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Video: As the olive harvest begins, so do the settler attacks

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The time had finally come: the residents of Turmusayya, a lush Palestinian village nestled in a valley between Ramallah and Nablus in the central occupied West Bank, had gotten permission from Israeli authorities to go harvest their olive trees.

This chance only came twice a year: two days in the spring to cultivate their land, and two days in the fall to harvest the olives.

Filled with excitement and a sense of urgency, the villagers made their way to their farmlands, which are surrounded by an Israeli settlement and outpost. When they arrived, they were devastated to find dozens of trees chopped down, uprooted, and rotting.

The 40 olive trees belonged to 78-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Araj, who had been tending to the trees since he was a boy.

“Some of these trees are 40, 50, 60, and 70 years old,” al-Araj told Mondoweiss, as he sat under the shade of a large olive tree that had been slashed at its trunk.

“I have been cultivating these trees, this land, since I was a boy. We helped our families and tired ourselves on this land so we could provide for our children and the future generations,” he said.

Pointing to the illegal Israeli outpost of Adei Ad, which was built on lands of Turmusayya, just a few hundred meters away, the distress in al-Araj’s voice intensified.

“We give everything we have to our land and to these trees, and then the settlers come and destroy it all.”

Settler attacks an ‘inevitable’ part of the harvest

“When we saw the trees like this, we didn’t call Mahmoud because we were scared he would have a heart attack,” Said Hussein, a relative of Al-Araj told Mondoweiss, as he helped al-Araj up the rugged pathway to his olive grove.

Hussein, who owns several businesses in America, spends his time between Chicago and his birthplace, Turmusayya. He owns several acres of land in the village, most of which he is not able to access at all.

Israeli settlements dot the hilltops surrounding al-Araj’s land in Turmusayya. (Yumna Patel)

“I own 114 dunums (28 acres) of land in and around Turmusayya,” Hussein told Mondoweiss as he gestured to rolling hills in the distance, “but I only have access to around 30 dunums. And even those 30 dunums, I have to get permission from the Israelis to access it.”

Hussein says his family used to own nearly 1,000 olive trees on village land. Now that number stands somewhere between 150 and 200 trees.

Said Hussein has suffered significant losses of land and trees to the settlers over the years (Yumna Patel)

“Before the settlers came, we used to enjoy coming here to the land to not only work on it, but to enjoy it as a family and even have a picnic,” Hussein said, smiling as he recalled fond memories of his youth.

“Every Friday we would come here to sit under the trees and eat and enjoy together,” he said. “Now, we are only allowed here four days in the year, and we can’t even enjoy it because we are trying to get the work done in time.”

According to Hussein, Israeli restrictions on the farmers of Turmusayya began in 1998, the same year that the Adei Ad outpost was established.

“They would make it harder and harder for us to access the land, until around 2002 it became official that we had to get Israeli permission to access the land,” he said.

Hussein maintains that four days out of the year is not nearly enough time to tend to the olive trees and the land.

“These trees, you have to love them and care for them as if they are your children. The land needs constant upkeep to pick out the weeds, trim the branches of the trees, and so on,” he said. “How are we supposed to do all of this in just a few days?”

“On top of it, when we do get the chance to come, we can’t even fully enjoy the land because we have to constantly be watching our backs for the settlers who come to harass us and attack us while we are working,” he went on.

Said Hussein points to a hole in an olive tree which he says settlers drilled in order to put poison into the trees and cause them to rot. (Yumna Patel)

Hussein told Mondoweiss that he has been the victim of several settler attacks over the years.

“They have sprayed my trees with poison and killed them, they have chopped and uprooted trees, and they have set fire to my car and broken my windows when I was working on the land,” he said.

“Settler attacks have become another inevitable part of the olive harvest,” he said shaking his head. “It is bound to happen, every year.”

‘The olive trees are an enemy of the settlers’

Some of the trees belonging to Mahmoud al-Araj that were chopped down. (Yumna Patel)

Hussein and al-Araj’s cases are not unique. In Turmusayya, nearly 60% of the village’s 4,350 acres of land lies in Area C — the area of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control where Palestinian construction or work on the land is prohibited.

Most of the land in Area C is farmland, planted mostly with olive trees, as well as grape vines, wheat, and other crops.

Farmers picking olives in Turmusayya (Yumna Patel)

According to municipality official Wadi Abu Awwad, 65, the director of land surveying in Turmusayya, all 11,000 residents of Turmusayya own some piece of farmland in the area, making agriculture one of the most significant parts of life in the village.

Turmusayya is surrounded by five Israeli settlements and outposts on the North and East sides of the village, making it susceptible to frequent settler attacks.

