to spend some time in the West Bank – with Palestinian villagers, not your settler comrades – you would know that this kind of tree robbery happens regularly. The only thing unusual about the Jayyous incident was that someone with a camera was there to document it.

    • MLE says:

      It is a big deal and expensive to boot. They really really wanted those trees

  3. YoungMassJew says:

    Phil, I’m really glad you made this video with Jeff Halper. It accurately depicts the Orwellian contradictions he referred to and what I couldn’t wrap my head around when I was in Israel until I got back to the states. The Zionist state doesn’t know what century it lives in. It’s a modern highly developed country that enjoys the perks of a 21 century lifestyle ( chain coffee shops like Aromah), but whose political system and national mentality with the colonial racism is stuck in the 19 th century. That’s why the pace of life is off beat because it doesn’t have a defined normal identity. Another example: When I stayed at the Neve Ilan hotel on the outskirts of Jerusalem on birthright the hotel had to bend over backwards for the Orthodox guests who came in droves on Shabbat night. So picture a bunch of Secular/Reform American Jews who have had little interaction with Orthodox Jews in their life witnessing the Orthodox coming in droves getting the hotel to turn off the coffee makers, put barricades in front of the automatic doors so no one can use them, use kosher elevators with no electricity, specific hotel rooms/separate floors that don’t use the automatic key cards. Sorry if that sounds offensive; I have distant relatives that are Orthodox by the way so no I don’t hate Orthodox Jews. It’s just that the place is bizarro-world. And Israeli Jews seem, by and large, to think this is normal and how the world should operate.

    • Mooser says:

      Great comment YMJ. I’m always glad to read comments which relate personal experiences, and the reaction to the experience. Thanks.
      You know, I had some very strict Orthodox near relatives. As hard as I try, I can’t imagine them forcing their practices on anyone else, Jew or non-Jew. And about the last day they would pick to get all exercised about who was or wasn’t adhering to which commandment was the Sabbath, which was Holy. The chicken soup (prepared day before and served on the Sabbath) was absolutely delicious. And visually attractive clear, wonderful golden broth, veg nicely chopped, too. I don’t know if it could cure anything, but it sure couldn’t hurt. I think I ate it by the gallon.

    • Mooser says:

      “use kosher elevators with no electricity’

      Uh, how do they think the elevator goes up and down, even if the lights in it are off?,

      • Chu says:

        It’s called a shabbat elevator. Plenty of them at NYU Hospitals. They are set to stop at every floor so no one touches a button. It’s really a loophole.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “It’s called a shabbat elevator. Plenty of them at NYU Hospitals. They are set to stop at every floor so no one touches a button. It’s really a loophole.”

          Every floor? Are they mad? Holy cow…

        • Chu says:

          A regular elevator turns into a shabbat elevator on Saturday only. But many of the hospitals have 4 of more elevators in their lobby. The shabbos stops at every floor. So a 20 story building will take you about ten minutes to get to the top floor. Inefficient, you think.

    • chinese box says:

      @YoungMassJew

      Good points, although I would go back even further than the 19th century. The Hebron settlers come across like fanatical peasants from the middle ages, not people in a modern state. And huge defensive walls around territory are straight out of antiquity. Despite it’s vaunted high tech startups Israel seems to be in a bit of a time warp.

    • Theo says:

      “Sorry if it sounds offensive…”

      Noone in his right mind would find your text offensive, I find it hilarious and had a good laugh. Those antics you describe would be great stuff to the Marx Brothers.
      Those orthodox jews try to turn back the history 3,000 years, ignoring the fact that they are just a minority with nutty ideas.

    • Chu says:

      YMJ, Can’t the old and new coexist? Isn’t that the charm that
      so many are very fond of explaining after a trip to Israel.

  4. Fredblogs says:

    So basically, this guy is just seeing some olive trees and guessing they were transplanted from Palestinians. Any what do you call that, oh, yeah, evidence? Apart from some bizarre assertion that “olive trees wouldn’t grow there”. Why not?

