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Israeli settler destruction of 1000s of trees hits Palestinian olive harvest

October 20, 2011

Israeli settlers’ destruction of Palestinian olive trees will reduce this year’s harvest by an estimated USD $500,000 as 7,500 olive trees were destroyed in acts of settler violence, Palestinian and international aid and development organizations working to improve Palestinian olive oil warned today.

The agencies, Oxfam, Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), say that for Palestinian farmers the cost of such attacks is particularly high, as olives collected in the month long harvesting season are expected to produce only half the oil that was produced last year.

“Burning an olive tree is like burning a farmer’s bank account,” says Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. “Over 100,000 Palestinian families depend on the money they earn during harvest season. Especially because this is a bad harvest, every olive counts.”

Despite this wanton destruction, very few cases are brought to court. Oxfam partner Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO, has documented 688 cases of settler violence against Palestinians from 2005 through 2011. Yesh Din says that 91 per cent of these cases were closed without an indictment. Of 97 cases involving the destruction of Palestinian trees from 2005 through 2010, Yesh Din found that no court cases have been brought forward thus far.

The organizations say that in order for justice to be served, the Government of Israel must uphold the law and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to court. Palestinians committing crimes against Israeli settlers are usually held to account and data from UN OCHA shows that the level of Palestinian violence against settlers is much lower than settlers’ violence against Palestinians.

“Israeli settlers must understand that they are not above the law,” says Munjed Abu Jaish, the Director of Lobbying and Advocacy Department in PARC. “For this message to be heard loud and clear, the Israeli authorities must stop protecting and supporting the settlers over Palestinians as well as preventing Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands.”

In addition to trees lost in settler attacks, tens of thousands of olive trees have been uprooted to make way for the construction of Israel’s Wall. Almost a million more are caught in the Seam Zone, the no-go area between the Wall and the 1967 Armistice Line. Thousands more are effectively kept off limits to Palestinian farmers because they are close to the illegal settlements.

“In areas like Nablus and Salfit, where the number of attacks has continued to rise, we work with farmers who have lost almost all their means of production because their trees have been destroyed or they cannot reach them. These farmers do not want to be dependent on handouts of aid. They want to work on their land and earn money from a product they are proud of. In order for them to do this, we must ensure that their rights are upheld,” says Omar Tabakhna, Director of the Public Relations Department at UAWC.

For more information contact:
Willow Heske
Oxfam Media Lead for the OPTI
Phone: +972 (0) 597133646

Amany Malky
Public Relations Assistant
Phone: +972 (0) 59 9251723

Monjed Abu Jaish
Director of Advocacy and Lobbying
Phone: +972 (0) 59 8904450

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