“Since 1990, or even before, Turmusayya and the villages around us have suffered alot,” Abu Awwad told Mondoweiss in his municipality office. “The settlers have cut thousands of olive trees over the years, the have broken and burned peoples cars, and their attacks have resulted in the deaths of four people.”

In 2014, Abu Awwad says settler chopped down around 2,000 trees. “They do anything they can to get us to leave the land, they drill holes in the trees and poison them and spray them with pesticides.”

Throughout his tenure at the municipality, Abu Awwad has filed more than 93 complaints to Israeli authorities against the settlers. He says that not a single one has ever lead to an arrest.

Wadi Abu Awwad (Yumna Patel)

“The soldiers always say we have no proof, and they try to say that maybe we have ‘enemies’ in the village who cut the trees down.”

A few years ago, according to Abu Awwad, a settler dropped his ID at the scene of an attack on the olive trees. “We showed the ID to the soldiers and said ‘look, we have proof’, but they said it wasn’t enough, and that the settler had just happened to lose his ID in the area.”

“But we are sure, that every time there is an attack on the village’s trees or property, it is the settlers,” he said.

“Why is it that we only lose trees in the areas close to the settlements? Turmusayya valley is huge, and there are many trees within the village that never get touched. It’s because the settlers don’t have access to those.”

Abu Awwad, like many other Palestinian victims of settler attacks, believe the settlers target agriculture as part of a long term strategy to push Palestinians off their land.

“The olive trees are an enemy of the settlers. Because, if you have your land planted it means you will keep going there,” he said. “They want the land not to be cultivated so they can get it by the ottoman law which says if you don’t cultivate for five years the government has the right to take the land.”

Despite decades of attacks from the settlers, Abu Awwad says he has faith in the people of Turmusayya to never give up on their land.

“They think by cutting the trees they can make the farmers give up, but this has never happened and it never will,” he said.

“Whenever they cut it, we always go back and plant it again.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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27 Responses

  1. Kay24 on October 11, 2018, 4:20 pm

    We see this happen every damn year, and no one seems to want to help these poor people.
    Every year when the olives are ready for harvesting, the zionist settlers get greedy and vicious.
    Filthy habit.
    Perhaps the UN should send peace keeping troops to guard the property and keep the few Palestinian products, that give them some revenue, safe from one of the most vicious people in that region, who keep stealing, and tormenting those who are powerless. Why aren’t the zionist leaders doing something to keep their crooks under control, and why are they enabling them by staying silent… and they wonder why they are disliked! Here is one of the reasons.

    • Misterioso on October 12, 2018, 10:13 am

      @Kay 24

      First, between late 1947 and 1967 Zionists of foreign origin (i.e., “The Chosen”) by means of armed might, several massacres, mass rape and intimidation dispossess and expel about 1,250,000 essentially defenseless indigenous Palestinians. Then these monsters confiscate the Palestinians’ lands, seize their water, bulldoze their orchards, demolish their homes, and destroy or plunder their olive groves.

      Here’s a short video well worth reposting:

      “Israeli settlers [i.e., squatters] steal Palestinian olive crops.”

      “Palestinian farmers are only given four days to tend to hundreds of trees and harvest their crops, while settlers are free to access the land at their will

      “A group of settlers have been filmed stealing olives from Palestinian farms near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

      “In the video, the pair can be seen working together to cut and bag the olives from the groves which lie in an area which leaves them inaccessible to their Palestinian owners without Israeli permission.

      “According to Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din incidents like these are repeated every year. Last year thousands of kilograms of olive crops were stolen by settlers in the Nablus area, the group said.

      “The farms are located in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank which, under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, means they fall completely under Israeli military and administrative control. Palestinians in this area often find their right to movement curtailed to make way for new illegal settlements, settlement roads and military training exercises. In some cases, Palestinians are forcibly removed to allow for settlement expansion as is the case with the residents of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar which is currently under threat of demolition.

      “Speaking to MEMO, a Palestinian farmer, who asked not to be named, said occupation forces gave him only three to four days to harvest and care for his crop.

      “His farm is surrounded by illegal settlements leaving him unable to access it without direct coordination with occupation forces who must be present when he is harvesting his plants. Should he enter his land in the absence of Israeli occupation forces, the farmer is likely to be attacked by settlers who throw stones at him.

      “‘We go as a family as early as 6:00 in the morning and finish by Asr prayer [late afternoon]. Last year they gave us three days, one time the soldiers were late in the morning, one time they made us leave by noon. We did not manage to finish picking our olives, we tried to go after but they kicked us out. We later saw the settlers picking our olives, it’s so hard for me and my family to witness that and be helpless.’