    • eljay says:

      >> Apart from some bizarre assertion that “olive trees wouldn’t grow there”. Why not?

      It is very possible that the olive trees grew where they are today, and that when supremacist “Jewish State” over-ran, stole and colonized the land, the colony was planned in such a way that turning circles would contain mature olive trees in them.

      Man, those hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists sure know how to design a colony! Must be one of their “superior culture” skills…

      • Fredblogs says:

        Why not? It’s a heck of a lot easier routing a road you haven’t built yet around an existing tree than to transplant a centuries old tree.

    • MRW says:

      Look it up, Fredblogs. It’s called horticulture. Talk to a nursery. Find out how many years is required for that level of growth. Any landscape architect can inform you.

    • ToivoS says:

      Those are four hundred year old trees. It does seem like a very difficult task to transplant one. What they are, however, are a clean marker that there was an agricultural society living on that land in the 17th century. Now who would that be? Since there is no such thing as a Palestinian and there is no mention of 17th century Jewish olive farmers in the West Bank we do have a mystery.

      [add comment: Halper may be right. I noticed in the background a large concrete wall. If those were pre-poured concrete slabs, some large cranes would be needed to lift them into place. Those cranes could handle those olive trees with ease.]

      • RoHa says:

        The trees are not stolen, and they are not four hundred years old. Superior Israeli technology has made it possible to grow trees that tall in a matter of weeks. The trees produce olives, cherry tomatoes, and Intel chips.

    • MLE says:

      The Palestinians couldn’t care for the olive trees, so they Israelis took them over. Olive trees are much to nice to waste on Palestinians…
      (sarcasm)

      Living in Hawaii, people will move exceptionally nice trees, especially for decorative purposes. Resorts like doing it, because it brings nice old trees to an area which didn’t have those particular trees to begin with to show off the beautiful wildlife. It’s not that hard to find out whether that tree was there 60 years ago- find a photograph taken of the area at the time and look and see if there is a tree there (it will be a younger tree but you can identify the tree pretty easily).

    • MLE says:

      Was it built on a olive orchard? Maybe before Israel “made the desert bloom” that particular area did not support olive trees and it took extensive lanscaping to be ale to sustain it

    • Fredblogs
      Another missed opportunity to keep your lousy mouth shut. Here’s your evidence:
      link to chris-on-the-bike.de

  5. So that’s the superior culture the Romney-bot was referring to?

  6. Kathleen says:

    Important that Halper is sharing how these abuses have been going on for decades. Helping those who have joined the Palestinian justice movement more recently get it. Those olive trees should be given back. No need to wonder why the Palestinians have been moved to violence. Although as most of us hope they will continue to focus on non violent means to bring attention to the daily humiliation and crimes committed against them by the Israeli government and illegal settlers

    Great clip Phil. Visuals are huge

  7. sydnestel says:

    Phil, watch out! Halpern to talks with his hands, even when he is driving – both hands much of the time !! (at 55 and again at 1:25 and …)

  8. Where’s Yonah to tell us that this is “sloppy reporting”? They’re not ancient old trees. 4oo years do not “ancient” make. Just very old maybe..

  9. According to Maya Zinshtein’s investigative reports on smuggled olive trees, while some olive trees are stolen by Israelis, many Arab farmers are tempted by the big cash that wealthy Israelis will pay for such a status symbol and ‘Arab’ trees are transported into Israel on an individual basis by Palestinians through the “fabric of life” gates in the separation wall.

    link to haaretz.com

    So how does Mr. Halper know which of the olive trees he sees are in fact stolen, and not olive trees that were uprooted and sold by Palestinians and smuggled to rich Israelis?

    I’m dying to know.