      “Occupation forces have a list of the names of landowners and only allow their close family members to accompany them to access the land. This year, access to the land has only been granted on Saturdays for a period of four weeks. This, the farmer says, allows settlers to steal the crops. He says he has reported the thefts to the occupation’s police forces who said the days in which Palestinians are allowed access to their land are over and so they will not take action against the settlers.

      “’A farmer prefers to work hard and at once, it’s better for the trees, if they give me a day a week, that means they are giving the rest of the week to the settlers.’

      “‘It’s hard to keep track of the thefts, they must be thousands of kilograms of olives every year, they have access to our land all year round.’

      “Olives are a key source of income for approximately 100,000 Palestinian families who rely on the nearly 11 million olive trees in occupied Palestine for their livelihood. The olive oil industry alone makes up 20 per cent of the Palestinian economy.”

      • Kay24 on October 12, 2018, 10:50 am

        Thanks for all that interesting information. This is adding insult to injury. This is making those who are suffering, suffer even more. You have to wonder at the viciousness of these terrorists, who have been enabled by their equally vicious government. Crooked Nutty is complicit in all these crimes. He cannot feign ignorance that this annual theft and destruction takes place. He does not send the most “moral” military to ensure the Palestinians and their property are safeguarded. He is a scumbag, who enables scumbag illegal settlers to continue their crimes with impunity.
        Why are the the other Arab in the region doing something about this? Oh yes, I forgot, some are now dancing the Hora with the occupiers.

  2. pjdude on October 11, 2018, 8:51 pm

    Israeli settlers the most coddled terrorists in the world

    • Misterioso on October 12, 2018, 10:17 am


      “Israeli settlers, the most coddled terrorists in the world.”

      True, but as history attests, their days are numbered. Keep up the good fight!!!

      • ejran on October 12, 2018, 3:39 pm

        Do you really believe that, Misterioso? Do you believe that those in the wrong will necessarily have their days numbered? I feel like history shows otherwise. It shows that power makes it possible for injustice to persist- and I truly hesitate to say indefinitely. Read about Israel’s brutal dehumanization of Palestinians, its powerful brainwash of its citizens, the way it not only ignores but actively encourages settlers crimes such as these, for one hour and you wonder how anyone can go on living with a clear conscience while this is taking place. Why is the world not on fire. How can an Israeli sleep at night knowing that his house is built on a mass graveyard? How can I sleep at night when, against all our throats and all our pointless protests, I will soon get my electricity from Israel? Why was the world not on fire when the white man enslaved the colored man, killed him by the thousands like one sprays insects, believed, and to some extent still believes, he is the chosen race, the future of humanity? Why is the world not on fire because money is allowing the planet to be killed and millions to become homeless or die? The “chosen ones” have enough money to commission special planes built for emergencies, including the imminent death of Earth (didn’t Trump just have one built for himself?). History will judge those whose conscience told them something but they remained silent. History will not forgive those who found justifications, who silenced the voice of justice just because it cost too much, who stood witness to this and did nothing. What do I do? I don’t want to sit by and do nothing.

      • gamal on October 12, 2018, 4:35 pm

        “Do you believe that those in the wrong will necessarily have their days numbered?”

        oh yeah absolutely ejran, you don’t notice everything in midas hand turns to shit, you don’t see the empire sucking on the worlds’ tit and getting sicker and sicker, actually all our days are numbered, best to be ready to die, can happen any time, you don’t see we already won, happy to live happy to die, this our sweet world, the conquerors will fuck themselves, its inherent and also funny, we already won erjan how can we be beaten its our world.

      • Keith on October 13, 2018, 1:17 pm

        EJRAN- ” I feel like history shows otherwise. It shows that power makes it possible for injustice to persist….”

        Indeed, the entire history of humanity is written in blood spilled in the quest for power by ruling elites whose lust for power is pathological. We are ruled by psychopaths whose ruthless pursuit of their narrow objectives is injurious to society as a whole. The notion of “good” triumphing over “evil” is a myth designed to glorify whoever triumphs as “good.” Mass-murder is the historical rule, not the exception. From the Romans putting cities to the sword to the US putting Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the nuclear sword. From centuries of brutal slavery to the modern equivalent of neoliberal debt servitude. Much of this shielded from the current imperial citizenry by a highly effective doctrinal system, along with the “faithful follower” psychology of the masses.