    • Olive-tree dealers describe a perfectly legal world in which every tree has a documented pedigree and all of the requisite permits. In practice, the trees’ migration often involves an illicit aspect. The Forest Law introduced in Mandatory Palestine, which constitutes the legal basis for protecting trees in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, prohibits felling, transporting or transplanting an olive tree unless the requisite permits have been granted. Such permits may be provided, including to private landowners, only by Ministry of Agriculture forestry officials and officials at the Jewish National Fund. The Agriculture Ministry and JNF say there is a big gap between the permits they issue and the number of trees on sale in the market; a number of people involved in this business talk about a 50-percent gap.

      an illicit aspect? the journalist already informed us of that.”Trees decades and centuries old are being uprooted, some by thieves, others by their owners”. what kind of thieves?

      “Everything is done in an orderly fashion, with permits,” he insists. “These are trees that grew for generations upon generations, mainly belonging to Galilee Arabs. In principle, Arabs do not remove trees from the ground, but sometimes they have to enlarge their house, sometimes a road is paved through their land, and then they are forced to uproot the trees and are given permission by the JNF. Trees from the territories? No way. It is forbidden to bring trees from there because the State of Israel does not have permission to uproot there.”

      do you think we are idiots?

      • ColinWright says:

        “…do you think we are idiots?”

        A lie — even when everyone knows it’s a lie — still has a certain power to frustrate criticism.

        Ever tried arguing with a difficult fifteen year old? More ominously, why do you think the Germans hitched cars loaded with agricultural implements onto the back of trains loaded with Jews headed for ‘resettlement in the East’?

    • ToivoS says:

      Oh come on proud Zionist you are proud of stealing land from the Palestinians for decades now, why quibble over a few trees. You should just be proud of your more recent conquests. Stand tall!! Let the whole world know that you own those 400 year old trees even if there were no Jewish olive farmers then. They now belong to you because they were stolen fair and square. Why are you so coy, let the world know of your conquests.

    • eljay says:

      >> … ‘Arab’ trees are transported into Israel on an individual basis by Palestinians through the “fabric of life” gates in the separation wall. … So how does Mr. Halper know which of the olive trees he sees are in fact stolen, and not olive trees that were uprooted and sold by Palestinians and smuggled to rich Israelis?
      >> I’m dying to know.

      I’m dying to know how Israel allows Palestinians – all of whom are anti-Semitic, Israel-hating, push-Jews-into-the-sea terrrrrrrrist Ay-rabs – to “smuggle” massive olive trees through “‘fabric of life’ [seriously?] gates” in its apartheid wall.

      Do the Palestinians cleverly exclaim “Omigod, what’s that over there?!” and, while the soldiers’ heads are turned for the next 30 or so minutes, they scurry through the wall with their trucks, cranes and trees and just…disappear?

  10. Velvet says:

    When is a crime not a crime? 45 days punishment may seem light, but considering that the life of an Israeli Jew is worth 100 times that of a non-jew, the sentence is actually over 12 years.

    • Mooser says:

      “considering that the life of an Israeli Jew is worth 100 times that of a non-jew, the sentence is actually over 12 years”

      Good point!

  11. chinese box says:

    “And he says that in other cases Israeli soldiers who have removed the trees from Palestinian villages have sold the trees to the nouveau riche in north Tel Aviv. ”

    But I thought everyone in Tel Aviv was SO progressive, so anti-occupation? Or maybe these buyers are just careful not to ask too many questions about where these gigantic trees came from.

  12. A Palestinian doing something without a permit is likely to get his home bulldozed. An Israeli doing something without a permit is likely to one who issues permits.

  13. Henry Norr says:

    Another example of settlers stealing Palestinian olive trees, from a report in Ma’an News this week:

    BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers uprooted agricultural land in the Bethlehem village of al-Khader on Monday, a local committee said.

    Ahmad Salah, spokesman for the local committee against the wall and settlements, told Ma’an that five dunams of private Palestinian land were leveled in al-Absiyya, near the settlement of Elazar.

    Olive trees and a well belonging to Riziq Muhammad Hussein Salah were also destroyed.

    Settlers led by a female leader then stole several uprooted olive trees and took them away in trucks, Salah said.

    “Her name is Nadia Matar the founder of the settler group known as women in green. This group maintains that all hills in the Etzion area must be under settler control to build religious schools and parks,” he added. …