        As to how and why no popular uprising in response to mass injustice, our system of social control works in conjunction with the tribal psychology of the majority to ignore or deny reality in favor of social mythology and internal solidarity. Most seek to be a member in good standing of a powerful group. There is a logic to this which overwhelms rationality. Democracy is mostly a myth, the electoral process a marketing extravaganza. In capitalism, money is power, the oligarchs, corporations and financial system our actual rulers. We are at the end of an era and things will soon get worse. And “history” will not judge anyone. The judgement will be made by those who write history and they historically have represented the viewpoint of a particular group of elites, hence, historical propaganda. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” (George Orwell)

  3. Maghlawatan on October 12, 2018, 12:34 am

    US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    decorates her chambers with an artist’s rendering of the Hebrew phrase from Deuteronomy, “Zedek, zedek, tirdof”, (“Justice, justice shall you pursue”).

    Israel is a cesspit.

  4. Maghlawatan on October 12, 2018, 12:38 am

    I have met olive farmers in Palestine who have financed university for 3 or 4 kids from their olive sales. Nothing is more Palestinian//Holy Land than the olive tree. Destroying these trees is like poisoning the land itself.

  5. Rashers2 on October 12, 2018, 1:51 pm

    Each time I read/see such stories, it engenders anger and sadness. Genuine faith (absent here) might temper the outrage since it would carry with it a certainty that (barring any Faustian, last-minute repentances; and repentance not being a prominent Zio-pathic trait) these bastards would rot in Hell for all time. For this secular mortal, however, some retribution in the here-and-now for the vicious, land-thieving vandals would not go amiss.

  6. aginit on October 12, 2018, 2:51 pm

    This story saddens me: I buy Palestinian olive oil when I can, but know that the farmers cannot defend themselves against the settlers who are desecrating the olive groves. I still remember a statement from one farmer whose trees had been destroyed: when someone suggested that at least his family had not been attacked, he said “I can make more children, but I cannot make more olive trees.”
    These attacks constitute genocide: who can attack the Israeli government agents committing these genocidal attacks on Palestinians? Why are Americans silent at what our government is doing to support Israel’s attacks on Palestinians?

    • mondonut on October 12, 2018, 6:40 pm

      So now harming trees is genocide?

      • eljay on October 12, 2018, 8:02 pm

        || mondonut: So now harming trees is genocide? ||

        If one makes a living from trees, sure.

        It’s nowhere near as far-fetched as the Zionist belief that equality + respect for human rights = anti-Semitism and “Jew hatred”.

      • mondonut on October 12, 2018, 11:36 pm

        @eljay, If one makes a living from trees, sure.

        Which makes genocide everything – and nothing. If hurting a tree is genocide because someone makes living at it, then melting ice cream is genocide because someone makes a living at it. You are trivializing something horrific into the something ridiculous just to fit your agenda.

      • annie on October 13, 2018, 2:33 am

        If hurting a tree[hundreds of thousands of trees] is genocide because someone makes living at it, then melting ice cream is genocide

        not really, the sun melts ice cream, sans intent. genocide is (among other things) “(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;”

        olive trees sustain palestinian life (families) and are (always have been) an essential component of their culture. the deliberate eradication of olive groves, their life sustaining livelihood, calculated to bring about their physical destruction, in whole or in part, is a form of genocide.

        if you can find a comparable relationship between a specific culture and ice cream (which happens to be my favorite food), by all mean share it.

      • annie on October 13, 2018, 2:41 am

        furthermore it could be argued, if you steal someones land so they cannot grow their own food, and then grow food on that land and require the past owners to purchase that food in order to live after taking away their livelihood, even if they can afford it, that is a form of cultural annihilation, hardly trivial.

        do you really think you can pull this off slo-mo style over multiple generations and think we won’t notice? we notice. wake tf up. #genocide

      • eljay on October 13, 2018, 9:30 am

        || mon donut @ October 12, 2018, 11:36 pm ||

        See annie’s reply on October 13, 2018 @ 2:33 am.

        As far as “trivializing something horrific” goes, you Zionists win the prize for consistently trivializing the evil you have been doing deliberately and unapologetically for decades to the non-Jews of (geographic) Palestine.

      • Mooser on October 13, 2018, 6:18 pm

        “do you really think you can pull this off slo-mo style over multiple generations”

        Gosh, what an inheritance Zionists are leaving for the next generations of Jews. Won’t they be proud to get it! Who could possibly renounce or disclaim this holy mission handed down to us?

      • Mooser on October 14, 2018, 11:33 am

        “Mondonut” what is the apropriate brocha to say before setting out to kill the Palestinian’s olive trees?

  7. Maghlawatan on October 13, 2018, 2:50 am

    Israel has a sick attitude to the land. It simultaneously worships it and poisons it. Zionism is really fucked up

  8. Bennorius on October 14, 2018, 6:37 pm

    The best retort to these foreign colonists, who are trying to destroying and poison olive trees and show themselves to be enemies of the land, is to help plant more olive saplings and to help Palestinian families with the olive harvest.

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